KMUW is a National Public Radio member station on the WSU campus. I recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation about KMUW’s “green” transmitter building in Colwich, KS. It was exciting to learn about the great features of the building and the sustainable building materials used. The foundation is made of flyash concrete. I learned that flyash is a by-product from coal-fired power plants. In flyash concrete, 20% of the cement is replaced with flyash which results in a stronger foundation. Another product that was new to me was agriboard. It replaces cinderblock walls and can withstand F-5 winds. Agriboard provides structure and insulation as it is filled with compressed wheat straw.
As I think about businesses in Wichita, I know that each one has their own environmental challenges. A unique challenge for KMUW was how to protect their new building from falling ice from the 1,000 foot broadcast tower. First, they installed a 4-inch thick layer of light weight concrete. This was topped with a modular green roof. I had been told that a green roof was impossible in Kansas because the weather fluctuates so wildly and the summers are so hot. However, it can be done! The plants are succulents, so they are very drought –tolerant and do not need to be watered once they are established. The plants and soil not only absorb the impact of the falling ice chunks, but also cool the building, reduce rainwater run-off, and protect the roof from UV damage.
Finally, cooling is a significant issue for a transmitter building. KMUW chose to incorporate a geothermal cooling system into their building. According to Renewable Energy World, geothermal heat pumps take advantage of the fact that the ground within about ten feet of the earth’s surface stays at a steady temperature around 50°F. KMUW’s geothermal system uses pipes buried four to five feet underground over a surface area about the size of a football field. The liquid circulating through the underground pipes is cooled by the surrounding soil. This system yields 30-40% energy savings on cooling. This is a great example of the economic benefits of “going green.”