Emily Pilloton

ARCHITECTURE FOR HUMANITY BILOXI: Report from the Gulf Coast

by , 03/01/07

Architecture For Humanity, Biloxi Reconstruction, AFH Biloxi, Design Like You Give A Damn, Cameron Sinclair, Brett Zamore, Biloxi Model Homes, Gulf Cost Reconstruction, Hurricane Katrina

My trip to the Gulf Coast this past week proved to be both sobering and inspiring, educational and thought-provoking. Nearly a year and half after Hurricane Katrina, I was surprised by the contrasting landscapes in Biloxi- decadent casinos across the street from leveled lots still covered in debris, FEMA trailers and abandoned houses not too far from Walmart and untouched homes. Architecture For Humanity’s projects have made a significant impact, as has the work of Hands On Gulf Coast, whose 100+ volunteers welcomed me at their base camp on Monday.


I had the pleasure of meeting with the Architecture For Humanity crew, including Program Manager Michael Grote and twelve architecture students studying for the semester in the Gulf Coast, learning what it really means to be an architect. I stopped by the site of the first model home being built, designed by Houston architect Brett Zamore. The re-interpreted shotgun house design is one of seven chosen as part of the Biloxi Model Home Program, working with families and the community to rebuild.

Architeture For Humanity, Biloxi, Biloxi Model Homes, Gulf Coast reconstruction, Hurricane Katrina relief
AFH Program Director Michael Grote and AFH architecture students

Even so long after the storm, parts of Biloxi seem like a ghost town. I was interested to learn that more than 2 million cubic-yards of debris have been incinerated since the hurricane, primarily due to mold and health concerns. Many people are still in FEMA trailers, which will be taken back by FEMA this summer through the end of the year. But construction and renovations continue, thanks to the hard work of local citizens and the amazing amount of skilled and unskilled volunteer labor. Hands On Gulf Coast is working on a variety of local projects, from mold removal and gutting to youth tutoring programs. Despite the short duration of my trip, I’m glad to have done my part, seen the area first hand, and learned of the wonderful work being done to rebuild homes, communities, and lives. If you’re interested in volunteering, visit AFH and/or Hands On Gulf Coast’s website.

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23 Comments

  1. Sherry-Lea Bloodworth June 21, 2007 at 8:38 am

    I would like to provide a bit of clarification about affordability and the purpose of the Biloxi Model Home Program. As Mike Grote said, this is a Research & Develoment Project. The FEMA construction standards for rebuilding following this storm are incredibly complex. The Biloxi Model Home Program’s mandate was to address ALL of the complexities of rebuilding along the Gulf Coast. We were extremly fortunate to have a funder who allowed us to embark on this project and build 7 homes that are highly engineered, use an array of materials including those that will assist residents by lowering their now astonomical flood insurance premiums, fit the needs of this low-income community with many elderly and disabled residents and address long-term affordablity (energy efficiency, longevity, resale value, etc.). We have worked with and been asked to consult everyone from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Department in Washington, D.C. to the State of Mississippi Housing Authority because of this model and what we’ve learned. It is also important to recognize that there is a financial model attached to this project as well. Because of this, our community partner in this program will go on to build another 60 new homes and 150 rehabs, and will begin a loan fund to assist even more residents. So, this IS a large scale housing program. We started small on purpose. I also work in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans where this model is being replicated — almost two years after we have moved on to Phase II with answers.

    I would also, like Michael Grote, welcome anyone who would like to come down to Biloxi and tour our program. The expertise on the ground here is enormous and we have all dedicated our lives to helping…truly helping by answering the residents real concerns and offering real solutions to these communities. All of the construction documentation and architectural/engineering assistance is available to any resident who walks into our offices with the East Biloxi Coordination Relief and Redevelopment Agency where we work closely with the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. Again, we offer solutions to the residents. We work in their community and are always available to them. I challenge anyone who thinks they have better solution to please come down and present your solutions, with a financing package, to the community leaders. I’m sure they would welcome you with open arms.

    Finally, today is June 21st. Almost two years after this storm I consistantly answer my phone at all hours of the day and night to hear a resident on the other end of the line desperate for housing solutions. I can sleep peacefully knowing that thanks to this program, and our partners and architects like Micheal Grote, David Perkes and so many more that we work with, I can offer them real answers.

  2. Bryan Gallagher June 10, 2007 at 11:29 am

    I’m a piling contractor from NJ we have 3 escavators with Vibro Hammers & a few cranes with air and deisel hammers that we use everyday to install piling for foundations up and down the Jersey Coast.
    The Jersey Coast was Devestated by the same Hurricans in the 60′s that Dennis spoke of in Vigina. Now everything at the Jersey coast must be built on piling as in Vigina and most coastal towns that I’m aware of.

    I was researching foundaion piling work in your area. I thought there must be lot’s of piling work and posibibly relocating, The way that was discribed by Dennis was the industery standard I thought (it is on this coast).

    If any one needs piling plans & or pictures from projects around here I can supply copy’s so you can see what is standard practice here.

    Bryan Gallagher
    Bryguyy@msn.com

  3. Dennis April 18, 2007 at 9:58 am

    I found this forum unintensionally doing research, I am not trying to get in a pissing match with engineers or architects, but the foundation you are seeking has been built by thousands in Virginia Beach, Virginia (Sandbridge). It is constructed by driving 30-35′ long telephone polls (pilings) 20′ to 30′ into pedominately sandy soil. The poles are set on 8′ to 10′ grids typical of pier foundations, Bottom floors of these houses can be high as 13′ above grade or as low 2” above grade. The pole are driven by a large excavator with a vibtarory Hammer at the end of the boom with the help of chains to lift the pilings into place. Cost to build ranges from $400 to $500 per a piling (includes piling price) depending on pile size & depth driven. Many new houses now have pilings driven down 2′ below grade connected with elaborate concrete grade beam footers spanning over them. The Virginia Beach Building Department only requires that a engineer certifies that the pilings support the weight of the house.Which is never a problem. This foundation became the standard at Sandbridge after the Ashe Wednesday Storm in the 1960′s, Learn from the past. We did.

  4. jorge newbery April 5, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Followup: my architect has designed a house built with three containers on an elevated foundation. We have purchased three lots in New Orleans, and three in the nearby cities of Chalmette and Violet. All six lots had houses on them which were damaged by Katrina and have been demolished, and we intend to erect a container house on each of the six lots. These will be demonstration houses – if we can build them inexpensively, then we can build thousands. I will live in one, and the other five will be offered by sale at very affordable prices. Furthermore, we intend to build on foundations three feet over Base Flodd Elevation, which should reduce flood insurance rates dramatically. Finally, the container house materials should be fire-resistant and we hope that we can get property insurance rates reduced as well.

    Our next hurdle is getting local building officials to approve these plans. We expect some raised eyebrows on the container construction, but believe that the design is code-compliant and should be approved. We will create a site and post the plans shortly and I will revisit here and provide a link. We welcome input.

  5. Jorge Newbery March 18, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    I am an affordable housing developer who relocated to New Orlens in January 2007. I have developed rental-housing projects as large as 1,100-units in other parts of the US, and typically use tax exempt bonds and Low Income Housing Tax Credits for financing. See http://www.jorgenewbery.com . There is a great deal of desire from the financial community to fund projects in the Katrina- and Rita-damaged regions. However, the projects need to make sense by demonstrating their ability to pay all expenses, including the astonishingly-high new insurance premiums, plus the mortgage payments, and still generate a reasonable return for the investors. The biggest reason that more development is not going on is that most proposed projects cannot pass this basic test and thus are deemed financially unviable. Thus, one solution is to reduce the cost of construction significantly in order to reduce the amount of debt necessary to build. Traditional building methods coupled with extraodrinary construction labor costs and new FEMA requirements dictating substantially elevated foundations do not allow developments to be built and offer affordable rents in this region at this time. Thus, concepts such as building with shipping containers to bridge the significant construction afforability gap must be explored in order to find a means to drive the development cost down. We need a stripped down version of some of the more elaborate custom container houses being built. There are some kits which drive the cost down, but we need to drive costs down even further. We could erect thousands of affordable houses if the price was right, and the economies of scale derived from such volume may bridge the gap to viability.

    The pace of rebuilding New Orleans’ lower-income neighborhoods is tortoiselike at best, and tens of thousands of vacant houses litter the landscape. The majority of these are destined for eventual demolition, and cannot be rebuilt unless we come us with some realitic affordable solutions. I applaud the efforts of Architecture For Humanity and the seven houses that they are producing. However, in order for this region to recover, we need large-scale solutions and these will not come until creative affordable solutions are realized.

  6. Emily Pilloton Emily March 8, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    Richie,

    While I appreciate your involvement in this discussion, I’d also appreciate you being a tad more considerate of the people who are working their tails off down in the Gulf Coast to provide this shelter to citizens who need it (particularly Mike Grote and Cameron, who is Cameron Sinclair, Founder of Architecture for Humanity). I’d like to know if you have been down to visit or have worked on similar projects/scenarios, or if you are merely an observer with a slew of opinions and weblinks as “evidence.” You bring up some valid points that are worth discussing, but please be respectful of the people who are doing good work everyday and making a huge difference in a region that needs continued aid. I also think it’s interesting that each of your comments has made no mention of the PEOPLE in the Gulf Coast, but rather rely on an emotionless analysis of the structural capabilities of buildings. I think the folks at Architecture for Humanity have it right- architecture should fulfill basic needs, but the humanitarian design process is really about treating people with pride and not pity, to design for human beings and clients rather than victims.

    Emily Pilloton

    Managing Editor
    http://www.Inhabitat.com

  7. Richie March 8, 2007 at 10:33 am

    P.S as per my recent posting… I included an erroneous web link. Sorry ! For the Peter Demaria shipping container design mentioned, please go to: http://www.demariadesign.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22 … or http://www.demariaesign.com

    Again… I wish all the folks in the Gulf Region the very best !

  8. Richie March 8, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Wow ! Kudos to all who’ve posted. There’s a lot of good communication here. That’s great !

    Linda 3/4/07… I couldn’t agree more. Rebuilding in flood plain, storm surge, hurricane prone areas is questionable. That’s why if structures are to be built, they must exceed the past standards that have clearly not worked. If my reccomendation as to the http://www.seccs.org/homehouse/winners.html design is not appealing… maybe the ‘Monolithic Dome Designs seen at: http://www.monolithic.com are more so ?

    Cameron 3/5/07… Hey man, Shipping Container based designs have come a long way. Check out: http://www.demariadesigns.com , go to ‘residential structures’, click on ‘redondo beach house’ and check it out. As for insulation, they’re using a new product developed by NASA. To read about it, click on: ‘LA Times Article’ on the ‘redondo beach house’ page. A simpler insulation proces could employ SIP’s (structurally insulated panels) on the container’s exteriors.

    Thanks for the validation from the : Revolution Corporation, Chris Baskind, Michael McKenzie.

    And to Mike Grote, Architecture for Humanity, I respond thusly: Mike, it’s the otherway around my friend. Please SHOW ME any housing that is built as you are now doing that HAS withstood the storm surges, and high articulating winds of force 3, 4, or 5 hurricanes. It’s a trick question of course… because there are no examples of the design in question still standing after such. GET A BETTER DESIGN MIKE, as the one that’s being built will be blown away, or storm surged out of exitence during the next powerful storm !

  9. Mike March 7, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    Armchair Engineers, Revolutionaries and everyone else,

    Yes, in fact, the flag pole, which is constructed of thin-walled turned aluminum, was damaged during the initial storm surge, probably from debris washing up against it, like a 4FT diameter oak tree, shrimp schooner, or maybe a small TOYOTA. The location of the flag pole is only yards away from the water. However, the location of the Model Homes and much of the focus of rebuilding on the Gulf Coast is further inland, in an area which received damage from inland flooding, not a storm surge.

    The primary damage resulted from an aging housing stock that was built long before a strong building code was enforced, so most houses floated off their foundations. Uplift was the culprit, not surge or wind. Wind and water generated uplift caused most of the damage. Yes in the V-zones the storm surge blew many houses completely off their slab, and scoured the finishes clean off the concrete. However, many of the homes on concrete pier foundations met the same fate as their much older neighbors because of a weak connection at the floor fame, and other structural short comings. No matter how strong we think concrete is, the belief that it’s the answer is very simplistic and in my opinion myopic. If you begin to survey the damage here in Mississippi its becomes abundantly clear that newer stick framed construction (after hurricane Andrew) withstood the storm quite well, and many older homes framed and sheathed correctly also only received damage from rising flood waters.

    The solution of over-engineered pier foundations doesn’t really address the issue, and in many ways complicates it. The current means of constructing elevated homes puts 8” x 8” or 10” x 10” treated wood piers in 3’ x 3’ x 3’ holes in the ground with concrete poured around them. Post-hole technology has come home to roost on the Gulf Coast. Not very strong laterally or when subject to a surge. On the other hand, the knee-jerk reaction always tends to lean towards bigger is better, stiffer is better, and more steel and more concrete will solve our problems. I shutter at the accusation that its insane to build with wood piers, because they are “not strong enough.” Show me the case study that tells us this, come to the coast and show me undeniable proof that I have miss over the last year of living here, please I invite anyone down and I myself will pay for the trip if you can prove to me these points. But the cost of construction has escalated to the level of being prohibitive for many people who owned homes both inside and outside of existing flood zones. They now have very few options for rebuilding.

    There is no magic bullet building solution. I myself have built a home out of two shipping containers. Is this method an option? Could be. However, it involves a substantial amount of work to adapt a simple building element that was originally designed solely to ship plastic widgets and Mardi Gras beads from China, not house and nurture families.

    Any references to other places and their building solutions must be more comprehensive in their comparisons. The geological conditions of the Biloxi peninsula are quite different from the sandy soil conditions of much of Florida.

    It is important to keep in mind that the Model Home Program is a research and development project; thus, by definition, it begins as a testing ground, which over time evolves and implements what it learns along the way. I challenge the criticism that the Model Homes were not designed for hurricane prone areas, and I would like to know the criteria the critic is using to make this claim.

    As far as best roof designs go, uplift is our issue—not lateral wind load—and always has and always will be. The roof truss system of this house has been designed to meet the hurricane code standard, and is clipped and strapped on every truss. The lateral loads are absorbed by the truss structure and down through the columns that rise from the foundations through to the top plates. Most of the roofs that failed were those that were not held down and were ripped off the house, but the houses did not blow over like a house of cards. The others had 300-year-old oak trees fall through them. These are unique conditions that can be debated to no end.

    Instead, let’s get down to brass tacks. As the federal money makes its way to the homeowners, they are beginning to face the realities of construction costs. I can say I want to build back a concrete bunker to replace my two-bedroom, one-bath, 1200 sf bungalow, but who will build it and how much will it cost? The craft labor shortage across the country is only exacerbated by the rebuilding effort along the Gulf Coast. The cost of skilled labor (and “skilled” is a stretch) is on the rise—it’s a sellers market. There are public projects (i.e. bridges, roads and buildings) along with Casino reconstruction and the new condo speculation market is the competition for skilled craft labor. We are targeting a $75-$95 per square foot budget for the Model Homes. I wish the money of 7 homes could build 20 homes, but I haven’t been able to pull that rabbit out of my hat, at that rate we would build homes for $35-40K apiece. Try sticking a family of 6 or 7 in that shoe box.

    My door is always open, and I would love to take anyone on a tour of Biloxi and the Gulf Coast, including the Model Homes in design and under construction.

    Mike Grote
    Architecture For Humanity
    Bilox Model Home Program Manager

  10. Fear of God March 7, 2007 at 8:12 am

    May I join the debate without relocating to the Gulf coast? Or do I need to drop everything and pick up a hammer to validate my opinions?

    Let’s play a different way! post-Katrina, residential recovery, and all that, but discussion is open only to college students in Nebraska, New Hampshire and Hawaii whose keyboarding skills are hunt and peck.

    Ready?

    GO!

    (All others are welcome to lurk… and click on our sponsors.)

  11. Chris Baskind March 6, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    Richie, your point about storm-proof construction inside flood zones is well-taken. I am a vigorous opponent of beach development here in Pensacola. The best way to prevent storm loss is not to build on at-risk real estate.

    At the same time, programs to purchase the land from low-income households and relocate them to safety are few and far between. Nor do many qualify for any sort of comprehensive financing. Most of the flood damage on the Coast was uninsured, and I don’t see people lining up with bags of money to aid with low-income storm relief.

    More should be done, but as someone who was directly effected by both Katrina and Ivan, I’m grateful to anyone who comes down here on their own dime to put roofs over people’s heads, even if their solutions are temporary or not what we’d really like to see at the end of the day.

    You’d be welcome to bring your expertise to the Coast. Just bring plenty of bug spray. Only about 1 in 3 of the families on my parents’ street are back in their homes after Katrina. I’m sure they’d appreciate your advice, money, and labor.

  12. PaulS. March 6, 2007 at 2:34 am

    While we’re on the subject of the Gulf Coast reconstruction, I suggest taking a look at the American Society of Landscape Architect’s website, Landscape Architecture, for this month which includes a feature story on green space planning in New Orleans.

    http://www.asla.org/lamag/feature1.html

    The whole story is only available online to ASLA members, but the print version of the magazine is available in many places and I often enjoy it.

  13. Michael McKenzie March 6, 2007 at 12:06 am

    WOW!
    I am all over this! Full support for the most critical comments recognizing that this is “fashion posing as solution” What we need for solutions to a GLOBAL housing crisis is RENAISSANCE! That means a complete rethink of traditional housing design / build AND conditions like those created by Katrina are, and must be seen as ‘THE OPPORTUNITY’ to do that crucial creative work. The core competence exists and the parts basket is full of terrific product long ignored by mainstream builders bent on long return on short investment.
    FEMA and my Canadian government twin CMHC , should hand their collective heads in abject shame. This is why we created them. In what was supposed to be their finest hour we instead have their posturing feeble indifference! WE NEED DESIGN REVOLUTION HERE! FORTY YEARS AFTER MAN LANDED ON THE MOON WE CONTINUE BUILDING HOUSES WITH WOODEN STICKS ONE AT A TIME IN THE MUD, RAIN AND SNOW. THIS IS A MORIBOUND PROCESS COMPLETELY OUT OF STEP WITH ADVANCEMENTS IN ALL OTHER HUMAN ENDEAVOR DIRECTED AT OUR MOST IMPORTANT HUMAN ENVIRONMENT!
    Sorry for shouting, please accept that I am actually exercising extreme anger management here. All and any with competence who share my views, please find me at spaceprojekt on the most popular web network.
    Thanks…Michael…

  14. The Revolution Corporation March 5, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    I’d be interested to know the cost per SF of this house & the other seven. I’d venture to say that they are probably costing more than the neighbor down the street can afford to build without AFH money. Even if the houses are not very intelligent in their form (read my above post), just the vision of rebuilding does spur faith in rejuvination amongst the community. Though, the high profile money invested in these 7 homes could have built 20 smarter structures. *That* is the point to be taken from the “detractors” comments. If we are going to criticise or critique, let’s please make an effort to be realistic and constructive. The idea is for us to educate each other.

  15. Cameron March 5, 2007 at 6:34 am

    Here’s an interesting read on low-cost housing and containers — http://www.samsung.com/Features/BrandMagazine/magazinedigitall/2005_spring/feat_02a.htm

  16. Cameron March 5, 2007 at 6:29 am

    Richie,

    The idea of putting people in used shipping containers is not a great solution to the needs of communities affected by Hurricane Katrina. Whether it is architecturally sound (no insulation in most containers mean that they are 120-140 deg. in the summer – dozens of illegal immigrants die every year y being locked in containers being smuggled across the border) or cheap (with the infrastructure needed it would cost as much as a fema trailer) the reality is that by building housing that is based on sustainable home ownership is far more effective than using discarded and decaying metal containers. While your suggestion may work engineering wise, it is totally inhumane and has been rejected by communities both in the West and in the developing world. Most importantly this will not meet code, address new flood elevation levels nor be accepted by the insurance companies – leaving residents with no security in their future.

    The real question is are you and your family willing to live in a shipping container? If not then why is it the appropriate solution for these families. Architects and designers need to develop solutions that they are willing to live in not a ‘victim’ – It is our ethical responsibility as a profession to design with pride and not pity. Everyone has a basic right to safe and affordable housing.

    With this particular program professional architects and engineers (inc. Arup and Blackrock) worked one-on-one with residents to develop a solution based on their specific needs and within a budget that is affordable for most of East Biloxi. While there will be detractors of this program and I’m sure many who question its affective-ness it has done one major thing – help families get out of toxic trailers and into homes they own. There are 7 families in this program each with a different architectural solution developed by a different firm. Once completed (note that this home is under construction!) I invite you to come to Biloxi, check them out and ask the families how they feel about their homes.

    Actually don’t wait. Come down now, get involved and help others move from uncertainty to an economically sustainable future. As my mum used to say, there is nothing worse than being all mouth and no trousers. ‘good intentions’ means talking about an idea and not implementing it as a viable solution. If you truly believe in your idea then the next step is very simple – build a prototype or home.

    C

    NB: Also the reason it is only 7 families is that is was based on available funding. We worked for months with community groups on an extensive family selection process and could have done this for at least 135 families had the funding been available.

  17. The Revolution Corporation March 4, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    This is a sensitive topic, and Richie’s communication is a bit aggressive, but he’s right. Any help is *help*, but if you’re going to do it, make it worth while.
    Brett does nice work, and seems to be a socially conscious designer. The problem is that this house, along with most of the other Architecture For Humanity sponsored houses, is not designed specifically with hurricanes in mind. Yes, it would be better if the house was constructed of reinforced CMU (reference South Florida, you will not see a wood framed house built there), but other than that there are a few key design principles that the AFH team of award-winning architects amazingly don’t seem to be aware of. Notice the house in the background of the first picture? The roof pitch is about 6/12, that’s why it’s still there. You don’t want a pitch below 5/12 on a wood framed house in a hurricane zone (Bernoulli’s principle), and it’s preferable to not have a pitch over 6/12 (Very low and very steep sloped roofs generally create increased uplift and lateral wind loads, respectively, and should be avoided) … and a gable roof home is inherently more vulnerable to wind damage than a hip roof home.
    Brett’s design has a pretty steep roof pitch (12/12 to 15/12 ?) and would be subjected to the brunt of lateral wind loads.
    Interesting that it’s called the “Biloxi Model Home Program”, and the mission statement on the AFH website states “…for true long-term reconstruction we need to address the way we build in hurricane prone communities. As a result, Architecture for Humanity is sponsoring the design and construction of a number of demonstration homes in the community.”
    Yet, these AFH homes are not intelligent prototypes… and as Richie said… “Good intentions aren’t enough.”
    For others with good intentions, review the “2006 IRC Hurricane Resistant Residential Construction” workbook and Google some topics like “best roof design for hurricane”, before you begin.

  18. Linda March 4, 2007 at 3:46 am

    It breaks my heart to hear people debate the necessity of safe buildings along the Gulf Coast when some people have been living in Fema trailers for over a year. Go down, visit, and if you can’t understand what was wiped out by Katrina, then just ask. I lived there for over a decade and my daughter still resides there, and niether one of us could figure out where we were after the storm. Every landmark was gone. Wiped out. The steel rebar you see behind the bent flagpole used to be a museum/tourist center that survived everything up to Katrina – even Camille.

    The problem, folks, isn’t what’s being built as much as where it’s being built. Anything from the “railroad tracks to the shoreline” is capable of being wiped out by storm surge, but this is the first time outside Camille that the results were so devastating. Since the railroad is a mere three blocks from most shoreline towns west of Gulfport, it makes sense to do a park area along the shoreline that imitates the Chicago park area that runs along Lake Michigan (that’s about the right distance, if you’re familiar with Chicago). This type of planning disallows any residential habitation along the water. But, then again, there’s the tornados. It appears that a tornado wiped out the home next to my daughter, whereas she only experience one down power line (and the loss of a tree house, but not the tree). Sometimes its just a crapshoot.

    The casinos are buying up most of the residential shoreline property quietly, slowly, anyway. In fact, if you go down to Misissippi’s Gulf Coast area now, the only place to stay and/or eat is in a casino. But, casinos need employees, and employees need a place to live. Whether it’s temporary roughshod or a steel-encased concrete igloo, as long as it’s located anywhere north of the railroad tracks, then all is well.

    Again, I suggest that you go down to observe this phenomenon for yourself. Anything north of the railroad tracks may have suffered some wind damage, but nothing was totally wiped away by storm surge. Check out the Fema trailers as well. You’ll love ‘em. They’re quite demeaning. I’m grateful that some people understand that situation and are willing to volunteer their time and energy to help.

  19. Richie March 3, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Hi Emily, Lance,

    I appreciate your comments.

    Emily, I went back and looked again at that 1st photo as you suggested. Here’s what I see. I see treated wood exposed to the elements. The rebar reinforced concreteb piers are low to the ground. Then the wooden posts are joined to the piers with metal fittings on only 2 sides. Even though there’s some ‘x’ cross bracing, it’s stiil mostly wood and will not stand up to the high speed articulating winds, wind shear and storms surge pounding of major storms… like rebar reinforced concrete posts and beams, infilled with rebar reinforced concrete block, would. So building again with mostly wood seems to me to be the same ‘insanity’ that we see happening over and over again in places like Florida. Then the next hurricane comes along and knocks those rebuilt houses down AGAIN ! So like what’s the point ?

    Lance… the point you make makes a bit more sense to me. If indeed, these structures are only temporary, I can innertand their being erected. The only problem I still have with that is that oftentinmes temporary structures mange to become permanent. So if these ‘termporary’ structures are not built to a high enough structural strength standard, there could be serious trouble ahead… again.

    If you’re looking for cost effective… go with rubble filled gabions, topped with rebar reinforced concrete bond beams for an elevated ‘foundation’ and build with wood, or spaced – bridged shipping containers locked down with http://www.tandemloc.com fasteners atop that (click on 1st entry @: http://www.secca.org/homehouse/winners.html for ‘bridged shipping container design’ idea). Used shipping containers cost between $1,500 – $3,000 each. A Gabions, rebar reinforced concrete bond beams, bridged shipping containers, etc. structure is cost effective (cheap) and STRONG !

    I wish all the folks in the Gulf region the very best !

  20. Lance March 3, 2007 at 12:49 am

    Richie, my understanding is that these homes are also not permanent fixtures, but merely temporary roofs over the heads of people having to live in trailers until a more permanent residence can be built. Most of the people there are still waiting on some type of insurance check. These houses will at least give these people a sense of dignity while they are trying to rebuild their lives. Remember it’s been a year and a half. What’s insane is that it will probably be another five years before life gets back to what would be normal to the rest of us.

  21. Emily Pilloton Emily March 2, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    Richie,

    FYI- Brett Zamore’s house is in fact built on a very unique, structurally-superior foundation that combines a submerged concrete channel with rebar-reinforced concrete piers (you can see it in the first image). There are a variety of new FEMA building requirements being put in place, and I can assure you, this design is not “insane.” From what I saw, there are a variety of new building techniques being integrated into both new construction and reconstruction, including required heights for raised houses, foundation systems, etc.

    Emily

  22. Richie March 2, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Good intentions aren’t enough. Look at the photo of the bent flagpole. The flagpole is metal and was probably bent by the force of the storm surge & high winds. So… it’s NICE that these dwellings are at least elevated on piers by approximately 6 feet… BUT… they’re still wooden houses supported by wooden piers, and therefore NOT STRONG ENOUGH !!!!!!

    Oh… ‘but it’s too expensive to build dwellings using rebar reinforced concrete piers, posts, beams & floors, which are then filled in with rebar reinforced concrete block”. Well fine… don’t build anything then ! Just don’t build the same damn problem all over again ! If rebar reinforcced concrete & concrete block are not affordable, use concrete rubble filled GABIONS as walls with poured concrete to stabilize them… or at least use gabions to elevate these structures to a height where they’re out of harms way. Rubble filled Gabions are much stronger than wooden posts !

    The textbook definition of ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Well, by that definition, this design is ‘insane’.

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