Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mississippi: Prefabrication?

Two different approaches, manufactured home (front) newly designed/built from GCCDS (back).

East Biloxi.

New housing in East Biloxi (designed by Marlon Blackwell in partnership with AFH and GCCDS)

One of the groups doing solid work in Mississippi is the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, working in East Biloxi, one of the hardest hit neighborhoods. It was poor and working class and New Urbanists designs had broad sweeping, new beautiful designs that would replace Vietnamese neighborhoods with new parks. They have been working closely with homeowners to design and build new houses, and there prices are coming in at $65-85/sf (most definitely excluding the Marlon Blackwell designed house). These are hard costs only. I brought up the Katrina Cottages to one of the architects. He kind of laughed, citing the costs for such a small space, and without any user involvement in the process. They are saving some money with volunteer labor. The clear reality is that prefabrication has never really addressed the affordability issue. But then, on the flip side, some argue that pre-fab only addressees the cost issue, not the architectural issue. If stick built can pull it off, then why not?

Regardless, I highly commend the work and experimentation taking place on the Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, our institutions (FEMA and local governments) don’t have the foresight or initative to look into the future and imagine creatively how to deal with these challenges in the right way. But, fortunately, there are great minds thinking and testing creatively how to deal with the problem at hand. Bruce and his crew have developed a number of models at Cottage Square. Some are pre-fab, some are stick built. Even the modes of pre-fab differ, as they have developed a new company to specifically look at new ways of producing such model themselves.

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