Short Term
Long Term
Setting a Precedent


Short Term: Insurance and Building Codes
Building Codes & Green Architecture
Minimizing Flood and Wind Damages

Flood Damage

While there is a constant threat of flooding in New Orleans, there have been relatively few floods in New Orleans. Between Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, both of caused major damage, there have only been 3 significant floods within the three and half decades period. Floods from the Mississippi River is also a risk; however, we believe that with the levee system designed by Team 3 and adjustments for the Mississippi River system designed by Team 9, the chance of a large flood from the Mississippi River is relatively small. Because flooding does not happen on an annual or even a two year basis, we believe that it is unnecessary and impractical to require expensive flood-proof buildings for a largely low-income city. Instead, we want to create practical building codes will minimize the damage caused by flood and wind.

We have found that the 1.5 feet Base Flood Elevation requirements mandated by FEMA are relatively inconsequential for protecting homes on a year to year basis. The most recent flood before Hurricane Katrina was on May 8th, 1995 when certain areas of New Orleans flooded as much as 19 inches as a result of rain, not a tropical storm (Marcus, 1995. pA18). While certain buildings may have been protected by the required 1.5 feet elevation, most of the buildings were not even protected because over 90% of the houses in New Orleans were built before 1984 (GNOCDC, 2000). New Orleans flooded not as a result of levee overtopping or breaches but because water could not be pumped out of the city quickly enough. However, floods result of rain only happen on average every 10 years. The two floods before May 8th, 1995 in the 1980s and 1970s were not as severe as the flood in 1995. A 1.5 feet base flood elevation costs on average over $40,000 per house for already existing homes (FOX News, 2006. par 19).  Because of the spaced out occurrence between the recent floods, we believe that even for building a new house the cost for raising houses 1.5 feet or more above ground level and for enforcement of that code outweighs the benefits of preventing minor damages in small floods.   

Post-Katrina, FEMA has mandated a 3 feet BFE for homes in New Orleans. Raising a home by three feet raises the cost of building the home by $48,000 for already existing homes (FOX New, 2006. par. 19). By the same argument against 1.5 BFE cost-benefit arguments, we believe that the three feet BFE is not a practical solution for the people of New Orleans and their homes. Even against larger floods like the ones against Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Camille, which flooded the city by up to, the three feet was completely inconsequential in protecting homes against flood. The Base Flood Elevation will not benefit the people in the city of New Orleans enough to justify the continuation of this law.

    Instead of raising the buildings by 1.5 or 3 feet which fails to minimize damage or protect houses against floods, we propose a First Floor Plan establish a way to greatly reduce the damage that can be done to a family’s property. The First Floor Plan will limit the amount of furniture and belongings on the first floor of home. We recommended homeowner to either turn the first flood into mainly a garage or if they choose to make the first floor into a living room, to use tiles or hardwood floor instead of carpeting. We hope that through this plan will minimize a household’s losses caused by flood. To enforce this plan, we will enforce a $5,000 cap on the amount that NFIP will reimburse the homeowner for his belongings on the first floor. If the homeowner chooses to put more than $5,000 dollar value, he/she will still only be reimbursed $5,000. While this may seem harsh, it will limit the amount of losses for each household by discouraging placing expensive items on the first floor. This plan does not “raise” the house by 10 feet, but will minimize the amount of damage done to the house for up to 10 feet of flooding. Since homeowner’s do not have to elevate their houses, we believe that this plan is economically practical. We also believe that this plan is practical given the rarity of floods especially with improvement of levees to withstand up to Category 5 storms.


Wind Damage

    Wind damage from Hurricane Katrina affected most of the homes in New Orleans. According to FEMA’s HAZUS Hurricane model analyzed by Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, more than 80% of houses in New Orleans reported at least minor damage, which is defined by “maximum of one broken window, door or garage door. Moderate roof cover. Marks or dents on walls requiring painting or patching for repair” (LSU, 2005. 3). Their study was conducted with FEMA’s HAZUS Hurricane model.





We plan to follow recommendations given by LSU Hurricane Center:


· Protection of Building Openings

Windows and doors are the weak spots in the wall envelope. Requiring debris impact resistant windows and doors or debris impact protective coverings (shutters) prevents most window and door failures. This helps keep the wind and rain out of the building, reducing structural damage, damage to finishes, and damage to contents.

· Improved Roof Sheathing Attachment

Better attachment of the plywood or OSB roof sheathing to the roof structure through appropriate fasteners and closer fastener spacing helps prevent sections of the roof deck from being lifted off by the wind. This reduces progressive failures and wind and water from penetrating the building envelope.

· Improved Roof-Wall Connections

Installation of metal ‘hurricane clips’ or’ hurricane straps’ provides a continuous load path from the roof to the foundation, helping prevent catastrophic roof uplift failures.

· Secondary Waterproofing to Roof Joints

Sealing the joints between the sheets of roof decking provides a second line of defense against roof leaks, even if the roof coverings are damaged or destroyed.

                                                (LSU, 2005. 6)


Since employing these recommendations will reduce the insurance rates, we feel that these codes do not need to be actively enforced through inspections. For households who would to  but cannot afford to build their homes with these recommendations, loans for remodeling are available to them through FEMA. We feel that these recommendations practical for homes in New Orleans and can significantly reduce damage to the home itself and all surrounding homes.

Green Architecture/Technology & Energy Codes

     We want to promote New Orleans as a “Green New Orleans, Garden City”. This plan for a greener New Orleans sets a precedent for a cleaner lifestyle that includes awareness of the importance of energy efficiency and green technology.  Energy Star, a joint program between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, promotes the ideal of reducing energy use and increasing energy efficiency through designating products that meet its strict energy efficiency guidelines as ones earning Energy Star approval (Energy Star, 2006).

    The Energy Star program will usher in a green post-Katrina era where lush garden homes and low rise apartments fill the protected neighborhoods. We advocate the adoption of this program solely applicable to appliances as a requirement for all homeowners in Louisiana.

   The Energy Star program is a cut above the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, which currently serves as the “nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.” The two systems can coexist because unlike the Energy Star program, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) does not certify products and services of individual companies. The Energy Star program and LEED complement each other as LEED “provides a road map for measuring and documenting success for every building type and phase of a building life cycle.” The portion of the Energy Star program we want to enforce solely applies to products and services not certified by the USGBC with examples including geothermal/geoexchange heat pumps and commercial & industrial transformers.

We would also like to encourage, not enforce, the construction of roof gardens.  Best implemented in low density apartments, these gardens would control the rate of storm runoff, reduce the heat load on these buildings, and also reduce monthly utility costs.

    House Bill No. 498 by Representative Barrow creates green building standards up to the LEED silver standard for public buildings. (Barrow, 2006) While this piece of legislation steps towards a more energy efficient New Orleans, we envision the complementary incorporation of Energy Star standards for appliances. Also, we would like to see the implementation of the LEED silver standard to the private housing market. The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources offers software that individuals can use to determine the number of credits their home qualifies for and therefore which certification level their home meets under the LEED standard.

  Under the HELP program, “homeowners can get reduced interest home improvement loans to make energy-related improvements to their existing homes. DNR will finance half of the improvements at two percent interest, up to a maximum of $6,000 on the DNR portion.” For the person who takes out the loan, the borrower can obtain a “Home Energy Rating by an Energy Rated Homes of Louisiana Home Energy Rater.”

    With all this legislative infrastructure concerning green technology and energy codes, we believe New Orleans is well-positioned to transform into an environmentally friendly city.


Subsidized Housing

Government Subsidized Housing

In 1996, New Orleans had about 13,694 units of public housing. This number slowly dwindled to approximately 7,000 due to the efforts of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to create mixed income housing.  But many of these public housing units were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina, leaving over 200,000 people without homes. HUD has planned to reopen about 2000 of these housing units, demolishing the rest in the name of creating a mixed income environment. (Quigley, 2006)

A new, post-Katrina plan for government subsidized housing in New Orleans includes single family homes and low-rises. The government subsidized homes that already exist in the areas that are approved to be rebuilt will be rebuilt by the government to become beautiful low rises that follows the guidelines for the green technology, which we have stated in the previous section, and follows the revised building codes proposed by the City of New Orleans. These low-rises will not only be economical, but also environmentally friendly and provide better protection from floods and wind damages. People can initially rent the low rise apartments from the government; however, they will have the opportunity to purchase these apartments from the government if and when they choose to do so. We believe this will provide the people living in these low rises not only a sense of pride in their homes but also a motivation for them to work to own their homes one day.

Also people who used to own homes, but cannot afford to do so anymore, or cannot afford to rebuild it and maintain it anymore, or just choose not to live their anymore have the option of selling their property to the government. The government will then buy the land from these homeowners and will rebuild single-family homes, if the land that the home is in is allowed to repopulate. These homes, are architecturally beautiful, follow the guidelines for green technology, and the revised building codes proposed by the City of New Orleans. After the government rebuilds the single family homes, the homeowners can buy it back; and if they cannot afford to do so, they can rent it from the government, and if they choose not live there anymore, the government will have to the right to subsidize it to other people. However, no matter who chooses to live in the government subsidized single family homes, they will have the opportunity to buy it back from the government at any time they choose to do so. The main purpose of this, like stated above, is not only to encourage pride in people's homes, but also provide a motivation for them live independently and receive less government help.

These government subsidized housings will be built following somewhat the plans that the government already has with mixed income housing to encourage social mobility and an integrated society are three basic goals that we want to follow through with this new government subsidized housing plans:

  1. provide housing at a lower cost for people who cannot afford private homes or apartments
  2. provide the motivation for the people to live independently by providing them with the opportunity of buying their government subsidized homes from the government, whether it be single-family or low-rise apartments
  3. be the first step towards environmentally friendly housing programs not only in New Orleans, but internationally and also follow the revised building codes of the city of New Orleans to provide better protection in case of a natural disaster.


Enforcement of Revised Building Codes & Green Technology

After through research and careful considerations of our options, we recommend that the building codes set down by the city of New Orleans, our revision which include better flood and wind protection and the integration of green technology be strictly enforced throughout the city of New Orleans.  We understand the initial cost will be a significantly high amount; but we want the best possible solution for New Orleans not a compromised one. New Orleans, will not only be protected by the stronger, category five levees but also our enforcement of the revised building codes will greatly minimize the damages that could be caused by natural disasters.  Although the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Katrina will be felt for years to come, the fact remains that we have been given an opportunity to make New Orleans the leader in what will become a new era of green technology to protect our environment. These are the reasons why we believe that enforcement of the revised building codes and the green technology program is necessary in New Orleans.

    To enforce these new standards, we propose to create a coastal inspection agency, as a part of FEMA, which annually evaluates, keeps a thorough record of and enforces the revised building codes in New Orleans. These inspections will he held by well-trained individuals, screened by FEMA and will be ideally completely impartial. This is how we plan to enforce our ideas on rebuilding New Orleans. Other incentives, such as lower taxes and reduced insurance premiums based on the revised building codes and green technology will strongly encourage homeowners to follow through on the programs.



Insurance Policy & Louisiana Department of Insurance

After a comprehensive review of the insurance policies, we plan on maintaining them and also planning on making the National Flood Insurance Program mandatory for the residents of New Orleans. We realize there are people who cannot afford the National Flood Insurance Program, but we are providing government subsidized housing units. We understand cost might be a concern, but rates can decrease dramatically when communities become involved in the National Flood Insurance Program's Community Rating System and implement green technology and energy efficient building codes.  In order to alleviate the confusion policy seekers and policyholders express towards the insurance industry and its policies, we want to increase transparency through the availability of insurance information through the Louisiana Department of Insurance. Employees will be trained and/or hired to provide advice as to which insurance provider residents should approach for general home owner's insurance policies. Agents of the Louisiana Department of Insurance will conduct unbiased insurance research and produce industry reports comparing rates and policies of insurance providers. With the compilation of this research, agents will word informational booklets that would be made easily accessible through the Internet and book resources. We envision an expansion of all kinds of agent-homeowner services including online resources, telephone hotlines, and in-person consultations.

    Through these information sessions, the agents of the Louisiana Department of Insurance act as clarifier's of the ambiguous insurance policies and also make recommendations for homeowners on a case by case basis. The clarification of these policies involves explanations of the relative benefits of certain insurance policies provided by specific insurance providers. These consultants will act as a basic, go-to resource for people who cannot afford private wealth managers.