Galveston Going Green

Residents and business owners in Galveston are in the long slow process of rebuilding and restoring the island. As Laurie Johnson reports — one Galveston couple sees the devastation of Hurricane Ike as an opportunity to take their home and business in a whole new direction.
Terry and Deborah Conrad have lived and worked on the island for close to 20 years. Terry owns Island Brainworks and Deborah operates a boutique next door called The Firm. They live in a walk-up flat above the stores.

Hurricane Ike left six feet of water in the downstairs area.

"Everything was over our heads, the water was over our heads. So when we came into the building everything had floated that could float, and everything that couldn't float had sunk and was on the floor covered with mud."

The Conrads had to completely gut the two businesses. Deborah Conrad was discouraged by the prospect of starting over from scratch. But then she had an inspiring idea.

"I said maybe this is the opportunity to go eco-friendly with my store. And I think that was the first time eco-friendly/green came up. Okay, that's what we'll do with The Firm and then that immediately led in to then we certainly have to build green. We have to be conscious on all levels."

So that's exactly what they did. They're renovating the two stores using sustainable and healthy products. Hurricanes are a certainty on the island. So where there used to be wood, the Conrads are using tile and mold-resistant drywall.

They installed low-voltage lighting and used VOC-free paint on the walls. And they enlisted the help of non-profit organization, BuildClean.

"There are certainly many sustainable products that may not necessarily agree with certain environments."

Sara Speer Selber is president of BuildClean. She says when people build or remodel they should remember that just because something is natural, does not mean it's the best choice.

"I'll take bamboo, for example. Bamboo doesn't do that well in humidity. If you're living in certain parts of the country, you want to consider warping issues. You know we're on the Gulf, it's rather humid."
image of Conrads

Deborah Conrad had been planning on using bamboo in the fitting rooms in her boutique...until she heard Selber say it wasn't the best option. Conrad says she hopes other islanders will join her in rebuilding a greener, healthier and ultimately better Galveston.

"We will take care of this, we will do what is right here."

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.



Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...