"Glass-infused" wood in homes built after the New Orleans flood has failed the test of time
August 29 will mark 10 years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in the United States.
The Category three storm was the costliest, and one of the deadliest, disasters in U.S. history. It broke the city's levees and wrecked the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida; killing 1,833 people and causing more than $100bn in damage.
In response to a floundering recovery effort, Hollywood star Brad Pitt set up his own charity, the Make it Right foundation in 2007, pledging to build 150 new sustainable, flood-proof houses for those displaced from the Lower Ninth Ward. Pitt's scheme allowed residents, many of whom had little or no insurance, to pay what they could and take out zero-interest loans to cover the rest.
Pitt’s charity created futuristic pink, green and blue-painted solar-panelled homes designed by world renowned architects such as Frank Gehry.
But his well-meaning plan has seemingly fallen foul of its own grandiose ambitions.
Nearly a decade on, the foundation has spent $26.8 million US on construction and completed 109 homes.
However, despite high-profile celebrity backing and Hollywood fundraising galas, it is struggling to finance the remainder. In a further setback many of the homes already built have begun rotting.
Vanessa Rogers, 57, says her stairs and floorboards had to be replaced because of decay.
"A lot of it got rotten really fast," the mother-of-two said.
Indeed, some of the residents of the new homes are even treating the timber themselves in an effort to repair the rot.
Make It Right say they were supplied defective "glass-infused" wood by the supplier TimberSIL, claiming it was unable to withstand the humid Louisiana climate. Almost all of the 39 homes built using the wood between 2008 and 2010 are said to already be displaying signs of rot and damp, despite the company's 40-year guarantee.
Pitt's foundation is now suing the company for $500,000 - the cost of the replacement wood.
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