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Rebuilding a better, greener New Orleans

Global Green and Brad Pitt join forces to help bring housing to the Gulf Coast region. Check out the eco-conscious designs and video.
/ Source: TODAY

To help encourage environmentally-friendly building, Brad Pitt, along with Global Green, announced a sustainable design architectural competition for the areas of New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina. It drew 3000 registrants from all over the world, six finalists were chosen. Check out the designs below, and watch video of Pitt, the “Today” show's Ann Curry, and Matt Petersen, president of Global Green USA, discuss the finalists.

All six finalists responded in different ways to our goal of demonstrating how green design and good design can be brought together in an innovative way, thus ensuring that housing is truly affordable and healthy. All of the selected designs express a clear understanding of the need to address rising electricity and energy costs and mounting health problems caused by exposure to unhealthy building practices. Healthy, energy efficient homes and affordable housing often have no or little increased cost, yet provide vast benefits through lower energy and water bills, increased durability, and improved health of the residents.

Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen of Workshop/APD
New York, N.Y.

Green features:

  • This design reduces energy demand, resulting in lower energy bills for those that live in the homes.
  • The designers used a smart and efficient approach to energy using a heating and cooling system that combines natural ventilation with a geothermal system. The project features an innovative rainwater collection and recycling system, which reduces the potential for neighborhood flooding, provides resiliency in the event of future disasters, and provides environmental benefit.
  • The planted trellises will help to cool the buildings and provide the residents an additional benefit that is aesthetically pleasing.

“NOLA shotgunLOFT”
Fred Schwartz of Schwartz Architecture
New York, N.Y.

Green features:

  • The buildings are placed efficiently on the site, thus creating opportunities to beautify the grounds and provide local production of food for the residents (e.g., community gardens, orchards, and open space).
  • A modular construction and fabrication approach for the buildings can be efficient, cost effective, and as designed here, sustainable.
  • The designers used a strategy to effectively help cool the buildings (solar chimneys that draw out the heat through the natural convection process) that will dramatically reduce energy use.
  • The planted trellises and trees will help to reduce the increased heat from the sun.
  • The designers gave thought to how to finance the projects, proposing a self-help/sweat equity financial model.

“The Levee”
Drew Lang of Drew Lang Architects
New York, N.Y.

Green features:

  • The building is designed with trellises made of recycled plastic.
  • Plants grown on the trellises will reduce the building's cooling costs and energy needs.
  • A café and community center address the economic and social needs of the community as well as environmental concerns key to sustainable design.
  • The design takes advantage of natural cooling through common sense but often neglected strategies — building overhangs for shading and cross ventilation to cool the homes. The natural systems are augmented by a smart and efficient closed loop geothermal system to heat and cool the building.

“Rebuild Renew: Sustainable Design for the Holy Cross District”
New Orleans, La.

Green features:

  • This entry celebrates and uses several traditional features of New Orleans development to help cool the buildings and protect the residents:
    Buildings are oriented and designed well for natural ventilation, while leaving room for growing food or gardens.
    Raising buildings, as was traditional, allows for ventilation beneath buildings and protects the living space in the event of future flooding.
    Covered porches provide natural cooling of the homes and create a popular social area for residents.
  • The placement of the solar panels is innovative in that the panels help achieve the net zero energy goal, shade the buildings from the afternoon sun, and protect the residents from high winds in hurricanes
  • The design incorporates community vegetable gardens and includes a rainwater collection system as part of a small park.

“On the River”
Brad Lynch and David Brininstool of Brininstool and Lynch
Chicago, Ill.

Green features:

  • The layout of the buildings is simple yet sensible, creating a nice shared space for the residents and neighborhood.
  • The project includes the smart use of cooling winds that come over the levee from the Mississippi River and maximizes natural daylight — strategies that are both energy-efficient and cost-saving.
  • Design raises the living areas off the ground, important for preparation for future flooding.
  • The project features creative ideas about energy generation, placing solar electric arrays on a barge in the adjacent Mississippi River that may be challenging to implement, but responded to the competition's goal of identifying ways to use the features in the area to produce energy.

New Orleans, La.

Green features:

  • The site design and building orientation makes for an efficient solar energy system. The solar systems include both electricity (photovoltaics) and a solar hot water heater that can meet much of the hot water needs for this site.
  • The community garden will be accessible to those living in the homes, and the rest of the neighborhood, connecting the project to the community in a friendly way.
  • The team included wetlands as natural filtration systems, using one of nature's best techniques to deal with pollution.
  • The proposed river turbines as a means of generating electricity is innovative, and if feasible, could help produce clean, renewable energy for the whole neighborhood and electricity, if power went out in future hurricanes.

Building green provides benefit to the residents, the neighborhood, the local economy, and the planet by promoting practical, smart solutions to such issues as global warming, healthy materials, and good ventilation.

Specific green building goals of the project include achieving net zero energy use (i.e., reduce energy use by 90% or more). This is critical as energy is one of the highest monthly expenses for low-income families and energy production is a major contributor to climate change. The other benefit of producing energy on-site from solar and other ways is that during power blackouts due to hurricanes or the ailing electricity system the residents will have electricity and lighting for at least basic needs.

Another goal is to maximize the livability and health of the residences to improve the health of tenants (indoor air quality is often worse than outdoor air quality, which can trigger asthma attacks and contribute to other respiratory ailments).

Global Green USA and their technical jury note that the designs selected are works in progress, and Global Green staff and other members of the technical jury will work with the finalists to improve and refine their green building ideas to ensure they are cost-effective and resource-efficient manner, and specific to the climate and culture of New Orleans and Holy Cross.