New Orleans ‘Green Dream’ home offers open houses, provides learning for at-risk youth

Claudette Reichel  |  7/1/2008 8:09:21 PM

Steve Picou, LSU AgCenter area extension housing agent, center, listens along with young people from New Orleans who are learning a trade while helping to build the “Green Dream Home.” (Photo by Johnny Morgan)

Paul LaGrange, LSU AgCenter building science educator, demonstrates the proper way to construct windows and other construction tips at one of the training sessions at the New Orleans “Green Dream Home.” (Photo by Johnny Morgan) (Click on photo to download larger image.)

Construction at this demo home will pause for Open House each Friday to show off the building styles and components that went into making the home unique to the New Orleans area. (Photo by Johnny Morgan)

News Release Distributed 07/01/08

The LSU AgCenter has joined forces with Orleans Catholic Charities’ Operation Helping Hand and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America program to construct an affordable home uniquely tailored to local needs and risks. The house, dubbed the “Green Dream Home,” is in mid-construction and, until its completion, serves as a teaching tool about best building practices for the New Orleans area.

So far, two demonstration days have been held, and the general public can tour and learn about its special features during open houses every Friday until the house is completed, except July 4.

The open houses are from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and the next one is July 11. The house is at 1248 Caton Street, near City Park, and should be completed in a couple of months.

Dr. Claudette Reichel, housing specialist with the LSU AgCenter, said the house is being built from plans and specifications developed by the Building America research team.

“This house has features built in to resist hurricane winds up to 130 miles per hour and survive deep water flooding. The owners’ previous home was destroyed by Katrina. This house is designed so it can be cleaned, dried and quickly inhabited, without gutting and major expense,” Reichel said.

“The house is highly energy-efficient, so the family can afford to live in it comfortably” Reichel said. “Some of the other high performance features of this house include borate-treated wood so termites won’t destroy its structural strength and special moisture control techniques so it won’t suffer from decay and rot. And the wall assembly is designed with closed cell foam insulation so you can flush it and dry it out.”

The house also is equipped with adjustable foundation piers that can be raised as much as 14 inches in case of soil subsidence, uneven settling or flooding in the area.

Paul LaGrange, LSU AgCenter building science educator, said this project came about as a result of Deacon John Ferguson from Catholic Charities touring the LSU AgCenter’s LaHouse in Baton Rouge and attending the “LaHouse LIVE” hurricane-resistant construction demonstration event after Katrina.

“At the time, Catholic Charities was only in the business of gutting houses for the elderly and those who couldn’t afford the $5,000-plus being charged for house gutting. But their plan was to shift to helping rebuild homes for families whose homes were destroyed,” LaGrange said.

Paul Cook, senior project manager for Catholic Charities’ Operation Helping Hands, said at-risk youth are being involved in the construction of the house in a new program called Youth Build.

“We pause construction on the house at what we call trainable moments,” Cook said. “What we do is take students who have dropped out and allow them to go back and get their GED and at the same time get vocational training in home construction,” he said.

Because of a grant from the Department of Energy, Cook has been able to hire 25 young people in the program who are learning various aspects of the work through on-site training sessions.

“Once they’re trained, we then send them out to our volunteer sites where they do carpentry, insulation, hang drywall, painting, trim work, electrical and plumbing,” he said.

Cook said not much recovery was happening in that area of the city until they started to work on this house.

“Once we began work on this house, the people next door started construction on their home,” he said. “We hope to do this type construction again.”

Reichel said when the house is completed, the family whose home was destroyed on the spot will move in to this new home.

Other sponsors for the home-building project include Campbell Cabinet Company, Demilec USA, Georgia Pacific, James Hardie, John C. Williams Architects, Interstate Windows & Doors, LaGrange Consulting, Lamanna Engineering Consultants, MS Builders, Norandex Building Materials Distribution and Tri Dyne Foundations.

For more information about the project and to confirm open house dates, people may contact Steve Picou, Orleans area extension housing agent, at (504) 838-1170 or


Contacts: Claudette Reichel at (225) 578-4440 or

Paul LaGrange at (225) 578-2378 or

Steve Picou at (504) 838-1170 or

Writer: Johnny Morgan at (225) 578-8484 or

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