- Recently, Professor David Perkes, AIA, director of the center, was asked to serve on the AIA Affordable Housing Design Awards Jury.
- Perkes also presented an AIA webinar on flooding along with the executive director of the Baton Rouge AIA Chapter and Russell Davidson, AIA President.
- Perkes then traveled to Colorado for the NIST Community Resilience Panel Meeting.
- The center was one of eight MSU programs to host a table at the university's Infinite Impact Campaign Celebration on October 7. The event showcased research and exciting projects happening throughout the university.
- Perkes was invited to participate in the White House "Frontiers" Conference on October 13.
October 18th, 2016 Comments Off on News from the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio
September 29th, 2016 Comments Off on Mississippi Museum of Art video features Gulf Coast Community Design Studio
David Perkes, director of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, was recently featured in a video by the Mississippi Museum of Art.
The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio – a research center within in the School of Architecture and College of Architecture, Art and Design – was established on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005 to work in communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina. It has since evolved from disaster recovery work to addressing long-term issues of affordable housing, healthy communities and resilient landscapes and infrastructure.
The interview is part of the "When Modern was Contemporary" exhibit.
January 5th, 2016 Comments Off on Gulf Coast Community Design Studio one of several from MSU making a difference in storm aftermath
A REFUGE FROM THE LAST RESORTMore than 500 miles away, Michael McDaniel was appalled. He said it was the only word that came to mind when he saw the mess before him in early autumn 2005, and 10 years later, he still can’t think of a better one. A graphic designer working in Austin, Texas, at the time, he saw firsthand what life was like for those living in Houston’s Astrodome after being moved from the Superdome in New Orleans—the original “refuge of last resort.” He said he vividly remembers instances where desperate people, who had presumably lost most of their worldly possessions, wandered around the stadium holding up makeshift signs with names of family members they couldn’t locate scrawled across the front. The chaos there was “mind-boggling,” he said. And so, that’s what he’s trying to do—using a disposable coffee cup as a template. A Centreville native and 1999 Mississippi State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in art, McDaniel developed the idea for Exo, a portable emergency shelter. Reaction Housing, his Austin-based company, will soon begin full-scale production of the shelter, along with other emergency shelter products. Built similar to a teepee using a lightweight, durable, proprietary material, McDaniel said the latest version of the Exo weighs about 375 pounds. The units can sleep two to four people, but there is also a model with desks and shelves that can be used as a mobile command center at a disaster-relief staging area. All furniture and elements of an Exo fold flat, meaning four people can quickly set up, take down and carry the shelter without machinery. It doesn’t contain its own power source, but with 110-volt outlets, each unit can connect to an outside power source, such as a generator or a car battery with an inverter. Exos use keycards, similar to those at hotels, but can also be accessed with a regular key. McDaniel explained Reaction uses a software system to control access to the units and track registered Exo users, which would allow people to more easily locate their loved ones if the product was employed during a disaster. McDaniel started developing the Exo in 2007. He said he basically worked on the concept and design in his backyard at nights and on weekends for the first six years. He started Reaction in 2013, after his product acquired its first angel investor. McDaniel said Reaction now has more than two months of orders to fill. Most of those are from commercial or individual customers who are willing to spend the roughly $12,000 per unit on recreation or other personal use. While that might get the Exo noticed, McDaniel said he is still striving for his product to serve a greater purpose and create sales volume that will drive down the price. He said he hopes, in time, government agencies and private aid organizations will purchase Exos in advance of an emergency. That way, if a hurricane is headed for the Gulf Coast, for instance, the agency or organization could quickly stage a mass shelter area. “We see this as becoming a tool for planning, rather than just a knee-jerk reaction,” McDaniel said. “A hurricane is the only disaster that you can see coming and plan for. And with these, people won’t be sleeping on Army cots in sports arenas. It’s a way to better keep the people and their belongings safe.”
MORE ACCURATE PREDICTIONSMississippi State University faculty and staff are also doing their part to improve disaster forecasting, response and recovery. The university’s Geosystems Research Institute teamed up in 2014 with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and California-based Liquid Robotics to test the effectiveness of an unmanned ocean-surface vehicle in more accurately predicting the paths and intensities of hurricanes. Associate research professor and meteorologist Pat Fitzpatrick, who is stationed among three GRI teams at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, said institute researchers field-tested three Liquid Robotics-manufactured Wave Gliders last summer in the Gulf of Mexico. The Wave Glider looks like it’s on a surfboard. Its main structure floats on the ocean’s surface tethered by a cable to underwater flaps that use waves for propulsion. The glider’s floating structure carries battery- and solar-powered instruments to measure wind, pressure, waves, currents, water temperature and more. The data from the gliders is collected via satellite. Weather buoys are the standard for reading environmental measurements of storms, but if a storm doesn’t cross over a buoy, storm path and intensity predictions can be inaccurate. With more study, Fitzpatrick said he hopes NOAA can one day deploy a fleet of gliders to fill in gaps where there are no buoys. “All it takes is a little more information to completely change the predicted path of the storm,” he said. “NOAA was very pleased with our work last year, but I think this needs more study. We need to get one of these into an actual hurricane and see how it does.”
FASTER RESPONSEMississippi State’s Social Science Research Center is developing technology using “human sensors” that could make future emergency response quicker and more effective. Sponsored by a $150,000 grant from NOAA, SSRC researchers have accessed Twitter’s archives and sifted through almost 5 million tweets posted from the New York and New Jersey areas during Hurricane Sandy in 2008. The majority of the tweets deal with the storm, including hundreds of thousands of photos of flooding and other storm damage, and each is geocoded to within 5-10 feet of where it was posted. The team, which includes Fitzpatrick, John Edwards and Somye Mohanty, also surveyed 20,000 residents of the Sandy-affected area, to find out how they received information about the storm and how they responded. “This data is as useful, if not more useful, than traditional survey data,” said SSRC director Arthur Cosby. “People were using social media during Sandy to ask for help and offer help, while others were organizing aid efforts.” Using what they’ve learned about how people use social media to request and offer assistance, the team is now developing software that emergency management services can use during disasters to see tweets from the affected area. This will help first responders use Twitter to directly contact those who need help and respond more quickly to issues. Mohanty said it would also allow emergency managers to more easily convey accurate information to the public during weather events or other disasters. “The more information you have, the better decisions you can make,” Mohanty said. “The better decisions you make, the more lives you can save.”
SUSTAINABLE RECOVERYThe Biloxi-based Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, a Mississippi State research center, has taken charge of making the post-Katrina Mississippi Gulf Coast better than it was before the storm. Using a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as several regional partnerships and community volunteer hours, the studio’s professional staff has helped design and build more than 230 new homes and rehabilitate another 100 in Katrina-affected communities in Mississippi. David Perkes, the design studio’s director, said the focus on resiliency rather than speed helped plot a better long-term vision for the coast. In other words, the studio doesn’t just want to build basic housing that would become rental property in five to 10 years, he said. Instead, the plan is to work with property owners to build homes that will stand the test of time and be passed down from generation to generation. “An important lesson we learned through this rebuilding work was the value of involving community members in the design process,” Perkes said. “In doing that, we hope we will instill in them a stronger sense of ownership.” Perkes’ team of designers and landscape architects have earned American Institute of Architecture recognition for their home designs. Most recently, the studio won an Environmental Protection Agency Gulf Guardian Award for restoring Bayou Auguste in east Biloxi, which Katrina devastated. Through that project, the team removed debris and repaired the bayou’s wetland habitat by building a neighborhood wetland park. Mississippi State students and community volunteers also engaged in educational programs about improving the bayou’s functions of restoring and improving the nursery habitat for fish and shrimp, reducing pollution and debris entering the ocean through the integrated bayou and storm water system, and creating a marshland to contain floodwater from extreme storm events. “Resiliency is not just about becoming better prepared for a disaster,” Perkes said. “It’s about improving the day-to-day quality of life in these communities. We’re wanting to take the awareness that comes from Katrina, and use it to build a sustainable, resilient community mindset.”
MOVING FORWARD AFTER THE STORMBack in New Orleans, despite McWhorter’s fears and those of many who trudged through the early post-Katrina days, the city has bounced back. Neighborhoods organized after the waters receded, she said, and people, all bound together by crisis, started helping one another. The storm and its aftermath, it seems, became part of the New Orleans DNA. “There was such a sense of community because we were all going through the same thing,” McWhorter said. “We all have our Katrina story, and we’re all connected by that bond.” That bond the storm created in New Orleans, however, also brought with it a sort of hangover for residents, especially in dealing with the threat of severe weather, she said. And it’s changed the expectations for meteorologists in the area. During the run-up to Hurricane Gustav’s landfall in 2008, which fortunately fell short of its “Katrina-like” force projections, McWhorter said a sort of weather-related post-traumatic stress became evident. She explained that Gulf Coast residents have learned the storm terminology and want to see all the hurricane models, but most of all, they want meteorologists’ advice on how to stay safe. “I don’t think I was prepared to be part meteorologist, part psychologist when I got into this business,” she said. “Here, you don’t just tell people what the weather is like; you actually have to coach them through it. “People here are gun-shy about any storm. They want all the information you can give them, even what you would consider to be the more scientific stuff. They expect it.” In the decade since the storm, she said, the city built back little by little—rebuilding houses, businesses and infrastructure destroyed by Katrina’s wrath. With better levees, better evacuation plans and more accurate weather forecasting, McWhorter said New Orleans is much better prepared if another Katrina hit. What guarantees the city’s survival more than anything else though, she added, is the same force that pulled it through the pain Katrina wrought – its people. “The storm toughened us up, and it taught us just to live our lives day to day,” she said. “If another Katrina hits, there’s definitely going to be damage. When the inevitable happens and a bad storm comes, we’ll survive and rebuild. If we made it through Katrina, we can make it through anything.”
November 3rd, 2015 Comments Off on David Perkes presents final fall 2015 Harrison Lecture
October 27th, 2015 Comments Off on Design studio director to present next Harrison lecture
August 24th, 2015 Comments Off on Katrina documentary features Gulf Coast Community Design Studio director
August 21st, 2015 Comments Off on Gulf Coast Community Design Studio director featured in Sun Herald
Architect's post-Katrina studio helped homeowners rebuild
August 21st, 2015 Comments Off on Gulf Coast Design Studio director, Mississippi AIA discuss lessons from Hurricane Katrina
Based on what has been learned in the years following Hurricane Katrina, what are the most important considerations for communities in disaster-prone areas?Mark Ripple, AIA: In New Orleans, we have spent the last century living under the delusional idea that we could keep pumping our city dry, building higher and higher floodwalls, and that ultimately our engineering acumen would keep us safe. We ignored basic principles which were clearly understood by our urban forerunners of the 18th and 19th centuries—that flexible, adaptable design approaches which embrace and engage our environment is the optimum long-term approach. Allison H. Anderson, FAIA: Communities need to accept that an event is not a once-in-a-lifetime event and plan for the next one—one that will be stronger and more damaging to life and property. If they understood that there was a 10-year timeline, and that they had 10 years to prepare for the next storm, it would have changed the recovery substantially. David Perkes, AIA: When disasters occur, it is almost automatic that FEMA will expand its flood zones. This catches homeowners off-guard and presents real challenges from insurance and building code standpoints if they decide they want some design elements to better protect their home against future storms. The change in flood zones actually changes the entire notion of being a homeowner, where their residence can go instantly from being an asset to a financial liability. Ann Somers, AIA: To have a delineated plan in place for evacuation, and a plan in place for those that do not leave in time but need shelter; then have contacts with all the groups that can help after a disaster, so cleanup and getting home- and business-owners back as soon as possible to start re-building. A lot of structures were further damaged following Katrina because they had no cleanup effort until long after the storm. Judith Kinnard, FAIA: The loss of life and property is typically the result of bad policies and decisions by the public and private sectors. Disaster events are often predictable; they can and must be managed in advance.
Have you noticed any positive changes in design approaches, government agency protocols, and/or public awareness? If so, what are the most compelling?Steve Maher, AIA: After Katrina, the insurance companies took a big hit and the Louisiana State Legislature had to respond quickly in order to convince insurance companies to stay in the state. TheLouisiana State Uniform Construction Code Council was founded, and [it] established wind-design requirements based on certain areas of the state. These increased wind-design standards have proved to be prudent, as shown by how newer buildings fared in light of hurricanes Gustav  and Isaac . Perkes: Almost immediately, the [Mississippi] governor’s office changed the policy regarding casinos in Biloxi that had been built and floating in the water. Not only did it get these structures out of the Gulf of Mexico and harm’s way, but they are now far better integrated into the urban fabric and a more natural part of the community. Mississippi is also leading the country with programs through the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety that provides financial incentives to design and build beyond code. A $500 spend when fortifying a roof can result in a 20 percent insurance reduction. At the federal level, the Department of Homeland Security is exploring a “Resilient Star” standard, which would make a big difference to advancing fortified building. Kinnard: There is a fundamentally different approach to the way we think about the ground and the landscape. Designers are using many creative strategies to link raised building levels to public streets and sidewalks. The city’s longstanding approach to stormwater pumping has, unfortunately, increased the risk of flooding and property damage from land subsidence. Policies are changing, however, and our recently adopted Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance requires most projects to retain a significant quantity of rainfall on-site while including landscape to mitigate the heat-island effect and sheltering pedestrians from the sun. J. Scott Eddy, AIA: Adaptability, being able to change based on immediate needs or circumstances; and diversity, planning to reduce the risk of loss of any one type of service/utility within a city/town/municipality due to a single event. In Collins, Miss., there were underground gasoline storage tanks. So gas was available, but due to Katrina there was no power to pump it. Anderson: The level of familiarity with design, a result of charrettes, has given citizens a new language with which to demand change. Although recovery didn’t happen exactly as envisioned, residents understand the value of walkability, mixed uses, historic preservation, and green spaces. Now, because of the strong community engagement, these are the people and groups that are empowered to make things happen.
How have general public and architecture client attitudes to resilient design approaches evolved in recent years?Anderson: After Katrina, there was so much confusion about the base flood elevations that many people rushed to rebuild at their previous elevation the same footprint they lost. Many of these rapid rebuilders suffered additional damage from Isaac and Gustav. Because of these recent storms, and changes to the flood insurance subsidies, they are dismayed to discover the price tag that accompanies this decision. There will always be the holdouts that say, “I want what I had before the storm,” but we need to share this message: It comes at a higher cost. Eddy: Based on the impact of Katrina, I’ve seen more client requests for diversity in building systems to increase redundancy, and requests for more proactive planning to address the “what if this or that happens?” Still very much a cost consideration, but it is being talked about. Ripple: The implementation of resilient practices has been no different. People may not understand how the city works, but we recognize its failures and shortcomings more than ever in the 10 years following the storm. Resilient design has been a way to bridge those shortcomings, by keeping communities in place and intact while preparing them with an appropriate architectural response, to confront a significant disaster or emergency and pick up the pieces thereafter.
If you had a magic wand to make one change from an official policy or regulatory standpoint, what would it be?Anderson: No “grandfathered” structures: If there have been repetitive losses, people must relocate away from unsafe sites. Allow higher densities on safer ground to receive these housing units. Maher: We have to make coastal conservation a top priority at the local, state, and especially the federal level. The Gulf Coast is our first line of protection against hurricanes, and we're losing an area the size of a football field every hour! The coast has to be preserved in order to protect our communities. Eddy: Within the past few years, Mississippi has adopted a statewide building code, but it contains language which allows municipalities to opt out. I would like to see a mandatory statewide building code as a means of establishing a minimum standard of design and construction regardless of where you are located in the state. Ripple: To require every Corps of Engineers capital project to include robust involvement by architects. It is quite dismaying to see the massive new flood protection work being executed without any urban design or aesthetic considerations. One need look no further than the Netherlands to see that urban-scaled infrastructure projects can be beautiful as well. Perkes: What has been frustrating is that if a family wants to relocate to a safer area following a disaster there is not an equitable way for families to be bought out. The FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs are extremely complicated—it’s like they almost discourage families to seek a relocation buyout option by making the application process so cumbersome. There needs to be some readymade programs that are user-friendly and make it economically feasible for families to have their homes bought out at fair and reasonable prices.Kinnard: I would still like to see higher-density development on higher ground as a prudent strategy, without forcing residents out of the lower areas.Somers: That is easy: a statewide building code.
- Allison H. Anderson, FAIA, unabridged Architecture, Bay St. Louis, Miss.
- J. Scott Eddy, AIA, Barlow•Eddy•Jenkins, P.A., Jackson, Miss.
- Judith Kinnard, FAIA, Professor of Architecture and Harvey-Wadsworth Chair of Landscape Urbanism, Tulane University
- Steve Maher, AIA, Ritter Maher Architects, Baton Rouge, La.; Member of AIA Strategic Council, Regional Representative, Gulf States
- David Perkes, AIA, MSU Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, Biloxi, Miss.
- Mark Ripple, AIA, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, New Orleans
- Ann Somers, AIA, Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons, Jackson, Miss. (MSU School of Architecture: BARC Dec1981)
July 31st, 2015 Comments Off on Gulf Coast Community Design Studio receives environmental stewardship award
“This is the 13th year of the Gulf Guardian Awards, and I am proud to say that each year the winners in all categories have represented the very best of environmental accomplishments in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Diane Altsman, chief of staff for the Gulf of Mexico Program. “The Gulf of Mexico Program partnership works to improve the environmental health of the Gulf, and the Gulf Guardian Awards is an important way for us to recognize these valuable efforts.”The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio – one of two research centers in MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design – received the award in the Civic/Nonprofit category for their Bayou Auguste Restoration project. First place was awarded this year in six other categories to groups also taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. See the full list of 2015 winners. “Mississippi State University is honored to be recognized for the Bayou August restoration project — one of many of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio’s efforts under David Perkes’ leadership to guard the resources of the Gulf Coast for present and future generations,” said Associate Dean for the College of Architecture, Art and Design Greg G. Hall, Ph.D. The Bayou Auguste Restoration project implemented a community plan for part of East Biloxi, a historically underserved community devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio’s design team secured multiple grants for the project and led a partnership with the city of Biloxi, the Biloxi Housing Authority, the Biloxi Public School District and the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain. Volunteers contributed over 2,800 hours of service to help the team remove debris and repair the bayou’s wetland habitat by constructing a neighborhood wetland park. The local community and students were also engaged in the project through educational programs that focused on ways to improve the bayou’s important functions of restoring and improving the nursery habitat for fish and shrimp, essential to the local economy; reducing pollution and debris entering the ocean through the integrated bayou and stormwater system; and creating a marshland to contain floodwater from extreme storm events. The first Gulf Guardian Award winners were recognized in 2000. Each year since, first–, second–, and third–place awards have been given in seven categories: Business, Civic/Non-Profit Organization, Partnerships, Youth/Education, Individual, Government and Bi-National. Read the story on the Texas Environmental News site. Read more on MSU's website.
May 26th, 2015 Comments Off on CAAD research center selected as Architects Foundation Regional Resilience Design Studio