Lowe's to Sell Katrina Cottages

The hardware superstore is gearing up to sell kits-of-parts houses in Mississippi and Louisiana

Katrina Cottages, kit-of-parts houses designed for hurricane-affected residents of the Gulf region, will finally be available to the public. The hardware superstore chain Lowe’s will sell the systems in its Louisiana and Mississippi stores in late fall (see BW.com, October 19, National Design Award Winners).

The bungalow-style cottages range in size from 544 square feet to 936 square feet, and some can be expanded to 1,200 square feet. Featuring Hardy Plank siding, wood framing, and metal roofing, they were developed as cheaper, more durable, and more attractive alternatives to the trailers that FEMA has dispensed throughout the area: The homes resist rot and termites, withstand winds of up to 140 miles an hour, and meet the standards of most hurricane codes as well as the International Building Code.

New York–based architect Marianne Cusato first introduced Katrina Cottages at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando in January 2006. She designed two of Lowe’s first four models, while the others were designed by architect Andres Duany, one of the founders of the Congress for the New Urbanism, and by South Carolina architect Eric Moser. The next rollout may include as many as 15 new designs, Cusato says. Dave Steed, General Merchandise Manager at Lowe’s, says that the company is aiming for a $45-per-square-foot cost. Prices encompass all building materials, but exclude construction, HVAC, and code-related foundation materials.

“We can’t just put up barracks, or assembly-line housing,” Cusato says of the need for the regionally inspired cottages. “There has to be something that creates a sense of place. We have to get the sense of community that was lost back.” More than 250,000 homes need to be replaced or repaired in the region.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security have launched a $400 million program that will likely help the cottages take hold. The FEMA/DHS pilot supports temporary modular housing and favors “context-sensitive housing” It should be “better” and “cheaper” than the “current trailer-park method of sheltering disaster victims,” says Tom Wolfe, senior director of federal affairs at the AIA. Wolfe says that many types of temporary housing will be considered for funding, including the cottages.

States have until October 20 to submit their applications for program funds, which will be evaluated by a FEMA-appointed selection committee comprising government representatives and housing experts. How the states propose to dispense the money—via low-interest loans to developers or grants to residents, for example—is at their discretion, Wolfe says. The FEMA/DHS program is based on requirements in H.R. 4939 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act. The AIA lobbied heavily in favor of the bill, which became law in June. 

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