News and Information
MiGCSA Members help with Habitat Project at the 2009 GIS
By: Ron Dahlin CGCS, MiGCSA Vice President
On Tuesday and Wednesday of GIS week over 200 people volunteered their time and talents to help those directly affected by the devastation brought by hurricane Katrina.
Five volunteers from Michigan were in the group on Tuesday and included MiGCSA board member Tavis Horton of Birmingham Country Club, Jerry McVetty of Oakhurst Golf and Country Club, Dave Kechnie of the Lochmoor Club, Scott Trobovich of Syngenta and myself. Despite the fact that the day started early for all the volunteers no one was grumbling about having to be at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center before all the other attendees, as a mater of fact most were able to sleep longer than they normally did on a work day. As we waited for the buses and got to meet others volunteers the staff of the GCSAA gave us the essential materials needed for the day including a large water bottle, “emergency” pouch filled with sunscreen and bandages along with a shirt that commemorated our efforts. As Sheri Light and Kyla Dotson of the GCSAA staff got us on the bus they informed us that our first stop would be the mandatory safety meeting to be held at the Central City Neighborhood Habitat site. The trip took us from the fully recovered warehouse district near the convention center to areas of the city that were still wrapped in the devastation of the category 3 hurricane that swept thru New Orleans 4 ½ years ago.
We were greeted by Terry, better known as T-Ray, playing Amazing Grace with his Scottish Bag Pipes, it was brilliant! He explained that the Habitat organization of New Orleans is operating in 5 different sites and had over 55,000 volunteers in 2008. An amazing fact when you consider that all other Habitat sites in the United States had a combined total of 40,000 in the same period. 12% of all the building permits in the New Orleans area are currently taken out by the Habitat organization. This project is primarily funded by Mr. David Letterman ($1/4 million/year) while the Musicians Village in the 9th Ward is funded in part by The Dave Matthews Band ($1.5 million) while still others are funded by churches or other philanthropic organizations. The general premise was explained and those who are to live in these houses must buy them for $75,000 (interest free) and must also invest 250 hours of sweat equity to qualify for the program.
These homes are not constructed in a normal fashion. These are designed to withstand sustained winds of up to 130 mph and the first floor is 16” above the high water mark set by Katrina. A member in the group asked how they knew what the water level was. It was explained by T-Ray that during the height of the flooding the authorities placed a “bottle cap’ on all of the telephone poles at the water level and now those building a home or business along with all of the parish authorities in charge of construction permits know to walk to the nearest pole and look for the high water mark. To reach these heights (6’ off the ground at this site) the builders put everything on pillars but this in not where the building starts. Pylons are driven 50’ into the ground at all load bearing points of the house, these are then attached to the footings of the home by a series of metal straps, the foundation pillars are added atop until the desired level above the high water mark is achieved and these pillars are attached to the foundation with metal straps as well. The metal straps continue up thru the floor system, the wall system and the rafter systems until they end at the top of the house. Essentially making the building connected from 50’ underground to the very top of the structure, and secure enough to withstand the winds of category 3 hurricanes.
Our crew was split as some were needed at Central City to finish siding and stairs along with fencing and sod work and 30 were needed to start a flooring system at Ferry Place, a site that sits next to the Mississippi River Levee not far away. The crew from Michigan decided that they had the skills to lay sod but really wanted to experience something different so we boarded the bus for the ride to the mighty Mississippi river. We were greeted by Kate who represented the Presbyterian Church who is the primary financier of the site along with Adam from North Carolina who is the primary site foreman with Jeremy, his second in command. Kate explained that this Habitat site is named in honor of the fist firefighter to lose his life in the line of duty during the hurricane, Mr. John Ferry. Eight percent of New Orleans was underwater at the height of the flooding and while this area was only a driver 9 iron away from the Mississippi River it was not under as much water as the Central City site. Never the less the house foundation was 4 feet off the ground. Adam explained that the goal was to get one of the floor systems finished and ready for a wall raising ceremony scheduled in 4 days. With that said the group split up and started to go to work. A small pod of men attached the bunk of lumber and crowned, measured, marked and separated it into the appropriate piles. Another pod started installing the metal flashing to the top of the pillars which is needed to protect against termites entering the home, while yet another started to haul the 6’x6” beams needed to build the initial wooden support for the flooring system. Before you could shake a tape measure, the saw dust was flying and the hammers were pounding. Kyla was so impressed that she just had to stand back and start taking pictures or maybe she was a little worried that she might accidentally be hit by lumber that was being toted around the building site! Before the lunch bell rang, one home had the beams set and the floor joist bands done while the other was already getting the initial floor joists set. I felt a little bad for Adam and Jeremy as they had little time to help but rather spent most of their time solving little hitches along the way and planning the next steps for the crew that had come from around the country. Our day started late and ended early by golf course employee standards and the closing bell rang at 3 pm. The job site was cleaned and all tools and equipment were stored back in the portable shipping vaults used for secure storage. We were then allowed to tour a home that was recently completed but not yet occupied. It is a very comfortable and livable new home with the kitchen facing the street and the living room occupying the center of the home. The master bedroom is on the first floor along with a bathroom and laundry room while the upstairs has 2 bedrooms and another bathroom. The crew gathered for a final photo and some very encouraging words from the site foreman. Adam informed us that it was his goal when the day started to have the floor joists started on one home. He went on to say that to have one floor system basically finished and the other 2/3rds complete was so far beyond what they had hoped. He welcomed any of us to come back at anytime and help.
Wednesday dawned and those that helped woke with renewed hope and a lot of very sore muscles to show for their efforts. And you know what? Scott Trobovich accepted Adam’s offer to return and went back on Wednesday for a second helping. Scott said it was just as great as the day before and walls were built and erected by the end of the day. Looks like the Habitat dignitaries will have to change their plans from a wall standing to a roof raising ceremony at the end of the week.