Since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it became increasingly clear that FEMA trailers do not provide suitable living conditions. While FEMA provides trailers at no charge following a natural disaster, the trailers offer little in terms of hope or comfort, and they are most certainly not a long-term solution. The temporary trailers are not intended to house people for longer than 18 months, due to the risk of fire. Unfortunately, the use of these trailers is commonly extended beyond their intended application. Between August 13 and September 26, 2004, four hurricanes made landfall in Florida leaving 17,000 people without homes. One third of these people were still living in FEMA’s travel trailers after two years. In comparison, Hurricane Katrina left one million people homeless. It’s evident that past housing solutions for future hurricanes will continue to fail if something is not done differently to house those in the Gulf Coast.
The New Urban Guild designed Katrina Cottage as an alternative living solution for people affected by natural disasters. The cottages allow families to live together, in a home they can call their own, at a rate that is affordable, as many of them continue paying mortgages on previous homes that are no longer livable. In addition, the cottages provide security and ease of mind for homeowners. While the travel trailers can’t even withstand a medium-grade tornado, the cottages can withstand winds up to 140 m.p.h. The home can endure flooding as well, while furnishings would have to be disposed of, the homeowner would simply have to hose down the interior of the home and replace the light switches, rather than losing the house due to the development of mold.
The design of the Katrina Cottages honors the architectural preferences of the Gulf Coast, which as a result, produces a home people can take pride in. Trailers are a common solution for displaced individuals, but they carry a negative stigma; therefore, reducing the property value for those around them. While the cottages provide immediate stability for families, they also provide a plan for the future. Once people have had the opportunity to become more financially stable, there are many options as to what they could do with the existing cottage. For one, they could resell the cottage to others in need. Secondly, they could keep the original form of the cottage and simply add onto the home as they see fit. Or, lastly, they could keep the cottage on the same property as their new home and use it as a study or a guesthouse. The New Urban Guild predicts as the Katrina Cottage becomes increasingly popular, the homes will expand to be used in applications other than disaster relief such as fishing camps, mountain retreats, university housing, or for first time home buyers.
New Urban Guild offers four cottage layouts to meet the unique demands of families ranging in size from one to eight people. Each home has a living and dinning area, bathroom, kitchen, and porch. The bedrooms are the greatest varying factor from one cottage to another. While some cottages feature a larger living area to simultaneously serve as a sleeping room, other cottages have one or two bedrooms, in order to accommodate more people; many of the cottages are equipped with bunk beds. The cottages range in size from 170 to over 1,200 square feet; while most people can’t imagine living in a home this small, it allows the home to be more affordable and energy efficient. There was a lot of thought that had to go into designing a home of this size, so every cubic space could be used. “It’s not how big the house is, but rather how big the house lives that’s important, explained Steve Mouzon, founder and architect for the New Urban Guild. The architects managed to make the cottage feel larger than it really is by “choosing an oversized window, which maximizes the sunlight” (Clem LaLabin