In nearly a full year of post-Katrina and Rita media coverage, New Orleans has occupied a significant portion of the media spotlight. But of course, NOLA was only one of many places devastated by the storms.
The team at Architecture for Humanity -- whose collaboration with Worldchanging after the South Asian tsunami raised $150,000 for relief and reconstruction -- focused fast and furious effort towards rebuilding on the Gulf Coast, particularly in Biloxi. Today they launched the Biloxi Model Home Program to help families in East Biloxi rebuild their homes. The program, says AFH co-founder Cameron Sinclair, will "give architects a real opportunity to get involved in rebuilding on the Gulf Coast...no competition, no white paper, no celebrities, no planning/policy document, but real homes for those who need them most."
Like all of AFH's reconstruction efforts, this program distinguishes itself from other disaster relief and aid in that it aims to engage members of the community in the process of rebuilding. Sustainable, locally appropriate technologies and designs are integral to this work. As Sinclair told Worldchanging today:
The reality facing many families on the gulf coast is not only how will I afford to rebuild or what are the new requirements set by FEMA, but the hidden costs that need to be factored into the equation regarding higher flood insurance premiums and utility bills. Many of these families owned their properties and did not have a mortgage.
Now many have to elevate their home 9, 12, 18 feet off the ground just to comply will FEMA and to receive grants for rebuilding and not pay unattainable premiums on insurance...Through sustainable materials and renewable energy we can take these costs and with disaster mitigation bring these costs down...
The Model Home Program will pair families one-on-one with teams of architects, engineers and designers who will help answer questions like:
Is it safe to rebuild on my lot? How will the new flood map elevations and building codes affect me? And, if I rebuild, what can I afford to build?The initial stage of the program invited proposals from architecture firms around the U.S., of which twelve were selected (and can be viewed in conceptual stages at their site). At the end of this month, five design teams will be selected to build their model homes, and other teams will be invited to build as funding permits. By early 2007, we may see a number of new homes on the ground in East Biloxi, where AFH aims to facilitate the establishment of new standards for reconstruction "that meet the new challenges of disaster-mitigation in the post-Katrina environment using the latest in materials research, disaster mitigation and sustainable building techniques."
Hmm. Nothing but stilt house designs-- I'm surprised there aren't any floating home designs among the entries. Here in Portland, Oregon we've got floating homes lining the river. They use enormous northwest logs tied together with i-beams as the floating foundation (hollow concrete is used elsewhere). On top of that you can build anything you want. When the Columbia floods the whole village just floats up and back down again, no damage. It's all just anchored to posts in the ground, like a marina.
Why not do this on land? Most of the time, you'd hardly notice the difference in the foundation, and when the floods come, you wouldn't have to worry how high they went because your house is anchored to a couple of 20 ft. steel poles. A hollow concrete floating foundation would last a long time (the logs up here last 50 years or so but are replaceable).
Combine that with a cylindrical house structure like a modern yurt to send the winds around the building instead of up against them, and I would guess you could survive anything.
Oh yeah, and how about a SWIFT rooftop wind energy system to complete it, so when the power goes out you're still up and running? They'd even be easily moveable in case your area became permanently uninhabitable.
Floating houses are fine for calm rivers, where the rise and fall of the water is slow and waves are negligible. It won't work for storm surge because the waves (a) may "rock the boat" and (b) may wash through the house anyway.