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Thread: Rebuilding New Orleans

  1. #136


    New Orleans in the forefront of a green building revolution

    (Judi Bottoni/AP/file)
    Global Green’s solar home project in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward features a solar-paneled flat roof for maximum sun exposure.

    Hurricane Katrina provided New Orleans with the opportunity to be part of an environmental revolution and rebuild its houses, schools, and neighborhoods in a green, sustainable way.

    By Husna Haq | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor/ November 4, 2009 edition

    When hurricane Katrina blew into New Orleans four years ago, Matt Petersen watched in shock as the floodwaters retreated, revealing one of the most devastating natural disasters in US history: billions of dollars in damages, 80 percent of the city flooded with filthy water, and a government response that provoked a firestorm of criticism.

    “I watched everything play out in horror,” says Mr. Petersen. “And, like everyone else, I went through the process of thinking, ‘What can I do?’ ”

    Petersen donated money and considered volunteering, but that wasn’t enough. “I kept feeling this well up inside me, I felt compelled to act,” he says.

    As the city’s cleanup began, Petersen, the president and CEO of Global Green, an environmental nonprofit that promotes green building, saw a silver – or green – lining in Katrina’s catastrophic wake.

    “I began to think, ‘Maybe I can do more.’ I run an organization with big thinking behind it; it’s a Red Cross for the environment. We have the greatest assemblage of green building expertise. How can we deploy that?” he says. “Certainly the city was going to be rebuilt. And this great city presented us with an opportunity to create the first truly green city in our nation.”

    So Petersen opened Global Green’s first New Orleans office in March 2006.

    Now, four years after hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, he and a bevy of green-minded government employees, nonprofit organizations, volunteers, and celebrities (such as Brad Pitt) have helped transform the city into the frontier of a new green revolution.

    “Now more people are interested in what we do,” says Wynecta Fisher, director of the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Affairs. “That’s what the storm did. I have had access to some of the best and brightest minds and techniques.”

    As a result, the city currently operates 49 biodiesel buses and several LED stoplights, with plans to purchase LED streetlamps soon. Green, energy-efficient schools are in the works, and the city is eager to do more.

    “We serve as a model,” says Charles Allen, chairman of the board of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association in the Lower Ninth Ward. “This is how a community can recover from a major disaster. I say, look, we’re going to prove to the world that you can live in an improved, better way.”

    As part of that “improved … way,” Global Green came up with an ambitious three-pronged plan: rebuild 10,000 homes to be green, adopt a sustainable neighborhood model, and upgrade area schools to be more ecofriendly. Petersen also resolved to create local expertise in green building in order to create jobs and ensure that the effort endures.

    In partnership with the city and using money from the Bush-Clinton Katrina fund, Global Green plans to improve energy efficiency and air quality of existing schools and open two new schools that will be certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver. The schools will also help promote environmental awareness.

    Global Green’s landmark initiative is the Holy Cross project, a sustainable neighborhood in the Lower Ninth Ward that will serve as a model for other communities. To generate ideas for the project, Global Green sponsored an international design competition, challenging architects to design an energy-efficient and affordable neighborhood model.

    The winning proposal, designed by architects Matt Berman and Andrew Kotchen of Workshop/apd, a New York design firm, consists of five single-family homes, an 18-unit apartment building, and a community center that also serves as a sustainable design and environmental advocacy center. The goal is for all construction to use zero net energy, and be carbon neutral and LEED platinum certified.

    “The idea was to design replicable, affordable, sustainable housing,” says Mr. Kotchen.

    The homes, the first of which was completed in May 2008, are tall, narrow, two-story buildings wrapped in fiber cement siding and topped with photovoltaic-paneled shed roofs at 30-degree angles. Screened porches, lower roofs, and strategically placed energy-efficient windows accent the exterior.

    Inside, the wood flooring has been salvaged from existing structures. Paperless drywall, or gypsum board, offers mold resistance in the humid city. Spray foam insulation prevents air leaks and increases energy efficiency. And paints use water- or soy-based solvents containing few air-polluting toxins.

    It’s not just about the materials, though, says Kotchen. “It was the whole approach. For us, it’s an all-encompassing design philosophy.”

    For example, he cites house and window orientation as ways to minimize sun exposure, and high ceilings and deep porches as natural cooling measures.

    “Good design is green design,” he says.

    Responsible waste handling is also an important part of green building. About 8,000 pounds of waste are discarded during the construction of a typical 2,000-square-foot home, according to Sustainable Sources, a green building information resource. Global Green reuses or recycles construction waste to keep materials from being carted to landfills. This also saves disposal tipping fees.

    (Judi Bottoni/AP/file)
    Landscaping for the solar homes features andscaping with drought-resistant plants and cisterns to catch and store rainwater.

    Even the homes’ landscaping is green. Porous pavement driveways allow rainwater to permeate the ground, rather than run off, carrying pollutants into nearby rivers and lakes. Rain gardens stocked with wetland vegetation border the driveways, ready to absorb and filter downpours. And shade trees planted in strategic areas – such as the sunny south side of a house – provide natural cooling.

    This isn’t necessarily new, but simply good sense, says Kotchen. “Good design has been around for a long time.”

    Contrary to popular thought, green design doesn’t have to be expensive. The Holy Cross homes will sell for about $175,000 and are expected to save residents an estimated $1,200 to $2,400 each year in utility bills.

    “There’s an element of justice here,” says Petersen. “The question is, how do we protect the environment and provide truly affordable housing?”

    This is a theme throughout the Holy Cross project, including the 18-unit apartment building. The apartments, which will be reserved for low-income residents, are expected to rent for $550 to $650 a month.

    Once complete, America’s first entire LEED platinum certified neighborhood will include the first LEED platinum certified apartment building in the US.

    “[The project] has created a ripple effect,” Petersen says. “It’s bringing in suppliers, creating a workforce. We’re helping create a market. It’s humbling, yet gratifying, to see what we’ve been able to accomplish to bring back this great city.”

    As reconstruction continues four years after Katrina crippled the city, perhaps the most notable rebuilding isn’t happening at homes and schools, many people say. Instead, it’s happening in town meetings and neighborhood associations.

    “One thing that Katrina did, it made people really look at the importance of community,” says Ms. Fisher of the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Affairs. “People are engaged now. They’re not waiting for the government to do something for them. They’re getting involved.”

    In some ways, then, it could be called a perfect storm. “Absolutely, there are blessings and silver linings that come out of every disaster,” says Mr. Allen of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association.

    The hurricane created an opportunity for New Orleans, he says. “We definitely have more friends, more resources at our disposal. It’s allowing us to make major strides.”

    He pauses. “This is our chance.”

  2. #137
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    Does green have to be so UGLY?

  3. #138
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002


    Feature> New Orleans Rising

    The battered city becomes a lab for architecture with its new waterfront, housing, and public space projects.

    Sam Lubell

    Map showing riverfront areas in New Orleans that will be redeveloped as part of the city's Reinventing the Crescent plan.
    Courtesy New Orleans Building Corporation

    Six years after Hurricane Katrina leveled much of New Orleans, the still-struggling city is beginning to show signs of rebirth. Projects underway amounting to billions of wide-ranging investment include new and renovated schools, hospitals, libraries, commercial corridors, boulevards, waterways, parks, and even entire development zones.

    Efforts like the Claiborne Avenue Corridor will link sections of the cities that have been divided by an interstate for decades.

    Construction that began a few years ago is now starting to finish up, while the city’s new Mayor Mitch Landrieu has launched a program to instigate 100 city-initiated projects that will begin or even be completed in the next three years. In total, according to William Gilchrist, the city’s Director of Place-Based Planning, over $13 billion in federal, state and local investments will go into effect. In many ways, said Gilchrist, the city has become a laboratory for new ideas in architecture and urban planning.

    Architects and landscape architects are playing a major role here, and creating designs that are in some cases shockingly contemporary.

    The Crescent

    Mandeville Crossing by Michael Maltzan.

    One of the largest, and most architecturally ambitious, city plans now underway is called Reinventing the Crescent, a $300 million riverfront redevelopment plan, with contributions by a star-filled team including Eskew Dumez Ripple working on a master plan with Chan Krieger Sieniewicz and Ten Arquitectos; Michael Maltzan Architecture; David Adjaye; and Hargreaves Associates.

    The Crescent, coordinated by the public-private New Orleans Building Corporation, calls for six miles of redevelopment along the banks of the Mississippi, including a continuous linear path, iconic landmarks, mixed use development, and parks and gathering spaces.

    David Adjaye's gardens at Piety Wharf (top) and the lawn in Maltzan's new plan for Mandeville Wharf (above).

    Stretching from Jackson Avenue to the Holy Cross site near the Industrial Canal, the project takes on the river’s crescent shape. It doesn’t just revitalize the riverbanks, but it reconnects these banks to the rest of the city—a connection that has deteriorated over the years with barriers like freight train tracks and floodwalls.

    From top: The timber pavilion at Piety Wharf by David Adjaye; The stage at Crescent Park; and an interior view of Mandeville Wharf.

    The first phase of the project, the 1.3 mile-long Crescent Park, is being paid for by a $30 million federal Community Development Block Grant. It started construction about five months ago and should be completed by 2012. Further phases should move forward when funding is secured, said Alan Eskew, principal at Eskew Dumez Ripple, who hopes that much will be ready by the city’s tri-centennial in 2018. Already, said Eskew, the area is already seeing new adaptive reuse and development projects. “Once construction started, suddenly there’s a lot “of activity in those neighborhoods,” he said.

    Maltzan jumped into the challenge of overcoming the infrastructural segmentation of the area by literally creating a bridge between the waterfront and the rest of the city.

    Maltzan’s long, serpentine Mandeville Crossing, which stretches high over the railroad and the floodwall all the way to the city’s famous French Market, is what he calls “an elongated signpost for the community,” made of a series of vertical gold-colored anodized aluminum tubes that, as you move along, create a shimmering effect of light and color.

    Existing and planned conditions at Celeste Park (top) and at Spanish Plaza (above).

    At the end of the pedestrian bridge, the firm is leading the revitalization of the city’s historic Mandeville Wharf for events and markets, maintaining the entire steel structure with its long span steel trusses and installing a new roof with a series of skylights to inject light into the building. The firm will also install a new indoor/outdoor platform for performances, new benches, and a new wall for movie screenings, all merging with the landscape outside and becoming the center for the Crescent’s performances.

    The other major element of the Crescent Park will be Piety Wharf, featuring a grassy park and Adjaye Associates’ timber pavilion, a structure—still awaiting funding— that lies flush with the water, and appears to float. Adjaye is also designing a bridge, the Piety Crossing, which spans over floodwalls and rail tracks leading to a visitor parking lot along Chartres Street.

    For Maltzan, who spent a lot of time in New Orleans when he was a young architecture student, the project is a homecoming of sorts, and a chance to give back to a city that has long inspired him. “I think the park has the opportunity to be a very important step in not only moving beyond Katrina, but creating an image of what the city can be and its future.”

    Make It Right

    Alexei Lebedev, Make it Right

    Brad Pitt’s Make It Right foundation has already gotten a lot of attention for building contemporary-style, highly sustainable (from solar powered to rainwater harvesting) homes in the Lower Ninth Ward— the hardest hit of all of New Orleans’ neighborhoods. So far 80 of the 150 homes have been completed, including ambitious designs by LA firms Morphosis and Pugh + Scarpa as well as others by Adjaye Associates, MVRDV, Gehry Partners, Shigeru Ban Architects, Graft, Hitoshi Abe, Kieran Timberake, and Trahan Architects. Participant Larry Scarpa equates it to a modern-day Case Study program: “There was an idea to give people an opportunity to have a new and different way to live—to provide normal people with quality design.”

    “Most visitors to the neighborhood love it, a few hate it,” said Make It Right spokesperson Taylor Royle. “But the most important thing to us is that each homeowner says that their design is the best one and can give you ten reasons why they're right.”

    Planters Grove

    Planters Park by Ken Smith Landscape Architect. Ken Smith

    Planters Peanuts has launched a program in which noted landscape architect Ken Smith is designing Planters Groves in New York, San Francisco, D.C., and New Orleans. The parks—described by the company as “part urban revitalization, part art”—use locally reclaimed materials and native trees and plants to turn vacant lots into valuable urban spaces. New Orleans’ park, the first of the bunch, just opened.

    New Orleans Grove appears on the site of a once trash-littered lot in the struggling Central City neighborhood. Elements of the 80 by 80 foot park include recycled concrete pavers, an open trellis wall made of recycled windows from homes destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, 16 bald cypress trees, solar-powered lights, common planting areas, and a bog garden made up of local plants. The garden's main spaces—the bog garden, the community gathering spot, known as Legume Plaza, and the space enclosed by the trellis—are shaped in plan, not surprisingly, like peanuts.

    "It's not a playground, it's not a community garden, and it's not a conventional park,” said Smith. “The community can use it however they choose."

    Lafitte Greenway

    Lafitte Greenway proposed on a former railroad right of way.
    Friends of Lafitte Corridor

    This project aims to turn a former railroad right of way into a public park, pedestrian, and bike path, similar to New York’s High Line. The three-mile-long Greenway would extend from Basin Street, at the back of the French Quarter, all the way to Canal Boulevard in Lakeview, near Lake Ponchartrain. While recently held up by a lack of funds, the city has gotten the project back on track thanks to an $11.6 million Community Development Block Grant. If completed it would become the city’s first continuous urban greenway.

    For New Orleans, many questions remain—including how the city’s neighborhoods will—or won’t—continue to be planned and developed, an effort that will include a myriad of agencies, from the Department of Capital Projects to the Department of Public Works. But the results are vital, and there’s no doubt that the city is committed. As Gilchrist put it: “From public housing to health care to education to infrastructure planning, New Orleans’ rebuilding efforts are setting the stage for American renewal.”

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