Hazards Planning Research Center

Sustainable Redevelopment

There are few times when a community has as much opportunity to reshape its fundamental patterns of development as following a major natural disaster. Unfortunately, in the past, few communities have been well positioned or inclined to seize the moment with bold visions of a new future that would strengthen its safety for the future and enhance its prospects for renewed prosperity. Due to the visions of a few pioneers, however, this is changing.

The most recent example is Greensburg, Kansas. Struck by an EF-5 tornado in the spring of 2007, it chose quickly to rebuild as a green community, adopting LEED standards for its buildings and reexamining nearly every feature of the community's use of natural resources. Greensburg is not the first community to set such goals, however. Valmeyer, Illinois, which relocated to higher ground above the Mississippi River following the 1993 Midwest floods, also chose to rebuild sustainably, and the very first example in the U.S. was Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, which also relocated to higher ground above the Kickapoo River while adopting renewable energy standards nearly 15 years earlier.

Currently, the Hazards Planning Research Center is in the midst of a three-year process of reexamining and rewriting the well-known "Green Book," Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction (PAS Report No. 483/484). Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery: Next Generation will result not only in a new PAS Report on this critical topic, but already has generated substantial web resources including a multimedia blog, Recovery News.

The Hazards Planning Research Center and the Green Communities Research Center are jointly pursuing development of a new project that would examine this history and the best practices in this area while laying groundwork for technical assistance for other communities seeking to follow this path in the future. The two Centers inaugurated this effort with a session on "Green Post-Disaster Redevelopment" at the 2009 APA National Planning Conference in Minneapolis.