Knowing how to personally respond to something as terrible as Hurricane Katrina is difficult. Most of us—especially since we are in the construction business—have a knee-jerk reaction to want to go and help people dig out, clean up, rebuild. And we also want to send money—if it will be used effectively. Isn't that always at the top of your mind when contributing to some good cause? Is my money going to be used wisely to really help, or is it going to be consumed by administrative expenses and inefficient management?
A group that I am supporting in the rebuilding effort along the Gulf coast is Habitat for Humanity. Although I am sometimes a little put off by the religious overtones, this is a very worthwhile organization that has built quality affordable homes for people all over the world. Helping people who couldn't otherwise afford to own a home not only gives them a place to live but makes them homeowners and automatically creates stability and pride in community. If you want to learn more about Habitat, go to www.habitat.org/how/factsheet.aspx.
What I'd like to see happen, though, is for Habitat to rebuild along the Gulf Coast using concrete. Even in areas that flooded, properly built concrete buildings should have survived and been reclaimable. The Masonry Society conducted an investigation within a couple of days following the hurricane, examining its impact on masonry structures. It reports no significant damage to properly constructed masonry. I suspect an investigation of concrete buildings would reveal a similar result. That's not something anyone will be able to say about wood-frame structures. In fact, I think anyone building (or rebuilding) a wooden home along the Gulf Coast should have his or her head examined, and I doubt that any sane lender or insurer will get involved in such an endeavor.
There is going to be a huge rebuilding effort along the Gulf Coast. There will be many homes built with donations, such as through Habitat, and many homes and commercial buildings built privately. Fortunes will be made, and this has the potential to change the entire nature of the area and maybe even of the entire south-central United States. It's important that the concrete industry be there with the expertise, materials, and equipment needed to do the job right.