Envisioning a More Sustainable New Orleans

Experts share their thoughts on how to rebuild New Orleans in a green way.

| May/June 2006

Months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, city officials question how to rebuild. Experts gathered last fall during the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild conference in Atlanta to share ideas for making New Orleans more ecologically sound. Environmental Building News captured the highlights.

• Re-establish natural coastal and floodplain ecosystems. Restoring the Mississippi Delta’s natural sediment deposits will replenish wetlands lost to erosion.

• Build a new levee system and flood-protection infrastructure that rely on both natural and mechanical means of withstanding flood, winds and storms.

• Create mixed-use zoning (retail, business and residential). Neighborhoods should support people of all income levels; offer public transportation and bicycle and pedestrian pathways; and incorporate solar power and natural cooling and heating systems that operate during power outages.

• Design buildings that could provide refuge in the event of other disasters by including features such as natural ventilation and on-site water collection.

• Retain the city’s vernacular architecture by restoring buildings and updating them to resist floods.

• Salvage any material possible and deal with mold.

• Offer tax credits, grants and zero-interest loans to make green building an appealing option.

• Work with ecologists and biologists to create more sustainable fisheries.

• Clean up the New Orleans brownfields. Detoxify pollutant-laden sediments left by flooding.

• Clean up Gulf Coast factories and create new, eco-friendly industrial processes.

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