Rebuilding the South In The Aftermath of Hurricanes Ivan Through Katrina


TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY, Ala. − Almost five months after the most destructive and expensive storm in the history of the United States, Hurricane Katrina, devastated the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast, academicians; corporate America; industry leaders; and city, state and federal officials are convening at Tuskegee University to talk about how to rebuild communities destroyed by the storm.

With the support of a $100,000 planning grant from the U. S. Department of Energy, Tuskegee University through its College of Engineering, Architecture and Physical Sciences, is providing the leadership for the national conference on Rebuilding the South in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Ivan Through Katrina/Rita: Technology, Energy Efficiency and Affordability.

“We initially had the conference scheduled earlier after Alabama took a hard hit from Ivan. It was at that point we thought ‘how can we improve structures along the Gulf Coast?’ Then Katrina and Rita came and caused even more destruction, so we decided to push the conference back,” said Dr. Legand Burge, Jr., dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture and Physical Sciences at Tuskegee University. “
Although the leadership for the conference is coming from Tuskegee University, the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Florida are partners in presenting the conference, along with several universities in those states with academic programs in engineering, architecture and building construction.

Dr. Burge says the conferees will not spend time “pointing fingers.”  Rather than devoting extensive discussion to “what went wrong” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and “who was responsible for what went wrong,” Dr. Burge says the conference will emphasize both making communities more sustainable in the likelihood of future storms, as well as presenting technology that is currently available to rebuild the already destroyed communities.

He also says he views the conference as a “critical forum to make the impacted communities aware of resources and services available to them.”  Representatives from the U. S. Department of Energy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers will be on hand to explain the services and resources available from their agencies and how to access those resources and services.

The Ramos Group, Inc., Mobile, Ala.; TW/DDI Hurricane Housing, Las Vegas; International Code Council, Inc.; and Siemens Building Technologies of Buffalo Grove, Ill., among many others, are participating in planning the conference and could play various roles in helping rebuild the destroyed communities.

Siemens Building Technologies, Inc., bills itself as a “leading single-source provider of cost-effective facility performance solutions for the comfort, life safety, security and performance of some of the most technically advanced buildings in the world.”  Siemens reportedly provides technology services for more than 100 locations in North America.

International Code Council, Inc., based in Birmingham, Ala., provides “minimum requirements” to ensure the safety and performance of what the industry calls “the build environment.”  The organization is composed of Building Code Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc., International Conference of Building Officials, and the Southern Building Code Congress International, Inc.

Mayors of the cities along the Gulf Coast impacted by the hurricanes will receive training in “how to provide leadership in the midst of change.”  Pamela Ramos of the Ramos Group says, “Change is a skill that most people have not mastered.”  The conference seminars led by the Ramos Group will focus on both “physical and personal change,” Ramos says.

Different approaches in leadership may be required for citizens whose physical environment has changed, which in turn brings about changes in the citizens themselves, Ramos observes.

Richard Driggett of Hurricane Housing in Las Vegas will introduce the conferees to a “super composite plastic” material his company has developed that he says holds promise for the construction of buildings in hurricane prone regions.  The composite plastic, according to Driggett, is 11 times stronger than steel, and is being considered for use in the reconstruction of the levee system in New Orleans. The so called “hurricane houses” Driggett and his company are targeting are insulated with a fire proof foam which he says significantly reduces heating and cooling cost.

TW/DDT Hurricane Housing also specializes in the clean up and disposal of hazardous waste.  Driggett says he has a patent on an aboveground facility in which hazardous waste is “entombed” and monitored 24 hours, seven days a week, so that “it can never get back into the environment again.”  He estimates the cost of the facility at $200 million and says each facility will employ 5,000 people and generate as much as $100 million a year for the communities in which the facilities are located.

According to Driggett, the hazardous waste disposal facility he and his company have developed meet EPA requirements.

The short term goal of the three-day conference is to address repairing damaged homes and businesses in 12 months. The conferees will devote attention to replacing and adding new homes and businesses by December 2008. Over the five-year period between December 2006 and 2010, the conference participants say they will address the daunting task of “rebuilding shattered communities,” and the 10-year goal of the conference is to outline some strategies for “renewing surviving communities.”

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