Home > Rebuilding Your Home

Rebuilding Your Home

Floods and other natural disasters are devastating. They cost lives, loss of property, emotional stress, and disruption of normal life. Residents are displaced from their homes, and often those structures suffer considerable damage. But along with this destruction comes the potential for rebuilding, for making your home more sustainable than before. Particularly after major disasters, reconstruction is an opportunity for individuals to replace aging, damaged buildings with new structures, built with the latest techniques and equipment to lower heating and cooling costs, improve indoor air quality, and increase your family's comfort.

Whether recovery means putting damaged homes back together or building new ones, the process creates numerous opportunities for incorporating sustainable technologies. Energy efficiency and passive solar technologies can be incorporated into new or renovated buildings. The site design for new buildings can take into account the natural topography and provide for solar access, and appropriate landscaping can provide shading during the summer and wind protection during the winter Recycled and resource-efficient products can replace their virgin counterparts to conserve energy and landfill space. Energy-efficient windows and increased insulation levels can retain heat during the winter and reflect heat during the summer. Increasing your home's airtightness will lower its space heating and cooling requirements, allowing you to install a smaller, less expensive heating or cooling system.

Rebuilding or repairing with sustainability in mind means using tomorrow's technologies, not yesterday's. But the benefits are tangible: Incorporating energy-efficiency features conserves energy, reduces pollution, and reduces energy costs. Today's most energy-efficient homes are heated and cooled with one-third to one-tenth the energy of a typical home. Generating less waste during construction or remodeling activities means using fewer natural resources and conserving precious landfill space. And using non-toxic materials creates healthier indoor air quality for your family.

The following sections will help you guide you as you return to your home following a disaster and begin planning your rebuilding efforts with sustainability in mind:

Returning To Your Damaged Home

Before you begin planning for reconstruction or repair of your home, you will likely be returning to clean it up. First, you will need to ensure that your home is safe to enter. Then you will be faced with cleanup, disposal of debris, and drying out and decontaminating your home. The following resources will help you accomplish these primary tasks.

Rebuilding Your Flooded Home, U.S. Department of Energy. Provides useful information on what you should and should not do when you return to your home to ensure your personal safety, as well as on drying out your home following a flood.

"After a Disaster" Series of Publications
Virginia Cooperative Extension offers a host of online publications that focus on disaster recovery, including safety, food and water, coping with stress, cleaning, landscape and architecture, and roof repairs.

Treatment of Flood-Damaged Older and Historic Buildings
National Trust for Historic Preservation provides this 16-page manual in either print or PDF (846 kb) versions. It is designed to help building owners reduce structural and cosmetic flood damage to older and historic buildings. The National Trust also offers a two-page PDF handout, Saving Your Flood Damaged Older and Historic Buildings: A guide for property owners returning to New Orleans.

Coping with Floods
North Dakota State University presents a large number of fact sheets on coping with effects of floods, including such topics as appliances and electrical concerns, basements and structural concerns, cleanup, financial concerns and assistance, and household furnishings. Also includes a list of links to other flood-preparedness sites. NDSU also offers information on coping with other disasters: winter, drought, and frost-damaged crops.

Repairing Your Flooded Home
This publication from American Red Cross offers useful information to help you return to your home after a flood, protect its contents from further damage, dry out your home, restore utilities, clean up, and other important first tasks.

After a Disaster
Sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension, this site offers links to a variety of fact sheets to help you return to your home after a disaster, including ensuring your safety, emergency sanitization, cleanup, and home repairs.

Incorporating Green Building Techniques into Rebuilding Efforts

Once cleanup is accomplished, you can begin planning for your rebuilding or remodeling activities. The following resources will help you incorporate green building into those activities, so that you can save energy and money, while providing a more comfortable home, lessening negative impacts on the environment, and maximizing the use of our finite resources.

Redevelopment Overviews

Rebuilding Your Flooded Home
U.S. Department of Energy. Part III of this publication offers useful information on planning building activities with energy efficiency in mind. Addresses building envelope, systems and equipment, and appliances.

"Retrofitting Flooded Homes"
This article, published in Home Energy magazine, will help you clean up debris in your home, make decisions about whether to repair or replace specific components, and plan your rebuilding efforts with energy efficiency in mind.

Repairing Your Flooded Home
Rebuild and Floodproof is Chapter 8 of this larger document by the American Red Cross. The chapter offers tips on floodproofing and rebuilding measures.

After a Disaster
Sponsored by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, this site offers links to a variety of fact sheets to help you return to your home after a disaster, including ensuring your safety, emergency sanitization, cleanup, and home repairs.

Insurance Loss Prevention through Climate Protection
The Center for Building Science at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has produced a number of publications that address using energy efficiency as a means of reducing risk related to climate change and natural disasters.

Government Resources

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy offers an excellent resource for information about renewable energy and energy efficiency. In particular, the Building Technologies Program conducts research and development on technologies and practices for energy efficiency, working closely with the building industry and manufacturers; promotes energy and money-saving opportunities to builders and consumers; and works with state and local regulatory groups to improve building codes and appliance standards. The Weatherization and Intergovernmental Program provides consumers and decision makers with information on cost, performance, and financing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
ORNL's major research and development areas include technologies for efficient building systems, including heating, cooling, and refrigerating equipment; roofs, walls, and foundations; insulating materials; technology transfer; retrofit of existing structures; and evaluation and analysis of efficiency programs.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Building Technologies Department and Energy Analysis Department
An international leader in developing and commercializing energy-efficient technologies and analytical techniques and in documenting ways of improving the energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality of residential and commercial buildings. The Department's Web site includes a quarterly news magazine that features information on current projects, a list of software tools developed by and available from the Department, and "The Home Energy Saver," a do-it-yourself web-based energy audit tool for residential buildings.

Non-Profit Organizations

113 Calhoun Street Community Sustainability Center, located in Charleston, South Carolina, is a project in which a decaying house was renovated to illustrate how homeowners can reduce their risks from hurricanes and earthquakes through the use of environmentally sound materials and building techniques. The Center is a project of the 113 Calhoun Street Foundation, a non-profit whose mission is to create communities more resistant to losses from natural hazards—and to promote ways of living that conserve natural resources. Their web site offers numerous publications, including several on making roofs more wind resistant and one on new home construction.

ToolBase Services, an information compendium for the building industry that features information from PATH (Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing) and the National Association of Homebuilders Research Center, has a special section on Natural Disasters. It offers links to information on minimizing the impact of disasters, hurricane preparedness for builders, and fire-retardant construction. In addition, the site offers numerous online documents on disaster-resistant building technologies.

Florida Solar Energy Center
Offers numerous publications on renewable energy applications and home energy efficiency, particularly in hot climates. Materials, systems and equipment are covered by various publications.

U.S. Green Building Council
USGBC is known as the nation's foremost coalition of leaders from across the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. They have developed the LEED green building rating system for new construction, existing building renovation, and commercial building interiors. Additional LEED categories are under development.

This Atlanta-based organization promotes sustainable homes, workplaces and communities through education, research, advocacy and technical assistance. They offer publications, training programs, conferences and demonstrations on ways to save water and energy.

The Sustainable Building Sourcebook
Created by the City of Austin's Green Builder Program, this manual includes chapters on water, energy, building materials, and solid waste.

Canadian Home Builders' Association
The organization's Web site offers extensive information on planning and carrying out home renovation.

Florida House Eco-$mart Homes
Offers programs for both homeowners and homebuilders to facilitate the use of energy-, resource-, and money-saving technologies for homes.

Energy and Environmental Building Association
This organization seeks to provide education and resources to transform the residential design, development and construction industries to profitably deliver energy efficiency and environmentally responsible buildings and communities. They offer trainings, conferences, and publications.

Sustainable Buildings Industry Council
Promotes a "whole building" approach to design for schools, commercial buildings, and homes, by offering publications, training and software.

Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems


Sustainable Building Technical Manual: Green Building Design, Construction, and Operations
This manual aims to provide building industry professional with suggested practices for the entire building process—from site planning to building design, construction, and operation. Throughout its pages, experts consolidate and prioritize information pertaining to green buildings.

Energy and Environmental Building Association
EEBA offers a series of printed Builder's Guides with construction details for energy efficient home building in specific climate regions.

Green Building Guidelines
Sustainable Building Industry Council offers this easy-to-read guide for homebuilders, promoting low-energy, resource-efficient homes. SBIC also makes available the Web-based Whole Building Design Guide, which offers design guidance and project management information.


Home Energy Magazine
A bimonthly publication addressing residential energy conservation for new construction and retrofit situations.

Environmental Design & Construction Magazine
This bi-monthly magazine reports on innovative products, strategies and technologies in the green building industry. Covering such topics as resource and energy efficiency, alternative and renewable energy sources, indoor air quality, and life cycle assessment, EDC motivates and educates commercial and residential building teams, including architects, interior designers, facility managers, engineers, contractors, and building owners.

Environmental Building News
A monthly newsletter on environmentally responsible design, construction, and materials, including current news, in-depth features, and product news and reviews. Available from: BuildingGreen, Inc., publishers of Environmental Building News, 122 Birge St., Ste. 30, Brattleboro, VT 05301, phone 802-257-7300 or 800-861-0954.

Resource Megalinks

This site includes a Product Directory searchable by division.

Green Building Resource Guide
Provides information on The Green Building Resource Guide, a database of more than 600 green building materials and products. The Guide is available either as a reference manual or a CD-ROM database.

EcoDesign Resources
Provides links to a variety of useful information on conservation and renewable energy, as well as environmental building and green building materials.

Green Buildings
An Energy Crossroads link page.

Cyburbia Planning Resource Directory

International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment