Built Capital: New Orleans, LA

Built capital is defined by Flora & Flora (2004) as,“The permanent physical installations and facilities supporting productive activities in a community…” By this definition, New Orleans is a city that has had a notoriously strained relationship with its built capital in the past. One of the primary causes of this was 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. The storm surge of Katrina caused 53 breaches to occur in the federally-built levee system protecting New Orleans. The breaches led to 80% of the city being flooded with up to 15 feet of water, taking nearly 2,000 lives. Primary responsibility for the failure of the levees and floodwalls lies with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers according to the U.S. District Court of Eastern Louisiana, who released a 6,000-page report that found the flood-control complex surrounding New Orleans had been “a system in name only.” This is a prime example of federally funded built capital that did not serve its purpose, and resulted in the destruction of entire communities.


An image showing flooding in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina

In New Orleans alone, Katrina damaged or destroyed 134,000 housing units, representing 70% of all occupied housing. In the years following the disaster, one of the greatest challenges for the city has been restoring its built capital in the form of homes. Organizations like Build Now NOLA have formed with the goal of helping people rebuild homes that were destroyed by flooding, and transitioning them back into their communities. Because of efforts like this, the population of New Orleans is steadily climbing to its former numbers, after having dropped over 50% following  Katrina.

A house constructed by Build Now NOLA

A house constructed by Build Now NOLA


Facts for Features: Katrina Impact


Mission and Goals of Levees.org