Build It Right: Lessons From New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina can teach us many things. Make It Right wants safe, affordable, energy-efficient building to be one of them.
Synopsis: Recovering from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 seemed like an almost insurmountable task for the residents of New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward. Among a number of organizations stepping in to help with the recovery effort, Make It Right has enlisted world-class architects and designers to develop safe, affordable, energy-efficient homes. Architect and writer Linda Reeder explains how the organization has made progress toward its goal of building 150 new homes for displaced neighborhood residents. Make It Right has adapted as it has built homes, learning lessons from each project and incorporating new technologies or products that may make more sense than previously used ones. Among Make It Right’s lessons learned are that SIPs are the the most cost-effective, high-performing material for their new houses; mold-resistant drywall is a best choice; engineered foundations save material and money; using lightweight impact-resistant nylon fabric (hurricane) is more cost-effective than installing impact-resistant glass; a manufactured rainscreen housewrap is cheaper than building a drainage plane on each house; and designing for and incorporating solar technologies have become increasingly more cost-effective. Creating healthful indoor environments is also a priority, so low-toxicity materials and finishes are used to promote good indoor-air quality.
About 70% of occupied homes in New Orleans were damaged in 2005 after the levees failed during Hurricane Katrina. In the Lower Ninth Ward alone, more than 4000 homes were destroyed.
Two years after the storm, few homes in that low-income, historically African-American neighborhood had been rebuilt. In response, actor and part-time New Orleans resident Brad Pitt launched Make It Right (MIR), with the goal of building 150 new houses in the Lower Ninth Ward so that some former residents could return to a restored community.
While 150 houses might seem like a drop in the bucket in the face of so much devastation, the…