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Smile on George’s face…priceless: a sustainable approach to long term disaster recovery

envirenewAs we pull up in front of the lot in late August – construction still in progress – the smile on George’s face is priceless. He bounds out of the car, camera in hand, and starts snapping away, taking photos of a new home being built in the Broadmoor neighborhood in New Orleans (see photo).
George is with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the home was designed by one of the teams that won their 2010 Natural Talent Design Competition, a competition he helps facilitate.
He was beside himself with excitement as he marveled at the progress being made on the home, thrilled that a deserving family will soon move into a fantastic, modern home that nicely fits into the neighborhood and meets the “LEED for Homes Platinum Standard.” This is all part of EnviRenew’s unique “sustainable” approach to long term recovery.
Last year was the first year in the Design Competition’s history that the winning projects were to actually be built. The home we were looking at in Broadmoor is one of four unique homes being built in the neighborhood as part of the EnviRenew initiative, a brainchild of a local Salvation Army leader.
In recognition of the five-year anniversary of hurricane Katrina last year, FedEx sponsored a Resiliency Summit for The Salvation Army in New Orleans. The day after the Summit, I served as one of the finalist judges for the USGBC Design Competition. We selected winning architectural plans from two student teams and two emerging professional teams. The designs were for small, affordable, ADA-compliant (Americans with Disabilities Act) homes that incorporated innovative green building principles and would save future homeowners money. It’s important to note that before our final judging event, residents of the community voted on the designs.
In seeing the value of the EnviRenew initiative as a strong and potentially replicable model for sustainable long term recovery, FedEx provided funding to support the initiative through this summer in order to capture the learning that has occurred to date and to create an important body of knowledge that may be tapped into by those working in the disaster recovery space.
We were not the only ones to see the merit of the initiative, as evidenced by EnviRenew winning the 2011 National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD) 2011 Innovation Award.
After George finished snapping his photos, we made our way to the New Orleans Sheraton where we met together with members of the EnviRenew team for many hours to hone the findings of the summer-long research project. We look forward to sharing these findings in the not-too-distant future with an eye towards producing many more priceless smiles in the arena of sustainable long term disaster recovery.

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