Rebuilding New Orleans is going to one of the most interesting civil projects of our life time.
Because so much was destroyed, so thoroughly, there is hope that the city will be wide open on the issue of reconstruction and might avoid the NIMBY feelings that dampen progress in most big cities.
Often areas of disaster turn into hubs of free market activity.
Of course, there is some much relief aid and government money involved that the political machines that controls the state and city might use the suffering of the people to soak the recconstruction efforts for all that it is worth.
If honest people get involved in rebuilding New Orleans, they have a very interesting project ahead. (This really is a big if).
The city is below sea level. The water in the streets proves that. Even if rebuit, there is a better than average chance that the city would be flooded again.
In my opinion, the goal of reconstruction should be to create designs that could withstand hurricane winds and flooding, without requiring the evacuation of the city. One and two story wood frame ranch houses won't do. The ideal construction would be five stories with expendable lower floors. The lower floors would be build of foundational materials such as thick concrete columns and coated steel beams. The building foundation should reach above sea level.
These buildings might have human waste disposal systems and water supplies that hold several weeks supply of water.
One cool idea is the elevated swimming pool. If you had swimming pools that were higher than the expected flood level, then the pools could be used as emergency water supplies.
The buildings might have human waste disposal systems that were not dependent on the sewer system (ie septic tanks). A basic john involves two things: A round seat and gravity. It would be simple to build emergency holding tanks that sit on the third floor with a seat that drops into the tank on the fifth floor.
There is a belief that a $3 billion dollar levee system could have protected New Orleans. Personally, I have doubts that the US government could build a three billion dollar levee for under ten billion. Even if Congress gave New Orleans the $10 billion dollars to build a $3 billion levee, there is very little guarantee that the people who construct the levee would do a sufficient job. The mantra of all government funded projects is that the worse you do the more you get.
In the off chance that New Orleans can get beyond its political corruption to allow innovative design, I think there is a good chance that the reconstructed New Orleans could become a magnificent center of creative design.