resourcefulness Trumps Disaster – Rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward

resourcefulness Trumps Disaster – Rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward

In August 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and devastated the complete area, collapsing levees, and flooding large portions of the city. Brad Pitt toured the area two years after the disaster and found the governments had done nothing to help the people of the lower ninth ward. He took it upon himself to establish the Make It Right Foundation. The goal was to build 150 high-quality, high-performance homes for the people of the area to come home to.

The foundation did not want to just rebuild or replace what was there. They wanted to use it as an opportunity to build homes that will survive long into the future. What was conceived were homes with designs that would be stronger, safer, storm resistant, and used green technologies in the project. 21 local and international architects donated their cutting edge designs to the project that used new technologies and materials as a test for the designs to a broader availability to working families.

The building materials used were safe for the people and the ecosystem, energy-saving, and sustainable. The metal roofs produce 20%-70% energy savings in terms of heating and cooling, they are lasting, require little maintenance, and make an excellent surface to gather rain water. Solar panels on the roof use the sun’s energy to generate electricity. The homes were equipped with 2.7 – 3.0 kw solar systems and coupled with the energy efficiency built-in truly supplied strength to the electric grid giving the homeowners credits that reduce their monthly energy bill. Building the homes 5 ‘- 8’ off the ground made them able to resist another flood without the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina and at the same time give them a functional place to park the family car. Other building materials include; Hurricane Fabric, made from Kevlar, eliminates the need to board up the windows with plywood in a hurricane, fiber cement Board Siding protects against cracking, decaying, and termites while reducing maintenance for the homeowner. There is also an extensive use of Bluewood (a chemically treated wood) for structural framing that protects the homeowners from moisture, mold and fungus, wood decay, and wood-ingesting insects.

This project shows us what resourcefulness can accomplish in the wake of a disaster. Without Hurricane Katrina we may never have known what possibilities exist for building not only green homes but saving great amounts of non-replaceable resources in the time of action. clearly there is nevertheless much work to be done since the 150 homes in the project represent less than 4 percent of the ones destroyed by the storm, but what a great start to the recovery of the lower ninth ward.

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