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WAF 2011: Post Katrina, New Orleans sets a new standard

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New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward is not just making an impressive recovery from the depredations of Hurricane Katrina - it is also doing so with homes that set a new benchmark for environmental performance, cost and community engagement

This is thanks to the efforts of the Make it Right Foundation, famously headed by film star Brad Pitt. Sadly, Pitt did not appear at WAF, but was more than amply represented by landscape architect Tim Duggen, one of the driving forces in the movement.

Duggen explained just how much of a man-made disaster the New Orleans flooding was, due not just to the weather but to a failure to maintain the levees. The Lower Ninth was one of the worst affected areas, with the majority of homes swept away. Make it Happen worked with the community to establish the aims for new homes - not only to lift them above flood level, but also to make them achieve LEED Platinum and still cost the market rate.

There were clever pieces of detailing and understanding of grants which brought down, for example, the cost of a PV roof from $20,000 dollars to $3,000. When municipal mowing proved to costly, the group brought in a mobile goat unit instead.

James Timberlake of Kieran Timberlake presented the house type that the practice designed, one of thirteen practices involved in the project. He explained how offsite techniques, previously associated by US home owners with trailer parks, helped to speed construction and reduce costs.

The development is now taking place, providing not just new homes, but homes that are smarter live in and cheaper to run and, essentially, an enhanced sense of community.

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