Green principles can be applied to traditional homes; you don’t have to have modern design to be green.

This year’s Green Building Conference in New Orleans showcased high- and low-tech systems for building energy-efficient, healthy homes. This year’s show was its biggest ever ― 1,557 builders and remodelers attended, up more than 40 percent over last year’s record of 1,097, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

The show included a green home tour of rebuilding projects in areas ravaged by post-Katrina flooding: Mid-City, Lakeview, Gentilly, Chalmette. Stops included sites such as a steel-framed double-gallery-style home; a new stick-framed Creole cottage; a remodeled raised bungalow with vinyl siding designed by the Vinyl Institute for increased energy efficiency; a remodeled brick home; a remodeled raised bungalow with a large screened porch on the back; and a prefabricated two-story home with metal roofing and cement fiber siding.

The main green systems in use were changes in insulation. By insulating and sealing the walls from the inside while preserving the original exterior wooden siding of classic architecture (such as in a shotgun home), remodelers post-Katrina have found that green principles can be applied to traditional homes.

Some of the materials and systems in use are a combination of rain screens, rigid foam board, spray foam insulation, paperless drywall, metal roofing and cement fiber siding. This achieves a performance rating of R-19 ― better than most conventional insulation systems. Plus it manages moisture and air infiltration very well, a big deal in the New Orleans climate.

Also, rather than ventilating attic space, which in a humid climate could introduce more moist air into a home, a seal using spray foam insulation does the trick.

“The consensus on the bus is that it’s interesting to see regular people with regular budgets getting back into their homes, and doing what they can to lower energy consumption and use healthier materials,” reports Cindy Hoedel, writer and tour attendee for The Kansas City Star.