Claudette Reichel, Merrill, Thomas A. | 12/9/2005 12:56:13 AM
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to an LSU AgCenter educational site Wednesday (Nov. 9) to stress that rebuilding "stronger, safer and smarter" is the way to go for those affected by this summer’s hurricanes.
Stronger, safer and smarter construction is a major theme behind the LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana House Home and Landscape Resource Center.
Known as LaHouse, for short, the project is being built on the university campus in Baton Rouge. It will serve as a showcase of solutions for the challenges posed by Louisiana’s unique climate and conditions – ranging from storms to termites.
"LaHouse … is quite an inspiration," said FEMA mitigation specialist Roger Faris. "The experts at LSU are really poised to lead us forward in rebuilding Louisiana."
Although the LaHouse project already was well under way before hurricanes Katrina and Rita came ashore in Louisiana this summer, officials say it now is more important than ever.
"We are excited about what’s here in LaHouse," said Dr. William B. "Bill" Richardson, chancellor of the LSU AgCenter. "I wish we didn’t have to talk about how important it is to be prepared for storms, but that’s certainly part of the reality of what we in Louisiana have been through the past eight weeks.
"We know that having homes to live in is a critical part of the economic recovery after a storm. Building them strong enough to stand up to a storm is one way to ensure people have a place to go home to after the storm has passed."
That message also was stressed by FEMA officials during their visit to LaHouse this week.
"The up-front costs on this type of construction can be 5 percent to 25 percent more," Faris admitted about the features that make houses better able to withstand storms. "The payback, however, comes each year with the insurance premium savings you see, and the huge payback comes when you come back after a storm and the structure is still intact and all the precious things are still there."
Construction capable of withstanding hurricane force winds of up to 130 miles per hour is just one of the features demonstrated in LaHouse. It also demonstrates more durable roofing methods and ways to avoid flood damage among its range of features designed to exhibit ways to have greater comfort, quality, durability, property value and better health with less energy, water, waste, pollution and damage from storms, termites, mold, decay and other hazards.
"What we want to do is show people how to avoid being victims of storms and other hazards," said LSU AgCenter housing specialist Dr. Claudette Reichel, who oversees the LaHouse project. "All the people in Louisiana who are unfortunately involved in rebuilding homes right now have the power to do that."
Officials say they hope the LaHouse project in Baton Rouge, which has been funded entirely by private donations, can be duplicated in other areas, such as New Orleans.
"We know we’re going to have hurricanes in the future, so it’s all about preparing to face them," Richardson said. "We think we’re going to be in the business of educating people about how to do that for a long time, and, if we can, we’d like to build more resources like LaHouse so even more people can see how to make their homes stronger, safer and smarter."
More information on LaHouse and other educational and research projects of the LSU AgCenter can be found by visiting www.lsuagcenter.com. You also can find information on stronger, safer and smarter construction in the LSU AgCenter publication, "Building Your Louisiana House," which is available through that site.
In addition, the LSU AgCenter has a wealth of storm recovery information online – or you can obtain answers to specific storm-recovery questions by phoning the LSU AgCenter Disaster Recovery Hotline at (866) 573-0178.