All that jazz...

One of the interesting things about working at an airport is the people that you get a chance to converse with. Throughout the last week we've been seeing a lot of refugees coming through, and last night I had a fairly lengthy conversation with a native new orleanser who also happened to be a civil engineer. It was late and there weren't any other customers, so we got to speculate fairly at length regarding how New Orleans will be rebuilt.

Because of the high water table under the city, most of New Orleans is built using a concrete slab with wood framed buildings sitting on top. There aren't basements and in many cases their is very little actually holding the house to the ground other then the simple weight of the house. If you look at pictures now you'll notice that there seem to be a lot of houses that are at very strange angles. These are buildings that have slipped off of their foundations, and they are, in almost all cases, simply going to have to be bulldozed. Any future plan should require zoning of foundations that are more firmly planted. Large buildings in Chicago have similar problems.

Since it therefore seems that most of the current buildings aren't going to survive, it would seem that the best possible way to prevent future problems would be landfill. The height of the city should simply be raised above sea level. Cities like San Francisco and Boston have long ago perfected landfilling technology (almost 70% of Boston proper didn't exist in 1645). There are some problems with this though. First of all, it can be expensive, especially if there aren't materials nearby that can be used to fill. Boston is lucky in that we have extremely rocky soil and lots of hills that could be used. Secondly, changing the height of the city would also change a lot of property lines, which would be difficult to sort out. Lastly, there is the problem of "raising" the buildings that can be saved. When you are talking about the scale of destruction that has happened, I don't thing anyone can overstate the importance of historical preservation in the buildings that remain.

If the city doesn't landfill, they must carefully choose their zoning requirements so that future buildings will stand up better. I already mentioned the need for better foundations, also, wood framed houses should probably be banned. I would also think that maintaining a high height requirement would be a good idea. What I mean by that is making sure that every building in the city has at least 10-16 feet above sea level.

It'll be interesting to see what happens. In any event, the state of planning in general is better now then it has been for 50 years, and I think that New Orleans will again be a place to see. In addition, there are numerous planners and planning firms that have a ton of experience in working with this sort of thing due to last years tsunami, so we will be, once the politicians and the media get out of the way, in good hands.

In happier news:
Ryan and Bethany are having a girl (which hopefully won't throw the universe out of balance and damn J & I to boys). I'd suggest (110) Chelsea Pitman as a name, but honestly I don't like it. Maybe Nicollette Avenue Pitman?


Jerry Plagge, Jr. 12:04 AM  

OK... I've resisted this comment for a while now, but I cannot any longer.

Is correct spelling not a requirement for an urban planner?

I hope you lack of precision in this area is due to lack of time rather than a lack of desire to be precise in what you produce.

Lunchtime Friend 3:02 PM  

Thanks SD63. Excessable...was the straw that broke the camel's back.

onetenchelsea 4:38 PM  

that's what computers are for... unfortunatly blogger doesn't have spell check. oh well.

i fell planning is an art. civil engineering is a science. they serve as our spellcheck.

onetenchelsea 4:39 PM  

feel. feel. feel. FEEL.

Jerry Plagge, Jr. 11:36 AM  

Um... Zakcq... when you are at the post page in blogger, there is this funky little icon with a blue checkmark and the letters "abc". The is the spellchecker for BLOGGER.

Alas, that will not help you much as about have of your words are correctly spelled... just the wrong one (there vs. their, etc.)

Actually, don't worry about it though... I just had to bust your chops a bit for fun.

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