Sixteen miles southeast of Lawrence stand nearly a thousand buildings that could hold the future of a Kansas town devastated by a tornado.
A Kansas University professor and his architecture class are working to recycle building materials from some of the old Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant structures for a house they will build in the spring semester. They'd like to take the building to Greensburg and show how others could use the same materials for the other buildings there.
"This could conceivably be something that leads to a whole lot of material that can be used to rebuild Greensburg," said KU professor Dan Rockhill. "We've spent three months with lawyers and negotiations. We're working hard to push through that and get in there."
Mike Gurnee, Greensburg city planner, said the town hopes the students in Studio 804 will be able to create a model home that those rebuilding in Greensburg can use to get ideas about how to build a sustainable new home.
"I think it's fantastic," Gurnee said. "We're interested in any and all proposals such as this to provide a model on what the future of housing will be."
Rockhill said that if the studio can work through some political hurdles in Greensburg, the house they create will incorporate certain sustainable technologies that will make the house more environmentally efficient. Greensburg has set a goal to be a "green town" when it is rebuilt.
"It'll be passively solar, meaning it will take advantage of the natural sun cycle to heat and cool, as much as possible," Rockhill said. "We'll use green materials throughout the interior and exterior. We're experimenting with a roof design that will cut the cooling costs measurably."
For now, the biggest hurdle to the KU class building in Greensburg is its need to move quickly. With a start date in January, the students not only want to have a building built, transported and hooked up in Greensburg by the first anniversary of the storm - May 4, 2008 - but they must be done in time for graduation.
The Studio 804 class is architecture graduate students in their final semester before graduation.
"We operate at warp speed. People cannot understand how hard it is to construct a building in the time we do," Rockhill said.
The studio is looking for sponsors or donors who might be willing to underwrite some of the costs of the house. Though the studio is affiliated with the university, most of the costs of building the house must be generated either by selling the house or by donations. In an area like Greensburg, where housing prices are low, it can be difficult to recoup the investment.
Rockhill said the governor's office had made available a $50,000 loan for the project, if it's done in Greensburg. Rockhill's studio also recently received a large donation; however, that money has been earmarked for equipment and other materials that the studio will need for multiple projects, not just this one.
An anonymous donor gave $100,000 to Studio 804, one of the largest donations in the history of the architecture program.
"The donation is to go toward the growth of Studio 804," Rockhill said. "It's assigned to the process, not the product."