On a sweltering May day in New Orleans' Holy Cross neighborhood, Global Green USA celebrated the symbolic groundbreaking of its sustainable affordable housing community. The organization held an international design competition for the project in 2006, with a jury that included chairman Brad Pitt, Thom Mayne, FAIA, and Julie Eizenberg, AIA. The winning firm, New York City-based workshop/apd, then spent more than a year working with Holy Cross citizens and Global Green to fine-tune its eco-conscious design. At the May ground-breaking event, firm principal Andrew Kotchen, Assoc. AIA, said this experience transformed the way he, fellow principal Matthew Berman, Assoc. AIA, and their 12-person staff work. “We were by no means sustainable designers before,” he explained. “This project was a crash course. We are now seeking out projects that incorporate sustainability.”

The 1.4-acre Holy Cross site will contain five single-family houses, an 18-unit apartment building, and a community center. Kotchen and Berman designed the individual residences to be modular, and each one features a vegetated roof, solar panels, and rainwater harvesting.

In designing the project's single-family residences, workshop/apd borrowed from local shotgun houses elements such as covered porches and long, narrow floor plans.

In designing the project's single-family residences, workshop/apd borrowed from local shotgun houses elements such as covered porches and long, narrow floor plans.

A pedestrian pathway forms a transect through the site, which lies near a grassy levee bordering the Mississippi River. “The transect is a way for people to experience the river and the levee,” Kotchen said. “We wanted people [from the surrounding neighborhood] to filter through the site.” Their goal, shared by Global Green, is to have the first home well under construction by the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. “When the day comes that every house built in this country is energy-efficient, affordable, and green, this neighborhood will have been one of the catalysts,” Global Green USA president and CEO Matt Petersen told the audience of community members, project sponsors, and local politicians gathered at the site.

A wide walkway slices through the middle of the site (above).

A wide walkway slices through the middle of the site (above).

A planned list of eco-friendly building materials includes spray-foam insulation and sustainably harvested lumber.

A planned list of eco-friendly building materials includes spray-foam insulation and sustainably harvested lumber.