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3 posts from January 2011

  • 01/22/2011
  • Posted by staff

How to Re-Engineer the Louisiana Coast

Interesting piece on a very different approach to Louisiana's coastal restoration - from Popular Mechanics:

For eons, the Mississippi River meandered across its low-lying delta, leaving fertile deposits of sand, silt and nutrients. For the past two centuries, however, engineers have tried to tame the waterway by raising levees to prevent flooding, straightening and deepening channels to aid navigation, and building complex control structures to regulate flow. Now, instead of spilling over its banks during spring and summer floods, the ­river and its precious cargo of sediment jet straight into the Gulf of Mexico, starving the coast of life-giving soils.

As a result, 1875 square miles of wetlands vanished in the 20th century. Marshes fell apart like rotting cloth. Beaches drowned. Open water winked in the sunshine where crops once grew. Experts estimate that in the first half of the 21st century another 673 square miles will be lost. 

To restore the ravaged coast, scientists, engineers and conservationists are lining up behind a slate of engineering projects, including dredging that will move tons of sediment through miles of pipeline, and local programs to hand-plant marsh vegetation stem by stem. None, however, seem to hold as much promise as large-scale river diversions. Or generate as much controversy. READ THE FULL ARTICLE >>

via www.popularmechanics.com

  • 01/18/2011
  • Posted by staff

Civil Eats » In the Lower Ninth Ward, Rebuilding a Community Starting with the Soil

By Paula Crossfield

Community is at the center of the good food revolution, and the Lower Ninth Ward section of New Orleans is home to one of the more extreme examples. Five years after Hurricane Katrina broke the levees–flooding the neighborhood and forcing its residents to decamp elsewhere–the area, largely frozen in time, has become home to a thriving community of urban farmers aiming to improve the quality of life of its residents.

I was in the neighborhood recently on a tour arranged by the Community Food Conference, a four-day event in October offering panels on different aspects of food policy. My tour guide, Jenga Mwendo, grew up in the Lower Ninth, but was living in New York City when Katrina hit.

“I quit my job, sold everything and moved out to New Orleans with the intention of finding some way of being a contribution,” she said. Mwendo had purchased a house in the Lower Ninth as an investment property just weeks before the storm, and so began by rebuilding it. Next, she decided to figure out who owned the abandoned properties near hers. “I decided that I was going to single-handedly revitalize my block,” she said.

Statistics reveal that only 25 percent of residents have returned to rebuild. As a result, abandoned houses dot the neighborhood, services and infrastructure are sorely lacking, and there is a lot of land. This has made the Lower Ninth prime for urban agriculture–which, for Mwendo, has been key to rebuilding and bringing together the community. READ MORE >>

via civileats.com

  • 01/13/2011
  • Posted by staff

Interview with Tim Duggan, Make It Right Foundation

Tim Duggan, ASLA, is a landscape architect with the Make It Right Foundation. Learn more about the foundation’s innovative, sustainable landscape architecture work and see their “Kit of Parts” (4MB).     

The Make It Right Foundation was started by Brad Pitt, who wanted to help the residents of the Lower 9th Ward rebuild their community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Instead of rebuilding using conventional methods, Pitt asked William McDonough to apply his Cradle to Cradle approach to create a new set of sustainable homes. The primary goal is 150 affordable, green, and storm-resistant homes. How far has Make It Right progressed towards its goals?

Make It Right was founded by Brad Pitt, William McDonough + Partners, GRAFT, and Cherokee. At that point, they were a little discouraged by the progress in rebuilding the Lower 9th Ward. This was two years after Katrina. So they collectively decided that sustainability should be dedicated more towards folks that need it, that affordable sustainable houses could have a much bigger impact. We set the goal of 150 homes. Right now, around three years out from project conception, we have approximately 50 houses completed and 30 houses under construction, all of which are under the LEED Platinum umbrella. We decided to strive for and reach that level for every home. This current build of 30 homes will be wrapped up mid-to-late February. We are then going to go through another round of analysis and value engineering to see how we can increase the affordability even further, without taking anything out of the systems of the house, the neighborhood, or the landscape.

In addition to creating an affordable, sustainable, and safe set of homes, Make It Right also aims to re-conceive the role of landscape architecture in post-disaster rebuilding. A pilot of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), the Lower 9th Ward site aims to become an “innovative site sustainability platform.” What is this? How will the new site design model help mitigate against floods and storms while ecologically managing onsite water? How far along are you with these plans?

Because Make It Right is not a developer, we’re simply building individual homes for folks that lost their homes during Katrina. We didn’t have the luxury of doing a comprehensive master plan. We had to look at the individual residential lots to see how far we could push the envelope of sustainability while still making them socially and economically sustainable. That said, addressing the site sustainability at each and every house led us to a bigger opportunity with the city’s Department of Public Works. We have been developing extensive low impact development strategies such as pervious concrete, rain gardens, rain barrels, and sub-surface water storage. Our landscape gets 65-plus inches of rainfall a year and the city of New Orleans still spends several million dollars pumping water over the levy. Our goal is to create a series of streetscapes that would invest in the public realm as opposed to just simply adding in a bigger pipe and a bigger pump. READ MORE >>

via dirt.asla.org