Breaking It Down and Building It Up in New Orleans

Members of the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at Syracuse University learned there’s more than one way to use a hammer when they helped with reconstruction—and deconstruction—of the Holy Cross neighborhood of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward.

The EFC was invited in March to observe and evaluate the Historic Green project. Specifically, the team analyzed the components—the people, resources, and plans—involved in this unique recovery project in a neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The EFC team met with organizers and project stakeholders, interviewed participants, attended community meetings, and toured project sites. The team members also got their hands dirty working side-by-side with community members and volunteers from all over the nation.

Historic Green is a collaboration between Holy Cross community members, local organizations, and non-profit groups, as well as a national network of students and others involved in green building.

Historic Green is innovative because it focuses on what the community wants to do. For instance, Holy Cross residents wish to preserve the historic look and feel of their community, so community members, the Preservation Resource Center, and Emerging Green Builders are working together to deconstruct and reconstruct these historic homes.

The majority of the green building is being done to homes that survived the storm. The reconstructed homes will be more environmentally friendly and will likely save homeowners thousands of dollars in energy costs over the lifetime of the house.