Katrina Cottage vs. FEMA Trailers
As this proud little house demonstrates, temporary mobile homes are not the only option for hurricane ravaged areas.
By Staff ReportThe hottest new home to premier at this year’s International Builders’ Show was also the smallest. Measuring just over 300 square feet, the Katrina Cottage concept was designed to fill a giant housing void on the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast. Thanks to primary sponsor James Hardie, LBM Journal and a handful of other sponsors, the home went from concept to reality just in time for its debut at IBS.
The cottage plan was created by New York designer Marianne Cusato, one of more than 100 planning specialists brought to Biloxi last October by the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal. The group was led by influential architect and planner Andres Duany, and organized under the umbrella of the Congress for the New Urbansim. The meeting, a weeklong planning event called the Mississippi Renewal Forum, generated a number of housing designs (including the one displayed at IBS).
Her goal, says Cusato, was to change the definition of "emergency housing” from temporary FEMA trailer models to something appealing and practical enough to be permanent. "Everybody—taxpayers, the community, property owners—wins if victims of a disaster can immediately live in a home they can be proud of and that, over time, becomes an asset rather than a liability,” says the designer. "How can people be expected to rebuild their lives if we park them in trailers that will be discarded in 18 months?”
Permanent vs. Temporary
Cusato’s approach allows a family to purchase or build a small home they can live in until they can construct a larger one on the same lot. Then the cottage can become a guest house or a studio. Also Cusato and her colleagues are experimenting with configurations that allow such a design to become the first building block in a larger home plan or a family compound or even an entire neighborhood development. It’s an approach that may elevate design standards for affordable housing as well as those for temporary emergency dwellings.
Despite its scale, nothing about Katrina Cottage says "temporary.” It honors Mississippi architectural traditions and insists on details—including built-in storage, six large windows, a pitched roof, and a full-size porch—that would never be considered for temporary emergency housing. Yet such high design can be produced at low cost, either on-site through a variety of traditional building techniques or as manufactured housing.
"There’s no reason why small and affordable can’t be beautiful, as well,” says Cusato.
For more information, visit www.MississippiRenewal.com.
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