Volume 56, Issue 04

This month, I couldn’t resist simply sending you to this article while you see a pic of (what could be argued as) a “greened,” blighted property in NOLA…

I know how urban blight makes *me* feel. What do you think?


(Photo Credit: Times Picayune Archive)

Volume 52, Issue 8

Back in May, I was muttering about the lack of stormwater management best practices in the New Orleans zoning code but as it turns out, they aren’t far from implementation! A copy of proposed Article 23 of the Comprehensive Zoning Code (in draft form) recently came across my desk. In it, there is discussion of general landscape design standards that not only must be adhered to but approved in the course of obtaining a building permit. While under review for landscape plan approval, one must submit (among other things):  “A stormwater management plan, including the pre-development runoff rate and the post-development runoff rate. The stormwater management plan must include:

All pertinant calculations and specifi cations used in the design and construction of the detention area and other drainage improvements. Safeguards to present short-circuiting of detention system must be designed into the system. If underground systems are used, a monitoring and maintenance schedule may be required.”

Even more, stormwater “BMP’s” as described in the “Model Storm Water Based Landscape Code” are to be utilized in the development of one’s landscape plan. Encouraging news if you ask me!…
(but don’t put away your rainboots just yet)


Volume 52, Issue 5

All the talk in the news about flooding recently reminded me of a conversation I had at the office shortly after moving to New Orleans that went a little something like this: “Ok, I think I understand the scope of the project. Have we submitted the site plan to the City for stormwater management approval?”

“What stormwater management approval?”

“Do you not have to demostrate implementation of long term best practices for stormwater management in order to be considered for a building permit?”


In a city whose streets flood after a 20 minute downpour, I found this very hard to believe. I now realize I’ve taken for granted the very progressive nature of the city I lived in for 13 years that requires a civil engineer to calculate rainfall percentages and a landscape architect to accommodate on-site retention of storm water.  I realize the same approaches to stormwater management won’t hold true in an area with a high water table such as New Orleans but I’d thought I’d share this diagram from the Water Environment Research Foundation to get the ball rolling instead of… well… floating!

Volume 52, Issue 4

It may sound silly to say that when I moved here, I drastically underestimated the difference in building techniques between the gulf side of the Mississippi and the origins of the Mississippi. A good example: It never really occurred to me that folks here don’t dig giant holes for their buildings! After 13 years of living/working/studying in Minnesota, I grew accustom to dealing with backfill and unit prices for excavation. After being here awhile, I thougtht perhaps I’d never see a spec for soil remediation ever again. Lo and behold, the exact subject became the source of news here in New Orleans very recently as area playgrounds (and children’s blood levels) were found to contain high levels of lead: so high, in fact, they nearly triple those deemed as maximum acceptable levels in Minnesota (see chart above). Aside from remediating area playgrounds as reported recently in the Times Picayune and nola.com, how might we deal with lead levels on our building sites? The author of many a research article and Research Professor at Tulane /Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research, Howard Mielke, recommends the following as a starting point (abbreviated from a recent phone conversation):

Do not scrape & remove existing soil (it just exports the problem)
Bring in minimum 6” clean soil in locations where soil has the potential to become exposed
‘Clean’ means max 20ppm lead, tested by the LSU Ag Center

Volume 52, Issue 1

Imagine my surprise when, after 13 years of living in Minnesota and being told that a handrail needs to be an inch and a half away from a wall, I learned that the Louisiana State fire marshal not only enforces accessibility AND life safety but requires the handrail to be two and a quarter inches away from the wall!

“Lynn, meet the NFPA 101.” (a book I had never opened before)

Amidst my amazement that a State enforced something other than the series of International [insert trade here] Codes with its own series of amendments, I decided to find out who else has adopted the NFPA 101 as its life safety code. Turns out, not that many do and with no particular regional bent (see map below).

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to attending a day-long seminar in Kenner on January 26th, called “Building Codes in Louisana.” I have a lot to learn


NFPA 101 (2006) New handrails shall be installed to provide a clearance of not less than 2 ¼ in. (57 mm) between the handrail and the wall to which it is fastened.

Commentary: In earlier editions of the Code, a minimum 1 ½ in. (38 mm) clearance was required between a new handrail and the wall to which it was fastened. The current provision, as detailed in, increases the required minimum clearance to 2 ¼ in. (57 mm) for new handrails in recognition of the fact that 1 ½ in. (38 mm) is an inadequate clearance for both a normal grasp and an emergency grasp of the handrail.

The Wagner Companies “Clarifying Bracket Clearance” (date of publication unknown)

“The 2004 ADAAG — presently still making its way through the Federal approval process — now requires a 1-1/2″ minimum, as does the ICC, IRC and ANSI A117.1. Though the original ADAAG is still being applied across the country, the Access Board’s position is that the new ADAAG reflects their response to questions regarding accessibility and should supercede the 1992 guidelines.”