USGBC unveils sustainable rebuilding principles for New Orleans

March 22, 2006 |

At a luncheon held recently at the Sheraton New Orleans, Bob Odell of the
. Green
Council (USGBC) unveiled a vision of
New Orleans
as a leading international city of the 21st century. The “New New Orleans” Odell depicted came in tandem with his presentation of the USGBC’s ten principles for sustainable development in New Orleans. Odell presented the principles, titled “The New Orleans Principles,” to over 70 leaders in urban planning, real estate, neighborhood outreach and architecture.

“The city of New Orleans could be the first city to address global change, and if it did that, it could be a stronger city physically, economically and culturally, and become the New New Orleans,” said Odell.

The presentation faced the hard realities of Katrina’s damage to New Orleans homes and infrastructure. Odell cited a $7,000-9,000 per capita loss in
New Orleans
from Katrina, in comparison to a $400 per capita loss in
New York City
from 9/11. Despite the daunting setbacks, however, Odell said the massive scope of work to be done put the city in a prime position to reemerge as a leader in city planning. According to Odell, the city should reinvent its history of mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhoods with 21st century technology like solar electric systems, protected underground utilities and updated public transit.

“What you don’t understand is how the rest of the nation looks to New Orleans for how to build cities,” Odell said. “Other cities are working hard to achieve what you have. Value that diversity and build upon it in every way.”

“People are still building buildings like the Model T Ford,” he added. “Have a very high and different standard for how you’re going to build.”

The USGBC presentation underscored the importance of long-range planning to ensure healthy, livable, safe and secure neighborhoods; a diverse local economy; and a responsible relationship with the area’s ecology.

The New Orleans Principles: Celebrating the Rich History of New Orleans Through Commitment to a Sustainable Future

was conceived through a series of charrettes at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Atlanta, GA, November 9-11. Over one hundred-sixty design and construction specialists, along with area community leaders, contributed to the plan for creating healthier and stronger communities. The New Orleans document – which was presented to an audience of more than 10,000 at the Greenbuild Conference – is the first in a series, with USGBC reports on Affordable Housing, Sustainable Schools, and the Gulf Coast Guidelines to be released soon. 

The Greenbuild charrettes were conducted by USGBC in partnership with the Enterprise Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, the Trust for Public Land and others and included some of the leading voices in sustainable design. Participants represented a broad range of expertise in areas such as urban planning, water management, engineering, and architecture. The four charrettes covered topics including green communities, ecological restoration, affordable housing, and schools.

The New Orleans Principles document contains 10 principles, along with more than 50 detailed policy recommendations and actions to chart a course for incorporating a context of sustainability into planning and reconstruction efforts in
New Orleans
.  This report is the first in a series; reports on Schools and Affordable Housing will be available soon.Copies of the full report are available for download at

The Ten Principles:

1.  Respect the rights of all citizens of New Orleans

Displaced citizens who wish to return to New Orleans should be afforded the opportunity to return to healthy, livable, safe, and secure neighborhoods of choice.

2.  Restore natural protections of the greater New Orleans region

Sustain and restore the coastal and floodplain ecosystems and urban forests that support and protect the environment, economy, communities, and culture of southern
, and that contribute greatly to the economy and well-being of the nation.


Implement an inclusive planning process

Build a community-centered planning process that uses local talent and makes sure that the voices of all citizens of New Orleans are heard. This process should be an agent of change and renewal for New Orleans.


Value diversity in New Orleans

Build on the traditional strength of New Orleans neighborhoods, encourage mixed uses and diverse housing options, and foster communities of varied incomes, mixed age groups, and a racial diversity. Celebrate the unique culture of New Orleans, including its food, music, and art.


Protect the city of New Orleans

Expand or build a flood protection infrastructure that serves multiple uses. Value, restore, and expand the urban forests, wetlands, and natural systems of the New Orleans region that protect the city from wind and storms.


Embrace smart redevelopment

Maintain and strengthen the New Orleans tradition of compact, connected, mixed-use communities. Provide residents and visitors with multiple transportation options. Look to schools for jumpstarting neighborhood redevelopment and for rebuilding strong communities in the city.


Honor the past; build for the future

In the rebuilding of
New Orleans
, honor the history of the city while creating 21st century
buildings that are durable, affordable, inexpensive to operate, and healthy to live in. Through codes and other measures, ensure that all new buildings are built to high standards of energy, structural, environmental, and human health performance.


Provide for passive survivability

Homes, schools, public buildings, and neighborhoods should be designed and built or rebuilt to serve as livable refuges in the event of crisis or breakdown of energy, water, and sewer systems.


Foster locally owned, sustainable businesses

Support existing and new local businesses built on a platform of sustainability that will contribute to a stronger and more diverse local economy.


Focus on the long term

All measures related to rebuilding and ecological restoration, even short-term efforts, must be undertaken with explicit attention to the long-term solutions.

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