Green shoots of recovery in hurricane hit New Orleans

Hurricane ravaged New Orleans is being reborn as a centre for cutting edge environmentally-friendly new buildings, experts say.

Five years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the area organisations charged with rebuilding have put the emphasis on "resilience, sustainability and economic prosperity", the US Green Building Council (USGBC) reported this month.

Hundreds of homes, schools and commercial buildings are being rebuilt as high performance, 'resource efficient' structures, says the not-for-profit organisation, which champions sustainable building.

All public schools are being built to a minimum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Certification - an internationally-recognised green building certification programme.

The 2005 Katrina and Rita hurricanes destroyed an estimated 350,000 homes in the 90,000sqm area from south eastern Texas to the Florida Keys.

New homes built in their place are energy efficient, USGBC says. The Make It Right development, fronted by Hollywood star Brad Pitt, is the largest concentration of USGBC LEED platinum-certified homes in the world. Platinum is the highest LEED ranking.

Meanwhile, Salvation Army's EnviRenew is building and repairing 250 homes in five New Orleans neighbourhoods to be green and energy efficient.

City groups and USGBC experts are training workers in green building. A USGBC-convened 2005 Atlanta conference in the wake of the hurricanes brought together experts to create a blueprint for rebuilding the city.

It included the New Orleans Principles, an action plan for planning and construction efforts, with an emphasis on the environment.

Phase one of the master plan due for completion by 2013 will see 17 new and 13 renovated schools in the city - all LEED-rated.

Make It Right's 50 energy efficient platinum-certified LEED homes in the Lower Ninth Ward house 179 people with 100 more homes to come.

They reportedly use just a third of the energy of a comparable new home and are ten times more sustainable than the homes they replaced.

David Gibbs


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