The BTI-Greensburg John Deere Dealership Installs Tornado-Resistant Daylighting Systems and Other Sustainable Materials

On the night of May 4, 2007, brothers Kelly and Mike Estes saw their BTI-Greensburg John Deere Dealership obliterated by an EF5 tornado nearly 2-miles wide (according to the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which rates the strength of tornados by the damage caused; view the scale on page 3). Astoundingly, 95 percent of their town—Greensburg, Kan.—was also destroyed that day. The tornado did much more than rip roofs off buildings and toss things around; it turned the entire community into what looked like kindling.

Rarely do communities get hit by an EF5 tornado, which can come about when air masses collide. Sometimes warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico rises above drier air from the Southwest deserts in the U.S. This can create unstable conditions resulting in thunderstorms and worse. A strong collision of air masses creates a strong storm. Additionally, wind patterns and the jet stream can magnify the storm, resulting in what people refer to as “the perfect storm”.

After being completely destroyed by an EF5 tornado, the BTI-Greensburg John Deere Dealership has been rebuilt in Greensburg, Kan., in a better, greener way.

After being completely destroyed by an EF5 tornado, the BTI-Greensburg John Deere Dealership has been rebuilt in Greensburg, Kan., in a better, greener way.

Despite the large-scale losses incurred by the entire town, 100 customers and friends of the Estes family showed up the morning of May 5 to help them salvage what remained of their business. Shortly after the tornado disaster, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius stated her wish that Greensburg become the “the greenest city in the state”.

As part of their commitment to their community, Kelly, Mike and their family decided to rebuild their business in a better, greener way. They wanted the new 28,000-square-foot prefabricated metal building to be the world’s greenest farm-machinery facility; attain a LEED Platinum rating from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council; and use the least energy possible. One of the most important considerations was using building materials that could withstand future tornados.

DAYLIGHTING

To help achieve LEED Platinum and outlast any future high-velocity winds, they incorporated 12 Daylighting Systems in their retail area’s roof to showcase their merchandise; reduce lighting energy costs; and flood the area with natural light, a benefit for customers and employees.

The Daylighting Systems capture light through a dome on the roof and channel it down through a highly reflective tube. This tubing is more efficient than a traditional drywall skylight shaft, which can lose over half of the potential light. The tubing fits between rafters and installs with no structural modification. At the ceiling level, a diffuser that resembles a recessed light fixture spreads the light evenly throughout the room.

The dome is made from high-quality acrylic resin that is specifically formulated for increased impact strength, chemical- and weather-resistance, and high clarity (a polycarbonate inner dome is used for high-velocity hurricane zones). Domes are engineered to deflect midday heat and maximize low-angle light capture. The tubing is made from puncture-proof aluminum sheet coated with the highly reflective material for maximum light transfer. The units (independently tested by Architectural Testing in Fresno, Calif.) comply with various building codes including the 2009 International Building Code and 2010 Florida Building Code, including high-velocity hurricane zones.

“When our power went out one time for four hours, we were able to keep the shop open and operating due to daylight strategies, which includes the Daylighting Systems,” notes Mike Estes. “We didn’t anticipate this benefit but we’re really happy to have this bonus.”
PHOTO: SOLATUBE INTERNATIONAL INC.

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A Roof is a Building Owner and Homeowner’s First Line of Defense in a Storm

The Midwest has been battered by unrelenting storms this year. Last week, I spoke to a friend who had just returned from visiting mutual college friends in Minnesota. They experienced a strong storm during the visit, and while they were all sleeping, our friends’ house was struck by lightning. The acrid smell of smoke awoke them and the eight people (four of which were children) scurried outside in their pajamas, leaving all their belongings inside. The local fire department contained the fire to the garage, which is attached to the house. However, the smoke damage inside is so severe that the family of four is currently residing in a hotel while their house is professionally cleaned.

Stories like these are all too common recently and this one hit a little too close to home for me. It seems easier (and less scary) to think storm damage won’t happen to me when those who are affected are strangers on the news. However, according the Alexandria, Va.-based Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America Inc., extreme-weather events and natural disasters are becoming more prevalent. The organization reports that since 1987 there have been eight natural disasters with insured losses greater than $1 billion; before 1987, there was one.

Although the Greensburg, Kan., EF5 tornado that occurred in 2007 didn’t cost that much, it destroyed 95 percent of the town, which is scary enough. Greensburg is coming back as a model for the rest of the country—rebuilding stronger and more sustainably. Read about one of the town’s strong, sustainable projects—the BTI-Greensburg John Deere Dealership, which is a metal building featuring roof-integrated daylighting systems designed to withstand high-velocity impacts—in “Tech Point”.

About 550 miles to the east, an EF4 tornado inflicted $30 million in damage on the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in 2011. To rebuild four copper domes that were the crowning glory of Terminal 1, airport officials opted to use copper-clad stainless steel, specifically because they wanted something beautiful that could withstand harsh weather. Read about the roof system in “Tech Point”.

The other night, a clap of thunder actually shook my house for what seemed like a full minute. I’ve always been the type of person that enjoys storms but, after my friends’ incident, I have to admit I feel less safe in my home. I immediately looked online to determine whether I should move to the basement and then I stayed awake until the storm passed to ensure my roof didn’t catch on fire. I think it’s time I look into a better, stronger roof.