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News / Press Releases

January 01, 2006

A Very Good Thing in a Very Small Package James Hardie Sponsors a "Katrina Cottage"

Media contact:
Irina Woelfle, (203) 570-6770
Peggy Mackinnon, (303) 320-6082


Katrina cottage

January 11, 2006. International Builders Show, Orlando, Florida. The hottest new home to premier at this year's International Builders Show may be the smallest.

Although Katrina Cottage 1 is only a bit larger than 300 square feet, it can fill a giant need on the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast. James Hardie, which produces the fiber cement siding used in this version of the cottage, is a principal sponsor of the display in space No. 6 at the IBS outdoor exhibition area.

"We're proud to be associated with design efforts such as the Katrina Cottage," says Robert Russell, vice-president, James Hardie. "Our products and this approach to building in storm zones are a perfect fit."

The cottage plan was created by New York designer Marianne Cusato, one of more than 100 planning specialists brought to Biloxi in October of 2005 by the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal. The out-of-town group was led by famed architect and planner Andres Duany and organized under the umbrella of the Congress for the New Urbansim. They joined with a like number of colleagues from the region for a week-long planning charrette called the Mississippi Renewal Forum. From that Forum came designs soon to be published by the New Urban Guild in a series of plan books also sponsored by James Hardie. Katrina Cottage 1 is the first to be built.

Her goal, says Cusato, was to change the definition of "emergency housing" from temporary FEMA trailer models to something appealing and practical enough to be permanent. "Everybody - taxpayers, the community, property owners - wins if victims of a disaster can immediately live in a home they can be proud of and that, over time, becomes an asset rather than a liability," says the designer. "How can people be expected to rebuild their lives if we park them in trailers that will be discarded in 18 months?"

Cusato's approach allows a family to purchase or build a small home they can live in until they can construct a larger one on the same lot. Then the cottage can become a guest house or a studio. Already Cusato and her colleagues are experimenting with configurations that allow such a design to become the first building block in a larger home plan or a family compound or even an entire neighborhood development. It's an approach that may elevate design standards for affordable housing as well as those for temporary emergency dwellings.

Katrina cottage
Katrina cottage

Despite its scale, nothing about Katrina Cottage 1 says "temporary." It honors Mississippi architectural traditions and insists on details - including built-in storage, six large windows, a pitched roof, and a full-size porch - that would never be considered for temporary emergency housing. Yet such high design can be produced at low cost, either on site through a variety of traditional building techniques or as manufactured housing.

"There's no reason why small and affordable can't be beautiful, as well," says Cusato.

For more information, see:

About James Hardie
Builders along hurricane-prone coastlines recommend James Hardie® siding, trim and soffit products for their proven performance against vinyl and brick veneer exteriors. When installed properly James Hardie exterior products are strong enough to withstand hurricane-force winds of up to 130mph and are in compliance with the High Velocity Hurricane Zone requirements for Miami-Dade County, Florida Building Code. For details regarding proper installation practices, visit


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