Wednesday, September 22, 2010

While in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago we visited the lower ninth ward. This area was massively destroyed when hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Parts of this area were received over 20 feet of water when the levy broke in 22 different places. Houses were lost, people were killed, and the area will never be the same. Here it is five years later, and a lot of the area is abandoned and people are still trying to put their lives back together. You would never know this by the crazy night life that still goes on just a few blocks over on Bourbon Street. People are still suffering. We were fortunate enough to visit the Holy Cross Project. This is a project to rebuild some of the area and provide sustainable housing for some of the victims of this hurricane. The area where these four homes reside was previously a ship yard pre-Katrina. Future plans for the area behind these homes include a community center and a building that will house 18 apartments. We toured the first completed home and were very surprised by how far technology has come. The house is 1,120 square feet and has been rated Platinum on the LEED scale. For those of you unaware, this is the highest rating you can receive for a green building. Only 1,444 residential homes have currently been given this award and most of those are still in production. Some of the big features include solar panels, a tank-less water heater, dual-flush toilets, rain water barrels, low-VOC paint throughout the home, and low flow faucets. When we arrived, we were stopped at the door and instructed to remove our shoes and place them on the porch. The air quality in the house is perfect and by wearing our shoes in the house, we would track in dirt and air particles that would jeopardize this. There are more windows on one side of the home than the other to heat the house during the day. They even thought ahead about the summers by planting a green wall where jasmine will grow in the spring and throughout the summer to take the brunt of the heat during these hot times. However, during the winter when the jasmine dies off, the house will be warmed naturally from the sun reducing the need to heat the house heavily. The house is filled with recycled products including rugs, furniture, art, tile, carpet. I have attached a few pictures of the home, but there is no substitute for seeing it in person. The houses are very affordable (at around $149,000) and will be offered first to the residents of the community who lived there before Katrina. They also are doing what I consider to be one of the best ideas in having the houses be a part of a condominium community where the home owners will pay condominium fees that will cover the cost of repair to the homes. So if a solar panel happened to break the fees you pay would go towards repair or replacement. This is huge for houses like this! It's like extra insurance to pay for what would normally be very costly repairs. I have seen similar houses like these in Little Rock go for well over $300,000. Yes, it is expensive upfront for a home such as this, but the assurance that you're monthly bills are going to be very low (if at all, and in some cases a credit is issued) is worth it in itself. Not to mention that you are doing a great thing the environment and helping in lessening your carbon footprint.

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