Brad Pitt To Aid New Orleans’ Rebuilding Effort with Sustainable Housing

New Orleans has been struggling to rebuild since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, but more help is on the way — from Hollywood.

Brad Pitt, speaking Wednesday at the Clinton Global Initiative, announced plans for a new community of homes in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, the area hardest hit by Katrina.

The plan is to:

  • Form a core team of local, national and international architects to construct 150 sustainable homes.
  • Involve the Lower 9th Ward in the rebuilding.
  • Create an affordable, green-designed, sustainable community to serve as a model for future rebuilding efforts.

The new homes are part of Pitt’s "Make It Right" project. Pitt, who owns a home in New Orleans and worked last year with Global Green to develop green multi-family housing in the Lower 9th Ward, and partner Steve Bing, a film producer, pledged to each match $5 million in contributions.

"The heart and soul of New Orleans, specifically the people of the Lower 9th Ward, are paramount to this project," Pitt said. "The words of one elderly man who is determined to return to New Orleans led to the name of our organization: He asked us — directly, simply and profoundly — to help make it right. So that’s what we’re doing."

Rebuilding, Recycling

William McDonough + Partners will lead the effort. McDonough + Partners are practitioners of "cradle to cradle" thinking, which was developed by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in the book "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things" (North Point Press, 2002).

Using natural systems as inspiration, the cradle to cradle philosophy involves trying to build using only recycled products and to reuse all products in biological or technical systems, essentially creating waste-free building. The philosophy will be applied to material selection and design for the new Lower 9th Ward homes.

Make It Right is a noble plan — but even more admirable given its commitment to green building.

Using sustainable design to create the 150 new single-family homes will help keep residents’ cost-of-living down once they do move back to the ward, where houses were flooded and swept off their foundations during the storm. Homes will be designed to reduce energy costs — which is important, since before the storm, the Lower 9th Ward was considered a low-income area of the city, and its residents must now rebuild the neighborhood from scratch.

The recovering city will also benefit from the Make It Right project’s efforts to reduce environmental impact.

Brad Pitt couldn’t agree more. "We’re going to help to make it right with 150 sustainable, affordable houses," he said. "Houses that stand out for their design both aesthetically  and structurally, so that these people can live in beautiful safe structures that respect their spirit and provide a good quality of life."

The Make It Right team also includes the architecture firm Graft, which Pitt has worked with previously on international projects; the Cherokee Gives Back Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Cherokee specializing in sustainable redevelopment of environmentally-impaired properties; and Trevor Neilson and Nina Killeen, advisors to the Jolie-Pitt Foundation.