CNET sums it all up perfectly, saying, a “new breed of NIMBY (not in my backyard) is emerging: opponents of wind or solar installations who generally support renewable energy, just as long as they are built somewhere else.”
If you got $3,500 to $4,500 for your new rig, you probably don’t disagree.
The reality is that owing to political and social factors, the damaged Lower Ninth Ward, Lakeview and New Orleans East sections of the city will most likely be at least partly rebuilt through a combination of public and private aid. So it might as well be done sustainably, but under a broader definition of sustainability than has been applied so far. Sustainable construction usually means energy efficiency, non-toxic materials, recovered materials, etc. In the New Orleans context, sustainable also means surviving the next natural disaster. The architect Frank Lloyd Wright created new construction techniques when he designed the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo because earthquakes were a constant threat. It survived a devastating earthquake in 1923 because Wright designed it with:
- a reflecting pool that provided a source of water for fire-fighting, saving the building from the post-earthquake firestorm;
- cantilevered floors and balconies that provided extra support for the floors;
- seismic separation joints, located about every 20 meters along the building;
- tapered walls, thicker on lower floors, increasing their strength; and
- suspended piping and wiring, instead of being encased in concrete, as well as smooth curves, making them more resistant to fracture.
The engineers and architects who rebuild New Orleans have to apply that kind of thinking to the city’s realities. Maybe New Orleanians will ride out the next flood in homes that can float on the floodwaters, then settle back into their foundations when the waters recede. Who knows. The point is that sustainability, in this case, must also include survivability.
There’s no doubt New Orleans offers a unique opportunity to develop sustainable building designs and methods. Attention to surviving the city’s unique, if not hazardous water-bracketed topography will help ensure what rises in New Orleans to replace what Katrina destroyed will be a fitting living monument to the lives lost there, and a testament to American’s talent for wringing progress from disaster.