Three years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed entire communities along the Gulf Coast, the Biloxi Model Home Program is nearing completion. Six of the seven houses being built under the auspices of the program are mostly finished, bringing to a close a nearly two-year endeavor. According to program manager Michael Grote, the final house should be ready for occupants by year's end.
A partnership between Architecture for Humanity and the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio (GCCDS) of Mississippi State University, the Biloxi Model Home Program was established to provide design services for seven East Biloxi, Miss., families whose homes were destroyed. Architecture for Humanity invited 12 architecture firms from around the United States to draft concepts for affordable, attractive houses that will withstand future storms.
At a housing fair where the designs were exhibited for the community, the seven families selected for the program chose which houses they wanted to build. The design teams then worked one-on-one with them to finalize the designs for their new homes. The houses being built were designed by Brett Zamore Design of Houston; MC2 Architects of Houston; Huff + Gooden Architects of Charleston, S.C.; Marlon Blackwell Architect of Fayetteville, Ark; CP+D Workshop of Charlottesville, Va.; and the GCCDS. (Two families chose to work with MC2.)
Although all seven homes are innovative examples of affordability, sustainability, and—most important—hurricane- and flood-resistance, the program's goal was not to build demonstration homes, but to create a model for post-disaster community recovery. Housing was of first importance, but creating a better sense of community and getting the neighborhood involved in its own recovery also were vital, Grote says. "It's a hard thing to convince people of, on paper, that we're going to create a nice neighborhood" as well as great houses, he says.
Architecture for Humanity's work in East Biloxi has helped rebuild the community, as well as individual homes, but it also has formed critical partnerships and established standardized processes and strategies that may serve as a model for future disaster response programs to provide well-designed, affordable housing solutions. "A lot of the stuff I've learned and that we've figured out has been cross-fertilized in both directions about the best ways to build a house and to do it inexpensively, while still making it aesthetically pleasing," Grote says. As a result of the partnerships created, "This neighborhood is well out ahead of a lot of other neighborhoods who are still struggling to figure things out."
The Biloxi Model Home Program is only one aspect of the rebuilding work Architecture for Humanity and its partners are doing in Biloxi. For information on other projects, visit www.architectureforhumanity.org/projects/all.
Read more of ra's coverage of the Biloxi Model Home Program and rebuilding in New Orleans here.