The Federal Emergency Management Agency has adopted several AIA recommendations on how to spend $400 million in funds provided by Congress for alternative housing programs in the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast region.

The funding was included in an emergency spending bill signed into law by President Bush last spring. It is to be used for projects that create transitional modular housing for hurricane victims that is hurricane resistant and can be constructed quickly using prefabricated panelized walls. The AIA worked hard to support this funding, and in June, AIA Executive Vice President/CEO Christine McEntee wrote to FEMA with recommendations on how the funding should be spent.

Last week, the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security, which includes FEMA, issued its proposal for administering the funds. The plan includes several items that the AIA recommended, including:
  • Using a broad cross-section of individuals from the public and private sectors, including architects, to evaluate proposals and award funds
  • Developing distinct evaluation and awards processes for each state that receives grants
The AIA is advocating funding for transitional modular housing for victims of natural disasters that moves away from the FEMA trailers that the agency deployed after Hurricane Katrina.

The plan also encourages projects that:
  • Conform to local building codes and to relevant design guidelines for hurricane, flood and wind hazards
  • Foster housing that can be constructed quickly
  • Address energy efficiency issues
  • Propose context-sensitive design solutions consistent with the local vernacular
  • Seek to ensure access to transportation and community amenities
  • Address accessibility for individuals with disabilities
Consortium of experts launch hurricane construction Web site

The Hurricane Construction Network, a new Web-based information portal for the building and design community, officially launched in August. The portal, which is found, is staffed by a consortium of manufacturers, building science educators and government agencies.

By combining expert-staffed, real-time help centers with online information and video tutorials, the site delivers instant answers to contractors, remodelers and code officials who have questions on a wide range of subjects, from state-specific building science and codes to proper building practices. Web site visitors can also communicate with each other through interactive discussion groups (i.e., blogs) led by respected industry professionals.

The HCN is a construction industry initiative led by Building Media Inc., and is part of a multi-media educational program that promotes better building practices in geographic regions prone to hurricane-force winds and flooding. The program is funded by numerous sponsors, including Grace Construction Products.