NOLA Ninth homes

The Lower Ninth Ward, a working-class, predominantly African-American neighborhood on the banks of the Mississippi River, was completely submerged by the hurricane. When actor Brad Pitt visited the area two years after the storm, he was alarmed by how little had been done to rebuild. Putting to use his considerable power and wealth, he pulled together 21 of the world’s most famous architects, as well as homeowners and community organizers in the Ward, and launched a project to build houses that were affordable, environmentally friendly, and aesthetically pleasing.

Ten years later, only 109 of the 150 have been completed, and of those 109, many appear to be falling apart.

It is now quite a disaster. People are suing. Some thoughts:

– On the neighborhood not wanting to change

There’s nothing wrong with that. There can’t be many stores and services? Have the minimum like everywhere else on earth then. Have a small shop that doesn’t make mad profit but serves a community with basics. Have bigger shops come in the neighborhood with trucks, once a week. There are many solutions to having single family homes serviced. You don’t need skyscrapers and a massive Walmart or Ralphs to accommodate people’s needs.

– On designs

And it quickly became clear to residents that a few of the all-star designs — sent from architects as far away as Ghana, Chile and Japan — weren’t going to work in Louisiana. The roofs on more than a dozen houses were flat — a red flag for locals.

smh. How on earth is that possible to fuck it up like that? Flat roofs in Louisiana is not a brilliant idea but even if you go for this, just tilt the damn roof by 5° and water will evacuate… It’s not rocket science.

– On costs

There are ways to build sustainable houses for quite cheap. The fact that they had inexperienced –and underpaid, probably- staffers working for the organization to help people go through one of the worst disaster ever in the USA, is maddening. You needed the best of the best here, no exception. The organization should have paid upfront to get a solid team so that they don’t have to rebuild and maintain houses for the next 20 years would have been smart. But no. Cut corners, get wrecked.

They also used OSB SIP for walls, a terrible choice because OSB rots easily. You wanted to experiment? Use hemp insulation and a bit more wood because hemp can’t be used for load-bearing. But it doesn’t rot and is natural.

That’s where having star architects was supposed to change the deal: they put some money in to make sure good material is used, for instance. Those residents are paying a mortgage on a new house that shouldn’t be decaying that badly within a decade.

What a shame. Imagine losing everything because the government failed you with levees that don’t work. Then you have a Hollywood star coming in with big bucks, building a green house that you pay for and it’s rotting right away. How can you trust anyone, anything after that?

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