Building Green and Affordable Homes

Hurricane season started on June 1 and I thought it would be interesting to see how at least one non-profit organization is incorporating energy efficiency and green design as it re-builds a neighborhood in New Orleans, almost 4 years after Hurricane Katrina.

Jericho Road Housing Initiative was founded with support from the Episcopal Relief and Development organization and is a neighborhood-based non-profit home builder of healthy and energy efficient housing. One of the fundamental missions of Jericho Road is not only to replace housing units lost during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but to build a neighborhood in the Central City area of New Orleans. The organization is working with 56 lots in the vicinity of the Saratoga Street Brownfield site. To date, 21 homes have been sold and another 20 have been constructed or are under construction.

Located almost at the center of the neighborhood is the Saratoga Street Brownfield site, once a municipal hazardous waste incinerator. Working with community members, local landscape architects and Jericho Road staff plan to convert the vacant land into a community park. In addition to ridding the area of an environmental and aesthetic eyesore, the new park will provide residents and families with a healthy outdoor area for exercise and enjoyment.

There have been 3 design criteria that have guided the design and construction of the homes. First, Jericho Road has used traditional architectural designs found in the neighborhood. To folks that grew up in south Louisiana, these homes are referred to as “shotgun” houses and include tall ceilings, deep front porches and unique structural details. Next, the homes incorporate the concept of universal design so that residents of differing physical abilities can move easily throughout the home, including doorways and hall widths that accommodate wheelchair use. The third design criterion is to build green and energy efficient.

Brad Powers, Jericho Road’s executive director, recently outlined the group’s energy efficiency emphasis in the organization’s newsletter. “Green building is not a luxury – it is part and parcel with our commitment to providing families with not just a house but a home. Long-term housing affordability and energy efficiency are interconnected and must be acknowledged by all that provide or help fund homes. This is especially true for low income families.”

About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.