Can This Home Be Greened? Rebuilding After Katrina

A New Orleans Resident Plans to Renovate Her Home With Inspiring Environmental Vision.

| By November/December 2007

  • Grace's shotgun-style house in mid-city New Orleans had to be gutted after it was flooded and developed mold. It's now been raised four feet above ground and awaits a green overhaul.
    Philip Gould

Six months before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Grace Wilson bought her first home—a newly refurbished, raised shotgun-style house (a long, narrow home with doors on each end). The weekend before the hurricane, her mother and grandmother came to help put finishing touches on the décor. Two days later, the three headed north to flee the massive storm. Hurricane floods left 5 feet of water in Grace’s mid-city neighborhood; for two weeks, her home sat in 18 inches of water.

Afterward, Grace donned a hazmat (hazardous materials) suit and started to gut her house. A demolition crew removed interior finishes 3 feet above the water line, tore wet insulation out of exterior walls and left doors and windows open so the structure could dry. Later, all the wood surfaces were sprayed with borates to remediate the mold.

Two years after the hurricane, Grace is still waiting to renovate because she hasn’t yet received the $70,000 in federal aid money she’s approved for by The Road Home, Louisiana’s housing recovery program. While she waits, she hasn’t been idle. As an employee of New Orleans Tourism and Marketing, she’s helping revive the city’s tourist trade. “Now it’s time to bring life back to my house,” she says. “I have the luxury of time. I’m really passionate about all things ‘eco,’ and I want to rebuild right. The bigger picture and long-term sustainability are more on my mind than speed.”

Grace’s 840-square-foot house sits in a 19th-century neighborhood with its own corner grocery store and restaurant. The home was originally built from cypress boards taken from dismantled barges that had shipped goods down the Mississippi River.

“When the building people first saw the damage, they told me, ‘Oh, dahlin’, just tear it down,’” Grace says. “But everyone in my neighborhood is so resilient, I just had to preserve this place.”

Working with Micah Kibodeaux and Jeremy Love of eco-restoration company Love Construction, Grace looks forward to the simple things—having floors, walls, running water and energy-efficient appliances. “Whenever I start to worry about all there is to do, I just put on my smiley face,” she says. “I know it will all happen, and it’s going to happen green.”

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