Brad Pitt Makes It Right in New Orleans
- Friday, 27 March 2009
If you haven't heard "eco" and "Brad Pitt" in the same sentence in the last year, you must have been living in the Azores . . . without a radio or internet access . . . and you probably didn't get any phone calls or letters from home. To put it bluntly, you'd pretty much have to be dead to not hear something somewhere about Brad's Captain Planet-esque efforts to green the world. Not that we're complaining. We love what Brad is doing.
The list of Mr. Jolie's eco projects is long, but our hearts are warmed by his efforts to build affordable, eco-friendly homes in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans for families who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.
When Pitt first visited New Orleans a few months after Katrina flooded the historic city, he was shocked by the devastation and annoyed with the lack of clean-up progress. His first move—after talking with residents—was to partner with Global Green to sponsor an architecture competition aimed at a sustainable rebuild. The project was considered a success and soon after, Pitt founded Make It Right NOLA.
Make It Right's mission revolves around rebuilding "safe and healthy homes that are inspired by Cradle to Cradle thinking, with an emphasis on a high quality of design, while preserving the spirit of the community's culture."
The process isn't short, but it's certainly comprehensive. Homeowners apply to build a home with the project and then work closely with Make It Right reps to choose the right building design for their family and for their budget. Future property taxes and other costs are carefully considered since most Lower 9th Ward residents are among the lowest wage earners in the city. The homeowners have final say on products such as paint colors and flooring options, and they have access to free tutorials on the new eco-friendly systems and products in their home.
The goal is to build 150 homes, and the first six were ready for families to move in between October and December 2008. Architectural Digest's January 2009 cover story highlighted Pitt's efforts to rebuild this vibrant community. The story revealed some of the sustainable features include geothermal heating/cooling systems, solar panels for electricity and the greenest building materials on the market.
The structures are also built to weather future storms. The homes all sit on eight-foot pillars to protect from future flooding, and all feature an escape hatch in the roof so residents can flee if water once again rises above roof level.
And while the homes look undeniably modern with their boxy shapes and long, uninterrupted lines, they haven't lost the quintessential New Orleanian characteristics. Front porches for chatting with passing neighbors were added after residents reviewed the early designs, and while narrow lots meant narrow homes, wide staircases and gently sloping ramps invite friends to come inside.
What It Takes to Make It Right
The cost of building one home is about $150,000, and 90 of the homes have been sponsored already (in fact, they're just $6,500 shy of the 91st home). Individuals have donated money and have "adopted" parts of the house, from a shower head ($40) to a solar panel ($25,000). Others have created teams to sponsor entire homes.
New Orleans native Ellen DeGeneres formed a team to collect donations, and to date, they have raised more than $1.26 million-enough for eight homes, and they're working on the ninth.
Mike Holmes of Home and Garden Television's Holmes on Homes—who has been helping Canadian homeowners plagued by fraudulent and inept builders "make it right" (as he often says on the show)—also lent a hand to the Make It Right Foundation, taking his crew down to New Orleans to build homes pro-bono.
Oh, and Brad and Make It Right co-founder Steve Bing each pitched in $5 million to get the ball rolling back in 2007.