Build It Right

Lessons from Hurricane Katrina

katrina-resizedFine Homebuilding Magazine (May 2012, Vol. 212) has a very informative article written by Linda Reeder, that looked at the efforts to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina destroyed 70 percent of the homes in 2005. Two years after the hurricane, very few homes in predominately African American neighborhoods had been rebuilt so a group, called Make it Right (MIR), was formed to build 150 new homes in these low-income neighborhoods that had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. To date, MIR has completed 80 of those houses and they have learned valuable lessons on how to build healthy, energy efficient and affordable homes.


MIR wanted to determine the most cost-effective and highest performance construction method and so they built houses using advanced framing techniques, factory built modular homes and using Structural Insulated Panels, or SIPs. Here is what they found.

First, they found that modular homes were generally not constructed to the required energy efficiency standards, which included high insulation and air tightness values, and were wanting in terms of over-all quality.

Second, using advanced framing methods resulted in better and stronger homes than if conventional framing methods were used, however, there were still issues with the framing approach.

After building over 80 new homes, MIR determined, that overall building new homes from SIPs was superior to either modular homes or to home constructed with advanced framing techniques, What they found is that, after factoring in labour costs and material costs, building with SIPs is the best way to build.

The MIR houses were engineered for energy efficiency, focused on providing a healthful environment for homeowners and were LEEDs certified. In spite of these objectives, complete house costs were only about $130 per square foot for a complete house constructed with SIPs, lower than either modular or framed houses, making these energy efficient homes truly affordable.

The lessons from Hurricane Katrina are applicable to northern climates, such as we have here in Northwest British Columbia, maybe even more so in the Northwest because energy efficient homes are even more important in our cold, damp climate.

If you want more information on using Net-Zero SIPs on your next project, please contact Net-Zero and we will be pleased to assist you.

Featured Project

Net-Zero Moricetown Housing Project

Net-Zero completed four homes for the Moricetown Band earlier this year, built with Structurally Insulated Panels and screw pile foundations. 

The 833 square foot houses come with two bedrooms and one bath as well as high efficiency wood stoves, the smallest houses Net-zero has built so far.


Did You Know?

sips panels installed for apartment saves time and labour
Net-Zero SIPs are delivered to the job site pre-cut ready for quick assembly. The large wall, roof and floor panels can be installed much like a puzzle. 

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