Last year, New Orleans was the setting for the National Assn. of Home Builders' national green building conference.
The conference included a tour of green homes, including the one pictured here:
1. The exterior of the charming turn-of-the-last-century cottage. The home is owned by a woman who bought it from her grandmother, so it's been in the family a long time. After the levees failed in 2005, it was flooded with at least 5 feet of water and was nearly a teardown.
2. Contractor Julie Groth, (pictured here), of Step by Step Construction, said this was the most damaged house she had ever worked on. Now that it has been restored, however, the house feels new, clean and healthy. Green features include paperless drywall to prevent mold growth in the humid climate, nontoxic paints, Energy Star appliances, a dual-flush toilet, an efficient heating and cooling system and kitchen counters made from heart pine salvaged from the framing of old buildings.
3. The home includes a tankless water heater. Out back is a deck built by women in a construction class (titled Sophie the Riveter) that Julie teaches at Tulane University.
4. The ceiling of the attic is coated with blown-in insulation and is not vented. Whereas vented attics in other climates make sense to allow hot air to escape, in a hot and humid climate like New Orleans, a vented attic will bring in hot and humid air that will condense around the air conditioning unit, causing water damage and future mold and rot problems. Thus, no vented attic for this house.
Rebuilding New Orleans is a monumental task, brought about by the hearts and hands of homeowners, volunteers and local contractors. And here's the amazing part: There is a mindset among many in the area to rebuild New Orleans as the nation's first carbon-neutral green city.