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VOL. 124 | NO. 184 | Friday, September 18, 2009

Memphis Company’s Green Efforts Help Rebuild Kansas Town

By Eric Smith

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REBUILDING A COMMUNITY: Memphis-based Liberty Building Systems Inc. provided the materials for the Kiowa County maintenance shops in Greensburg, Kan., as part of that town’s rebirth from a devastating 2007 tornado. The company’s steel helped the buildings achieve LEED certification. -- PHOTOS COURTESY OF SNODGRASS & SONS CONSTRUCTION CO. INC.

In May 2007, a tornado ripped through the tiny Midwestern farming town of Greensburg, Kan., killing 11 people and leveling most of the city’s buildings.

The town’s subsequent rebuilding was well-documented on newscasts and also on the Planet Green TV series “Greensburg,” but what wasn’t publicized was how a Memphis-based company contributed to the rebirth.

Liberty Building Systems Inc., which engineers, manufactures and sells pre-fabricated metal buildings, helped bring Greensburg back to life by providing the steel structures for three LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified municipal buildings. The company won a materials bid from general contractor Snodgrass & Sons Construction Co. Inc. of Wichita, Kan.

Beth Simkanin, marketing and public relations director for Liberty, said the Greensburg project fit well with Liberty’s goal of moving beyond a regional company and onto the national stage by serving as Liberty’s first LEED achievement.

The company, whose parent is BlueScope Steel Limited of Melbourne, Australia, has launched a three-year plan to expand its service footprint with sustainability as the cornerstone of that mission.

“We’ve been able to talk about what things are important and what things are important to our customers and what we want Liberty to be able to provide,” Simkanin said, “and one of those things is to be a leader in green building solutions for our customers.”

Green sweep

Robert Major, a district manager for Liberty whose territory includes Kansas and West Missouri, said the company landed the Greensburg deal because of its solid relationship with Snodgrass & Sons, whose $3 million bid to construct three municipal structures for Greensburg was awarded by the town’s City Council.

As part of the rebuilding process, all the structures in Greensburg were mandated to be green, placing sustainable design and construction in the spotlight.

“Pretty much any commercial building and almost any project in Greensburg, their thinking is they want to go green,” Major said. “They want to be environmentally friendly and put a stamp on rebuilding the town the right way.”

Liberty’s product line complemented that tack. The Greensburg buildings were required to meet LEED qualifications, and Liberty was able to provide green materials in the way of its steel structures, some of which were manufactured in the company’s Jackson, Tenn., plant.

The job, dubbed the Kiowa County maintenance project, entailed three metal structures for a portion of the town’s rebuilding campaign, including a vehicle maintenance building, a chemical storage facility and a recycle center. Liberty provided the exterior and interior shell of those buildings, or the “skeleton and skin,” as Major called it.

Perry Hilt, project manager at Snodgrass Construction, said Liberty delivered quality products, which Snodgrass expected because of its experience with Liberty and BlueScope.

“We knew they had a good product to offer the job, and they had competitive prices, and we figured knowing what BlueScope is about we’d get a good functioning building with (Liberty) as well,” Hilt said. “I know it’s good quality, it will give the owner out there a product that’s going to last over the years.”

A natural

Liberty is committed to promoting its sustainable building materials, and demand for them is picking up, noted David English, a LEED Accredited Professional at Liberty. He called Liberty’s steel products a “good fit” for the Greensburg project – and all green builds – because of steel’s recyclability, reusability and relatively low energy consumption.

Most important, he said, companies are looking more carefully at how their structures can have lower carbon footprints, thereby saving them money over the long haul.

“If you’re a developer these days or even just an individual building owner, you’re definitely going to want to look at that option to see what the benefits of LEED are,” English said. “And you’ll probably wind up doing a life-cycle cost analysis on the project to try to estimate energy savings over the life of a building by going green.”

The Greensburg project wasn’t just another paycheck for Liberty, which moved its corporate headquarters from Bartlett to Southwind last year. The company is proud to play a role in Greensburg’s rise from the rubble.

“It’s about helping a town come back from that type of devastation,” Major said. “Being part of that meant so much more than just getting a job. It was about, ‘What can we do to be a part of this?’ The Liberty people that worked on this project went above and beyond just to make sure they were providing a good quality project to the best of their ability.”

Meantime, English said the company’s commitment to sustainable building practice is growing – much the same way its materials are helping rejuvenate the town of Greensburg.

“I wouldn’t say we’re on the cutting edge, necessarily, of green, but we’re definitely focused on it,” English said. “We know what LEED is, we know how to assist our customers with LEED projects and we’re trying to become a leader in that area.”

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 87 87 7,836
MORTGAGES 108 108 9,307
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 8 8 1,366
BUILDING PERMITS 130 130 16,737
BANKRUPTCIES 55 55 5,461
BUSINESS LICENSES 32 32 2,980
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 47 47 3,297
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