Habitat Blitz Workers Following Strict Building Codes

BILOXI (WLOX) -- All of those new homes being built this week by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project volunteers must meet stringent city building code standards. So Biloxi has a code enforcement officer on site. And he's working very closely with Habitat's construction team, especially its block leaders.

Erik Cullen is one of the Habitat for Humanity block leaders in east Biloxi. So, he's never in one place for very long. In fact, as WLOX News was about to interview him, the Seattle volunteer said to follow him.

"I'm going to head down to my other two houses now."

Cullen is constantly running between five houses, overseeing work crews on Nichols Street and Huff Alley, "trying to just make sure the house leaders have everything they need to keep moving."

Sam Haddad was asked to be a house leader.

"Just give me some plans, and the crew, and we can get it done," the Michigan man said just before his crew took its 11:30 lunch break.

Habitat's planning team is constantly reminded that every nail hammered into every board must meet Biloxi's heightened building standards. So the slightest miscalculation could force Biloxi code enforcement officers to red flag these homes. Joe Richard works for the city.

"We're just out here overseeing the project, making sure they meet the standards," the code enforcement officer said. "And so far, they're doing a wonderful job."

Richard did find sheetrock violations inside several of the homes he checked. Apparently, Habitat forgot to use moisture resistant sheetrock in the bathrooms and other wet areas. House leaders said that would be taken care of.  Other than that, the code enforcement officers said the houses looked solid.

Cullen was pleased with the progress made by his volunteers.

"Yes, it's come together well. A lot of steel in these houses. They're not going anywhere," he said.

The block leader and his house leaders credit months of pre-planning for the overall success of the 25th annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

"It's just a challenge. And we love to take on challenges. So, it's a good thing," said Haddad.

By the end of the week, 10 new Habitat homes will be finished in Biloxi. And almost three dozens brand new houses will be erected in Diamondhead and Pascagoula. More than 30 additional homes are also being renovated in Gulfport.