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"Katrina Cottage" Provides Alternative to FEMA Trailers

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Images of the original Katrina Cottage. Courtesy Cusato Cottages LLP

In her effort to provide an alternative to the ubiquitous FEMA trailers that were dispersed after Hurricane Katrina, a New York-based architect has developed a new model for affordable housing. It's name: the Katrina Cottage.

"My goal is to take back the word 'affordable,'" says Marianne Cusato, principal of Marianne Cusato Associates. Her design for the cottage, first unveiled at the Mississippi Renewal Forum last fall, and showcased at the International Builders' Show in Orlando in January, has become a symbol of hope for thousands of Gulf Coast residents whose homes were destroyed.

Cusato's traditional-style cottage is a 300-square-foot structure that can be constructed faster than a FEMA trailer for less than $35,000 (FEMA trailers cost an estimated $60,000 to $100,000 each). The houses are built with fiber-cement siding and crimped metal roofs. They are more attractive alternatives to the sterile FEMA trailers, and can ultimately be incorporated into long-term plans as guest houses or studios. Cusato's cottage is one of several models that came out of the forum, but because it was actually constructed, it became a tangible object that sparked much interest.

Architect Andres Duany, who helped lead the Mississippi forum, originally called for a possible alternative to FEMA trailers. Whether the cottages will become a reality depends on the federal government's support. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has testified before Congress on the structures' behalf. "This product has to be the alternative for Louisiana and Mississippi, or trailer parks will be the norm," says Don Broussard, an Atlanta architect.

At a recent Louisiana Recovery Authority charrette in Arabi, La., a team of architects (many had taken part in the Mississippi forum) developed a distinctly Louisiana-style cottage model that is about twice the size of Cusato's version. That cottage team is now developing model parks in Mississippi and Louisiana that will feature 17 Katrina Cottage designs and a builders' square where manufacturers of cottage components can display their wares.

Meanwhile, the worldwide construction industry seems to have taken note of the cottages. Cusato recently received a request for a prototype model to be built in Ghana, Africa.

Angelle Bergeron

 

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