Photo credit: Brit Liggett, Show the Good
Nov 21
November 21, 2014

Resilient Cities: Labs of Innovation


One of the most important lessons we’ve learned in the years following Hurricane Katrina is that New Orleans is not unique in its exposure to disasters. Rising sea levels, droughts, and increased frequency of storms are factors that all cities must now consider when constructing and maintaining built structures.

In New Orleans, we took Katrina as an opportunity to rebuild the city—not back to the way she was before, but to the way she should have been. This has positioned New Orleans as one of our nation’s most immediate laboratories for innovation and change. In New Orleans, we can test new ideas, evaluate their impact, and scale successful solutions to other cities.

This is exemplified by our partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation through the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge. This Commitment to Action was launched at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2013 Annual Meeting. As a result, a resiliency dashboard was piloted in New Orleans that will be used by cities across the globe. As part of 100 Resilient Cities, New Orleans recently hosted the inaugural Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) Summit, convening 26 CROs from around the world and showcasing our challenges and successes in rebounding in the wake of disasters.

Last month, at CGI's 2014 Annual Meeting, I had the opportunity to participate in a convening of the CGI Resilient Cities Action Network, alongside Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle of Melbourne. Together, we reflected on the progress CGI members have made toward building urban resilience in communities around the world, and addressed work that remains ahead. The insights shared and Commitments to Action made at the meeting in New York will continue to advance our efforts in New Orleans.

One example of a CGI commitment that is helping New Orleanians rebuild is the Make It Right project, which has built over 100 safe, sustainable homes in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, the neighborhood most devastated by Hurricane Katrina. All of these homes have earned LEED Platinum, the highest level of certification offered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

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Following this model of green building, Make It Right is now helping families around the country by building an apartment complex for disabled veterans in New Jersey and single-family homes on Native American reservations in Montana.

Another example of CGI members taking action is Global Green USA, which committed in 2007 to assist Louisiana with green schools policy and outreach. Since then, the state has passed green guidelines for schools rebuilt post-Katrina and New Orleans adopted a public schools' master plan, committing to build future schools at LEED Silver standards. Global Green also conducted three green schools workshops around the state.

Last month, I was thrilled to welcome the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo to New Orleans. My hope is that attendees continue progress on building sustainable resiliency across all sectors and identifying the best approaches to the natural challenges inherited by cities across the globe.

Through collaboration, coordination, and expertise, I’m confident that as New Orleans approaches our 300th anniversary in 2018, we will continue to be a global model for resilience and a leading partner with cities around the world.