When the Southern Pine Council created its Raised Floor Living initiative, its objective was to sell builders more lumber for homes that were less prone to hurricane and flood damage. Today, through newsletters and e-mail updates, the Raised Floor Living initiative reaches about 1,400 dealers and builders, primarily across the South.

OVER IT: The Southern Pine Council began its Raised Floor Living initiative in 1999. Since then, the combination of several recent hurricanes, the launch of a Web site, and a Gulf Coast advertising initiative has spurred interest. Homes with raised floors help owners avoid flooding and limit bug infestations. They also use more wood than homes built on concrete slabs. Photo: Courtesy Southern Pine Council "This campaign was not a result of [Hurricane] Katrina. It really steamrolled after Katrina," says Richard Wallace, vice president of communications for the Kenner, La.-based group. "Once a dealer finds out about the newsletter, he shares it. It snowballs."

After remnants of Hurricane Ike flooded the Midwest, the Southern Pine Council began hearing from dealers and builders in Indiana and Illinois. Apparently, the need for raised wood floors is not just a Gulf Coast issue.

The initiative challenges the widespread practice in the South of building a home on a concrete slab rather than setting the foundation on pillars. According to NAHB Research Center data cited by the council, the market share in 2006 for raised floors in the South ranges from 5.6% in Louisiana and East Texas to 12.8% in north Florida and 30.5% in Alabama and Mississippi. That relative lack of polarity comes despite the argument that homes with raised floors avoid floods and are less prone to other types of moisture, not to mention termite destruction.

The payoff for lumber producers is equally attractive. A raised-floor home uses about 33% more lumber on average than a concrete-slab-built home, the council says.

Although the initiative was launched in 1999, it really gained momentum with the creation of Raisedfloorliving.com, particularly its "Building Pro Locator" page. The locator lets licensed architects, builders, and contractors, which the council verifies, sign on and network with other pros and end users. More than 100 pros have taken advantage of the free service since its launch about a year ago.

Wallace describes Raisedfloorliving.com as "the Grand Central Station" of the council's $2 million initiative. Other offerings from the council include a 44-page raised-floor construction guide.

A green building element is included in the initiative, since the council is promoting regionally produced Southern pine, which is sustainable and recognized by several forest certification programs recognized by the NAHB's Model Green Home Building Guidelines.

Additional green factors the council singles out include the impact of slab-on-fill developments on natural flood plains, which do more harm than good when a flood occurs. The council also argues that wood contributes fewer greenhouse gases during the manufacturing process compared to steel and concrete. In terms of energy efficiency, wood is a better insulator against heat and cold, keeping energy bills in check.

Word of mouth has helped grow the campaign, but a series of television ads also has done its share of the work. Former NFL quarterback Bert Jones, now owner of Mid-State Wood Preservers, a wood treatment business in Simsboro, La., lent himself as a spokesman for a trio of commercials in 2006 and 2007. The commercials touched Gulf Coast markets from New Orleans to Pensacola, Fla. A second set was launched in the Houston area this spring and has garnered interest in the Raised Floor Living initiative partly because of Hurricane Ike's impact on the area. Surveys indicate the ads produced as much as a 15-point rise in residents' desire to raise their homes' foundations to avoid flooding.

–Andy Carlo