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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

Background on the towns and this project is available under the about tab above.

Click here for bios of the reporters and media producers who have worked on the series.

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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. – The Heritage Conservation Network is in a race against time on the Gulf Coast.

The nonprofit organization is seeking to preserve as many materials as possible from significant homes in Hancock County that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, including columns, doors, woodwork and flooring, in hopes that they can be recycled in the new structures that rise from the rubble.

But time is running short because many local residents here, eager to move on with their lives, are ready for the Army Corps of Engineers to bulldoze the debris from their lots so they can rebuild.

Before that happens, co-founder Judith Broeker hopes to enlist volunteers to salvage as much material at these sites as possible and then redistribute it for free to interested builders and collectors.

The organization looks for what Broeker calls “vernacular” style houses – ones that are particular to a specific region – and has so far found six demolished structures that fit the bill.

“We try to pick buildings that will be beneficial to a community,” she says.

Broeker admits the network is in “new territory” with their work in a disaster zone such as this, but hopes her organization can make a positive difference to the community. “The bottom line is, we need manpower,” she says.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the recovery effort can find information on the group's Web site or by e-mailing Broeker.

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28 COMMENTS

Andy,
Deconstruction in whole or in part is getting to be a pretty common practise around the U.S. - even to the point of putting together new structures that can be taken apart much later.
Besides the obvious effect of letting a home or commercial building live on, in a satisfying sense, the practise recovers lumber, boards, millwork, and other architectural materials and componets that simply are no longer available. At the same time, deconstruction is labor intensive and makes decent jobs.
I regularly see recovered wood of 12 feet or more where the grain runs straight and dense for the entire length, often across the thickness so that the piece is "quartered." Such wood is incomparable for new work or repair, in locations where it will wear well and be viewed and appreciated for a long time. Comparable new stock in native regional (U.S. Gulf Coast) softwood species is unusual (and quite expensive), even in specialty lumber yards. This arises in part from the way that we manage our forests, and will prevail well into the future.
In our New Orleans deconstruction projects - houses that were made difficult by their collapse with contents inside - we (The Green Project) are finding that our costs are in the same range as estimates we've heard about the direct cost of FEMA sponsored demolition and removal, which recovers little or nothing. We even find and return some personal belongings.
The recovered materials may go to the owner, or be sold - almost exclusively locally - to cover operating costs. We have been working this way for some time, diverting paints and solid building components and some equipment, household items, and art/craft materials from landfills. We dispose properly of the residuals. Before the Storm, this now 11 year old non-profit business was self sustaining, even growing.

To William Booth: The "mess" which you referred to in Waveland is still there because the Gulf Coast lost nearly 70,000 homes in Hancock and Harrison Counties alone.....it is a massive cleanup and it will take years to do. The residents here are NOT waiting on anyone else to help them, to the contrary we are very proud that we have been helping each other. The MS Gulf Coast residents have went above and beyond their call to help each other. I am so proud of the people in our Coastal counties and to be a part of that cleanup. Give us time, and watch. We will rebuild and the Coast will be better than ever.....but it will take time just because the damage is so massive! It would be much better if you showed up with tools in hand to help instead of complaining about that which you have no clue about!

With regard to Mr. William Booth's post, my husband Joseph and his friend Keith, who quit their jobs in North Carolina to work full-time to help clean up the debris there, are currently working in Waveland. As I understand it, the Army Corps of Engineers has to approve each phase of the clean-up and the company my husband works with started in Waveland in January.

I've only seen my husband twice in 3 months since he left in October. We've been married for 28 years and have never been apart for this length of time nor do we know how long he'll be down there.

My husband has had nothing but praise for everyone he has met in Waveland so if you see big trucks hauling debris, give them a friendly wave and please remember that they have loved ones at home who miss them, too!!

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