Mickey Howley’s Street Talk: Build smarter not farther

Published 2:37 am Sunday, August 13, 2023

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As of this writing, the forecast for the next week has high temps all over 100 degrees and lows right at or just below 80 degrees, meaning it’s hot and not cooling off even at night.

Mickey Howley

Weather like this makes one irritable, so please check your aggravation level every now and then and literally cool off. If you are outside just know it can get hot enough where even drinking water will not keep up with your sweating. You can dehydrate yourself in short order.

That has happened to me, working in the sun and heat, to the point where one passes out and your kidneys want to stop. There are these urine color charts, and I can tell you having gone off the color scale, it is not fun. Like go to hospital not fun. Basic stubbornness comes easy for some of us. Just be careful out there, please.

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I guess what really separates us from the rest of the critters on this planet is we’re not smart enough to stop in extreme conditions. We build structure to protect us from those. Many are a response to climate. Think of the Inuit building icehouses or the thick adobe structures of desert dwellers and you realize that humans just don’t say no to extreme conditions.

Go to our coast and houses are built up way up in the air on pilings. Think about it. Is it a good idea to live there in the first place? Most of the time it is.

We try to persevere no matter what the climate throws at us, building in response to that. Just who we are as a species, we live in just about every climate.

“Local vernacular” is the term architectural historians have for region specific buildings. That vernacular changes over time and of course the advent of electricity and mechanical cooling has changed the buildings.

In Natchez, we save buildings for several reasons; the history, the aesthetics, the economics as it is often less expensive to update and maintain than to build new, and well, the greenest building is the one already built. That’s our motivation to fix and bring back what is already here.

There are other reasons. I’ve mentioned this group before. Strong Towns is an organization that approaches city renewal from a civil engineering viewpoint. The founder Chuck Marohn is a civil engineer and he saw cities spreading out and the infrastructure costs of the expansion and maintenance as real economic burdens on the cities and their citizens. For re-development and infill development, there are real savings in using already built roads, power structure, water and sewer.

Habitat for Humanity is building a house now on Old Washington Road, sweating it out mightily at the moment, and they have it framed. They are looking for more infill lots. They build what Strong Towns philosophically suggests, filling in the city and using the existing networks.

Downtown Natchez is lucky there are not so many empty spaces, but there are still plenty spaces for creative infill. It is building and renovating smart that makes a real difference. Hopefully that’s a characteristic of our species, also.

Mickey Howley is the executive director of the Downtown Natchez Alliance and can be reached at mickey@natchezDNA.org or 601 443-3350.