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Katrina's Cottage Industry

(Tolar Lebartard Denmark Architects)

Advocates -- New Urbanist designers, manufacturers and consumer publications such as Cottage Living -- talk about the potential for cottages almost anywhere, for almost anyone. The factory-built cottage in Silver Spring could have lasting impact on how houses are made and how much they cost.

As a manufactured home, it is the latest iteration in an unfinished design revolution that began generations ago. "I'm sorry to say it took a hurricane for the change to take place," says Ray Taylor, president of Housing International of Sausalito, Calif., which manufactured the Silver Spring cottage. Taylor believes the market for manufactured housing could be worth "billions" of dollars. He points out that steel-framed houses have no squeaks, termites or other pests, can withstand fire, the weight of snow on the roof, hurricane-force winds and earthquakes.

"Let's not put too much emphasis on affordability," Taylor says. "Let's not limit it."

The next wave of the Katrina Cottage phenomenon is taking shape in Ocean Springs, Miss. The firm of Tolar LeBatard Denmark Architects is developing a subdivision of Katrina Cottages called Cottage Square. It promises a variety of house styles provided by different architects, including one confirmed modernist, a devotee of Frank Lloyd Wright.

According to the firm's Michael LeBatard, the goal is to create a neighborhood of housing options to educate people trying to rebuild. Grants of as much as $150,000 per house are expected to become available soon, and the architects hope that issues of value and livability will come together in a Katrina Cottage.

"By doing what we are doing, we are giving architecture to the masses of people," LeBatard says. "We owe it to the people. Ethically and morally, this is what we can do."

The Katrina Kernel Cottage will be on view at 2450 Lyttonsville Rd. through next month.

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