New Orleans Slowly Embracing Sustainable Building Practices presents News at Noon with Erin Patla


But first…this story.

New Orleans Slowly Embracing

Sustainable Building Practices

By Jennifer Goodman for

Five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, home builders are still working to rebuild the city’s homes, and more of them are doing it with sustainability in mind.

According to Jon Luther, executive vice president of the HBA of Greater New Orleans, nearly 90% of homes in the area sustained damage in the massive 2005 storm and ensuing levee breaches, which left more than 200,000 housing units completely destroyed or in need of major renovation. Green building proponents quickly called for sustainable rebuilding of the Crescent City.

“In the really early aftermath of the storm, as you might imagine, we had folks from all over the world and the country that were in good faith and with good intentions suggesting how we might go about getting ourselves rebuilt and rehabilitated,” Luther recalled during a recent Webinar presentation about the rebuilding of New Orleans. “But right after the storm, we were just trying to stay viable…  As we started to make progress once we literally got our legs underneath us we started to look at a lot of these initiatives.”

At first, some HBA members were reluctant to explore high-performance home building, Luther said. “In terms of the energy-efficient and green building technologies that started to be introduced here, I would say we were starting from less than scratch,” he said. “We’ve always been a site-built, stick-built kind of region with very little experimental or alternative building going on.”

For example, before Katrina, New Orleans had no municipal recycling program or uniform state building code. Many houses were built with little or no insulation, and local pros were skeptical of the idea of super-tight dwellings.

“Their immediate concern was to not button up the houses too tightly,” Luther said. “They know that the houses down here have to have decent air exchange.”

But while the rise of green home building in New Orleans has been slow, progress is being made, Luther noted.

“Since the hurricane, we’ve been seeing two or three years of progress in green building in New Orleans,” said veteran green builder Ron Jones, also a Webinar panelist. “It seems to me that a good portion of the membership has turned the corner and is now offering a more updated and responsive version of the product they’ve been offering all along.”

Luther said he is not worried that the recent BP oil spill affecting parts of his jurisdiction will slow down the momentum toward more sustainable home building in the New Orleans metro area. But closer to the spill in the Grand Isle and Venice communities, almost all construction has come to a halt.

“Literally everyone is out there trying to respond,” he said. “It’s a Herculean effort.”

If the problem isn’t resolved soon, Luther said, there will be fallout for many local builders.

“The folks who build and renovate homes for people in the fishing industry and the oil and gas industry will take a real hit,” he said. “A lot of the lessons we learned from Katrina about how to get our legs back under us are relevant here with the BP spill but we haven’t had to employ them, yet.”

“Up next,


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Thornton: Planning for affordable,

energy-efficient homes

By Susan Thornton
The Denver Post

A small but creative housing development in Lafayette, the Paradigm Project, is likely to guide future affordable housing construction across the nation.

The idea for the pilot project came about as the Boulder County Housing Authority sought to develop housing for low-income people that would cost less to build than conventional homes, would be highly energy efficient, would make use of renewable energy, and could be replicated elsewhere.

Finding land for the project was not an issue. Boulder County owned the site of the county’s former maintenance facility in Lafayette. Finding funds for construction, however, was a challenge.

The authority saw that the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar America Cities 2008 grants were available and partnered with Denver to apply as a subset of a grant that the city was submitting. Ultimately, the authority received funding from not only Solar America Cities 2008, but also Energy Outreach Colorado and Temporary Aid to Needy Families.

Executive drector Frank Alexander said the authority wanted to build three of the most energy-efficient, affordable duplexes possible while testing the use of renewable energy, new building technologies and modular assembly.

The first three pilot homes were opened last October. The homes have solar panels, passive solar design and an orientation to increase day lighting and make the best use of solar energy.

As a result, the homes are up to 80 percent more energy-efficient than the average home site built in the mid-1990s. The need for air conditioning has been eliminated and the homes generate almost as much electricity as they use.

The homes also greatly lower heating costs. Alexander said the duplexes reduce natural gas use by an amazing 80 percent, while lowering the annual emission of carbon dioxide from 15 metric tons to three metric tons per home.

Because of their modular design, the duplexes were less expensive to build than a typical “stick-built” home. Cost came in at $90 to $110 per square foot, compared with about $140 per square foot for a traditionally built home, said Scott Simkus, housing development manager at the authority.

As an added benefit, the Paradigm Project created a “green” field-training program for unemployed workers. The program taught six unskilled people techniques in building energy-efficient homes and installing renewable features such as solar panels and geothermal systems.

The lessons from the Paradigm Project will be shared nationally in a best-practices manual due to be published by the Department of Energy. They also will be used during the construction of a 153-unit affordable housing development in Lafayette, Josephine Commons.

The new 14-acre development will be designed as the first Near Zero Energy community for low-income people in the United States, with 92 affordable housing units for seniors and 61 affordable units for families. The homes are expected to include all of the energy efficiency and renewable features of the model Paradigm Project, including geothermal energy to help ensure reliable, year-round heating and cooling.

The Paradigm Project is a win-win for low-income families and for all of the organizations involved.


PressZoom) – WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced that it is proposing new regulations that would permit builders of manufactured housing (mobile homes) to complete construction at the home’s installation site, rather than in the factory. Under current HUD regulations, a manufacturer must obtain HUD approval for on-site completion of each of its designs.
HUD’s proposed rule would simplify the manufactured housing construction process by establishing new uniform procedures that would, under certain circumstances, permit manufacturers to complete construction of their homes at the installation site without obtaining advance approval from HUD. The proposed regulations would not apply when a major section of a manufactured home is to be constructed on-site. Public comment to this rule is due by August 23, 2010.
National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974 authorizes HUD to establish and amend home construction and safety standards for the industry. It also authorizes HUD to conduct inspections and investigations necessary to enforce these standards.

The Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) contributed to the draft of this proposed rule. MHCC is a Federal Advisory Committee authorized by law to provide HUD with recommendations regarding Federal manufactured housing construction and safety standards and related procedural and enforcement regulations. It is composed of 21 voting members representing manufacturers, retailers, consumers, organizations with interest in manufactured housing, and public officials. ;

“On behalf of Production and IT Manager Bob Stovall, Editor Tony Kovach and the entire writing and support team, this is Erin Patla, G’day!”

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