Just Imagine: Rituals of preparation make us resilient

Published 11:23 am Saturday, May 28, 2022

Editor’s Note: This is the second in an 11-part series detailing the final 10 catalytic projects of the 50-year Just Imagine resilience plan. All of the projects are based on input from area residents, high school students, business and nonprofit leaders and elected officials. The final three Community Engagement Sessions in which residents can offer their feedback on the projects will be June 6-8.

Brad Evans is VP of commercial banking, First National Bank of Louisiana. He is also board president, Project Build a Future.

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June 1st marks the calendar beginning of hurricane season, and with it our planning for whatever Mother Nature might throw our way. For most of us, preparedness tactics have evolved over the years from precautionary to necessary. No matter what – we recover, adapt, become tougher, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and go on. These rituals of preparation make us resilient, a term often used to describe the people of Southwest Louisiana. However, we are tired of being the community dubbed “resilient” as many still are on the phone with contractors and insurance trying to rebuild their homes. Why do something a second time in a way that didn’t work the first time? Shouldn’t our building methods and techniques reflect the same sense of preparedness and resilience?

The architectural design term “building resilience” has been used for centuries and is experiencing a resurgence due to the increase in natural disasters over the last 20 years. A resilient building is defined as one that is adaptive to its surroundings and has the capacity to recover quickly and roll with the punches – it is built to withstand!  The Resilient Housing Toolkit, one of the ten catalytic projects of the Just Imagine SWLA 50-Year Resilience Master Plan, is a short, easy-to-navigate guide for homeowners, builders, roofers, etc. to use in new construction or repairing existing structures.

Increasing resilient, affordable housing is a critical issue for this region.  Residents are facing the high cost of flood insurance, rising sale prices and rents and insufficient practices in rebuilding post disaster.  Through resilience building we can maintain livable conditions in the event of natural disasters, loss of power or other interruptions in normally available services. It no longer makes sense to wait until after a crisis to implement resilience efforts; we must implement them before the crisis!

The Resilient Housing Toolkit combines valuable resources from FEMA and others to outline the steps needed to build and rebuild resilient housing in the region. Whether building new or retrofitting, evaluating methodologies concerning building site choices, foundation options, window placement, roofing materials and construction, insulation methods and others may decrease opportunities for damage, but increase opportunities for better and more cost-effective insurance options.

Designing for the future should include strategies that look and think outside of the proverbial box by incorporating resourceful thinking, planning for recovery and incorporating well thought out systems that can adapt to climate changes, material availability and stronger storms.  And, there is good news!  The Resilient Housing Toolkit is available for everyone in Southwest Louisiana.  Simply visit www.justimagineswla.org, click on Catalytic Projects and scroll down to the toolkit link.

Resilience is the ability to recover from difficulty, to return to some sense of normalcy and/or to adapt to environmental changes. That applies to all aspects of community living, building and investment. Social connectedness is an important part of building community resiliency because it adds value and makes economic development more competitive. By looking ahead and using better building strategies for 10, 30, or even 50 years down the line, we can potentially prevent or minimize damage and the need to rebuild. This is the goal. Resilient buildings and resilient citizens create a resilient future. SWLA has proven itself resilient and our housing strategies should reflect our mindsets.

The Resilient Housing Toolkit is one of ten catalytic projects in the Just Imagine SWLA 50-Year Resilience Master Plan.  Learn more about all ten projects by visiting www.justimagineswla.org and by attending a public meeting:

Monday, June 6, Cash and Carry, Lake Charles, 6-8PM

Tuesday, June 7, West-Cal Event Center, Sulphur, 6-8PM

Wednesday, June 8, Grand Lake High School Gym, Grand Lake, 5-7PM