Launch Slideshow

As of mid-2011, Make It Right has built 75 new high-performance homes within a 16-block area of the Lower Ninth Ward, restoring a section of this historic and vibrant neighborhood for returning residents after floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina wiped it away. Dedicated to working exclusively with existing Lower Ninth homeowners, Make It Right has succeeded in building not only homes, but also the dignity of families abandoned after the storm.

Case Study: Starting Over in the Lower Ninth Ward

Case Study: Starting Over in the Lower Ninth Ward

  • As of mid-2011, Make It Right has built 75 new high-performance homes within a 16-block area of the Lower Ninth Ward, restoring a section of this historic and vibrant neighborhood for returning residents after floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina wiped it away. Dedicated to working exclusively with existing Lower Ninth homeowners, Make It Right has succeeded in building not only homes, but also the dignity of families abandoned after the storm.

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    As of mid-2011, Make It Right has built 75 new high-performance homes within a 16-block area of the Lower Ninth Ward, restoring a section of this historic and vibrant neighborhood for returning residents after floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina wiped it away. Dedicated to working exclusively with existing Lower Ninth homeowners, Make It Right has succeeded in building not only homes, but also the dignity of families abandoned after the storm.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    Triumph From Tragedy
    As of mid-2011, Make It Right has built 75 new high-performance homes within a 16-block area of the Lower Ninth Ward, restoring a section of this historic and vibrant neighborhood for returning residents after floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina wiped it away. Dedicated to working exclusively with existing Lower Ninth homeowners, Make It Right has succeeded in building not only homes, but also the dignity of families abandoned after the storm.

  • To address concern that the neighborhood would sacrifice its front-porch culture in the name of raised foundations for flood control, many of the new homes feature a wider and deeper section of seating adjacent to the steps to the front door that encourages interaction at street level. Design by Adjaye Associates, Berlin and London.

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    To address concern that the neighborhood would sacrifice its front-porch culture in the name of raised foundations for flood control, many of the new homes feature a wider and deeper section of seating adjacent to the steps to the front door that encourages interaction at street level. Design by Adjaye Associates, Berlin and London.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    Stadium Stoop
    To address concern that the neighborhood would sacrifice its front-porch culture in the name of raised foundations for flood control, many of the new homes feature a wider and deeper section of seating adjacent to the steps to the front door that encourages interaction at street level. Design by Adjaye Associates, Berlin and London.

  • The high-velocity conditioned air distribution system employs 3.5- or 4-inch-outside-diameter flexible supply tubes powered by compact modular heating/cooling air handlers to deliver conditioned air more efficiently. Supply tubes and 7- to 10-inch diameter plenums can be woven through the structure without the need to frame chases and feature subtle, wall-mounted outlet covers instead of grill registers. Fewer system connections reduce air and heat loss. Air handlers can be paired with a variety of equipment, including geothermal heat pumps. 800.527.0896. www.unicosystem.com.

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    The high-velocity conditioned air distribution system employs 3.5- or 4-inch-outside-diameter flexible supply tubes powered by compact modular heating/cooling air handlers to deliver conditioned air more efficiently. Supply tubes and 7- to 10-inch diameter plenums can be woven through the structure without the need to frame chases and feature subtle, wall-mounted outlet covers instead of grill registers. Fewer system connections reduce air and heat loss. Air handlers can be paired with a variety of equipment, including geothermal heat pumps. 800.527.0896. www.unicosystem.com.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    Mini-Duct Air Distribution
    The high-velocity conditioned air distribution system employs 3.5- or 4-inch-outside-diameter flexible supply tubes powered by compact modular heating/cooling air handlers to deliver conditioned air more efficiently. Supply tubes and 7- to 10-inch diameter plenums can be woven through the structure without the need to frame chases and feature subtle, wall-mounted outlet covers instead of grill registers. Fewer system connections reduce air and heat loss. Air handlers can be paired with a variety of equipment, including geothermal heat pumps. 800.527.0896. www.unicosystem.com.

  • The AstroGuard Hurricane Fabric system features a high-strength, high-tenacity ballistic nylon that attaches to pre-installed anchors. The system alleviates the premium cost of impact-resistant laminated windows and/or wind-rated shutters, while the lightweight fabric features a high burst strength rating that resists wind, water, and flying debris in a Category 5 hurricane and folds up for easy storage. Its much easier than trying to nail or screw in panels of plywood over your windows, product coordinator Cesar Rodriguez says. 855.336.6040. www.hurricaneprotection.net.

    http://www.ecobuildingpulse.com/Images/tmpD90%2Etmp_tcm131-961872.jpg

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    The AstroGuard Hurricane Fabric system features a high-strength, high-tenacity ballistic nylon that attaches to pre-installed anchors. The system alleviates the premium cost of impact-resistant laminated windows and/or wind-rated shutters, while the lightweight fabric features a high burst strength rating that resists wind, water, and flying debris in a Category 5 hurricane and folds up for easy storage. Its much easier than trying to nail or screw in panels of plywood over your windows, product coordinator Cesar Rodriguez says. 855.336.6040. www.hurricaneprotection.net.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    Hurricane Fabric
    The AstroGuard Hurricane Fabric system features a high-strength, high-tenacity ballistic nylon that attaches to pre-installed anchors. The system alleviates the premium cost of impact-resistant laminated windows and/or wind-rated shutters, while the lightweight fabric features a high burst strength rating that resists wind, water, and flying debris in a Category 5 hurricane and folds up for easy storage. “It’s much easier than trying to nail or screw in panels of plywood over your windows,” product coordinator Cesar Rodriguez says. 855.336.6040. www.hurricaneprotection.net.

  • Designed by Thom Mayne at Morphosis Architects in Los Angeles, in collaboration with the UCLA Architecture and Urban Design graduate program, the FLOAT House sits at ground level thanks to its innovative prefabricated polystyrene foam-and-shotcrete chassis.

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    Designed by Thom Mayne at Morphosis Architects in Los Angeles, in collaboration with the UCLA Architecture and Urban Design graduate program, the FLOAT House sits at ground level thanks to its innovative prefabricated polystyrene foam-and-shotcrete chassis.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    Designed by Thom Mayne at Morphosis Architects in Los Angeles, in collaboration with the UCLA Architecture and Urban Design graduate program, the FLOAT House sits at ground level thanks to its innovative prefabricated polystyrene foam-and-shotcrete chassis.

  • Make It Right sources its solar panels from a wide range of manufacturers through local distribution channels, in part to spread the wealth but also to effectively test systems and report results back to the suppliers and the local utility. The foundation also established a for-profit solar division to optimize state and federal tax credits and other financial incentives and act as a knowledge base and liaison for other builders and developers.

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    Make It Right sources its solar panels from a wide range of manufacturers through local distribution channels, in part to spread the wealth but also to effectively test systems and report results back to the suppliers and the local utility. The foundation also established a for-profit solar division to optimize state and federal tax credits and other financial incentives and act as a knowledge base and liaison for other builders and developers.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    Solar Panels
    Make It Right sources its solar panels from a wide range of manufacturers through local distribution channels, in part to spread the wealth but also to effectively test systems and report results back to the suppliers and the local utility. The foundation also established a for-profit solar division to optimize state and federal tax credits and other financial incentives and act as a knowledge base and liaison for other builders and developers.

  • Hydromedia allows storm runoff to rapidly filter back into the groundwater while providing the durability necessary for residential streets, driveways, and parking lots. The material experiences minimal compaction and does away with street drainage systems to minimize municipal road maintenance costs and enable narrower streets for a more efficient use of land. It also eliminates standing water and ice formation for greater safety and durability. It helps change the perception of water from a negative into a positive in this neighborhood, Rodriguez says. 703.480.3600. www.lafargenorthamerica.com.

    http://www.ecobuildingpulse.com/Images/tmpD91%2Etmp_tcm131-961873.jpg

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    Hydromedia allows storm runoff to rapidly filter back into the groundwater while providing the durability necessary for residential streets, driveways, and parking lots. The material experiences minimal compaction and does away with street drainage systems to minimize municipal road maintenance costs and enable narrower streets for a more efficient use of land. It also eliminates standing water and ice formation for greater safety and durability. It helps change the perception of water from a negative into a positive in this neighborhood, Rodriguez says. 703.480.3600. www.lafargenorthamerica.com.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    Pervious Street Paving
    Hydromedia allows storm runoff to rapidly filter back into the groundwater while providing the durability necessary for residential streets, driveways, and parking lots. The material experiences minimal compaction and does away with street drainage systems to minimize municipal road maintenance costs and enable narrower streets for a more efficient use of land. It also eliminates standing water and ice formation for greater safety and durability. “It helps change the perception of water from a negative into a positive in this neighborhood,” Rodriguez says. 703.480.3600. www.lafargenorthamerica.com.

  • The Verve system features hard-wired central panels that can control up to 10 wireless and battery-less light switches and/or receptacles from as far away as 300 feet to serve multiple areas of the house. It really cuts down on the electricians labor and the potential for running wire to the wrong location, especially for a house built using SIPs, Rodriguez says. The wireless and dimmable switches are clipped into wall-mounted brackets to enable mobility. And if you dont like where the switch is or what it does, you can move it and reprogram it at the controller, Rodriguez adds. 877.874.8774. www.vervelivingsystems.com.

    http://www.ecobuildingpulse.com/Images/tmpD8C%2Etmp_tcm131-961868.jpg

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    The Verve system features hard-wired central panels that can control up to 10 wireless and battery-less light switches and/or receptacles from as far away as 300 feet to serve multiple areas of the house. It really cuts down on the electricians labor and the potential for running wire to the wrong location, especially for a house built using SIPs, Rodriguez says. The wireless and dimmable switches are clipped into wall-mounted brackets to enable mobility. And if you dont like where the switch is or what it does, you can move it and reprogram it at the controller, Rodriguez adds. 877.874.8774. www.vervelivingsystems.com.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    Wireless Lighting Controls
    The Verve system features hard-wired central panels that can control up to 10 wireless and battery-less light switches and/or receptacles from as far away as 300 feet to serve multiple areas of the house. “It really cuts down on the electrician’s labor and the potential for running wire to the wrong location, especially for a house built using SIPs,” Rodriguez says. The wireless and dimmable switches are clipped into wall-mounted brackets to enable mobility. “And if you don’t like where the switch is or what it does, you can move it and reprogram it at the controller,” Rodriguez adds. 877.874.8774. www.vervelivingsystems.com.

  • EnviroGuard is a waterproof sealant, applied to dimensional lumber prior to installation, that provides protection against moisture intrusion, mold growth, pests, and rot. The water-based liquid silicon rubber coating offers a non-toxic solution. Applied at the distributor or lumber supplier or on-site with a sprayer, roller, or brush, its guaranteed to protect any porous surface, including concrete and masonry, for 10 years, the manufacturer says. www.enviroguard.co.nz. House design by Billes Architecture, New Orleans, La.

    http://www.ecobuildingpulse.com/Images/tmpD8A%2Etmp_tcm131-961866.jpg

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    EnviroGuard is a waterproof sealant, applied to dimensional lumber prior to installation, that provides protection against moisture intrusion, mold growth, pests, and rot. The water-based liquid silicon rubber coating offers a non-toxic solution. Applied at the distributor or lumber supplier or on-site with a sprayer, roller, or brush, its guaranteed to protect any porous surface, including concrete and masonry, for 10 years, the manufacturer says. www.enviroguard.co.nz. House design by Billes Architecture, New Orleans, La.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    Treated Lumber
    EnviroGuard is a waterproof sealant, applied to dimensional lumber prior to installation, that provides protection against moisture intrusion, mold growth, pests, and rot. The water-based liquid silicon rubber coating offers a non-toxic solution. Applied at the distributor or lumber supplier or on-site with a sprayer, roller, or brush, it’s guaranteed to protect any porous surface, including concrete and masonry, for 10 years, the manufacturer says. www.enviroguard.co.nz. House design by Billes Architecture, New Orleans, La.

  • House design by Trahan Architects, Baton Rouge, La.

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    House design by Trahan Architects, Baton Rouge, La.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    House design by Trahan Architects, Baton Rouge, La.

  • Make it Right, New Orleans

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    Make it Right, New Orleans

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    House design by Make it Right, New Orleans.

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    House design by Make it Right, New Orleans.

  • House design by Billes Architecture, New Orleans, La.

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    House design by Billes Architecture, New Orleans, La.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    House design by Billes Architecture, New Orleans, La.

  • House design by KieranTimberlake, Philadelphia.

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    House design by KieranTimberlake, Philadelphia.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    House design by KieranTimberlake, Philadelphia.

  • House design by Billes Architecture, New Orleans, La.

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    House design by Billes Architecture, New Orleans, La.

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    Sara Essex Bradley

    House design by Billes Architecture, New Orleans, La.

Rodriguez and I walk along Tennessee Street, where Make It Right houses occupy most of the lots along a four-block stretch—the densest collection in the MIR footprint. He tells me that the height of each home’s foundation, either 5 or 8 feet, as chosen by each homeowner, is measured from the highest point in the street or curb directly in front of the lot. The result is a varied streetscape of building heights and façades that’s actually more old-school than innovative—and far more attractive than the contemporary suburban development model.

“My favorite time to come down here is 5 o’clock on a Friday afternoon,” Darden says. “Everyone’s out. The neighborhood is alive.”

­­­­As important as it was to sell homes only to returning residents, MIR’s directive to offer homes that would withstand another flood event was equally critical—which meant turning away from the slab-on-grade ranchers that ruled the Lower Ninth before Katrina toward homes that would be elevated at least 5 feet above grade.

“There was some rebuilding already taking place before we started, but they were just the same as what had been here before,” Darden says. “Our goal was to build the best house for these particular circumstances and to minimize the risks of this environment.”

To that end, Pitt invited 13 architects with what he later recalled as “a coach ticket and a crap lunch” to design homes for the neighborhood per a basic, if rigid, set of environmental, performance, and safety standards that combined the respective expertise of McDonough and Graft with input from community leaders and Lower Ninth Ward residents.

All of the architects accepted the pro bono assignment, giving MIR a rich portfolio of plans from which owners could select what they wanted. There was no master plan, no plat that placed certain homes on certain lots to ensure diversity. “Some lot sizes dictated which homes could be built on it, but otherwise we trusted that giving the residents their choice of houses and house colors [from a predetermined if vibrant palette] would achieve diversity,” Darden says.

It did that, and more. Giving residents choices of not only their house plan and exterior colors but also of every interior finish, from no-VOC carpet to Energy Star-labeled appliances (also from a short list of qualified choices), inspired them to better protect that investment.

“For people who had lost control of so much, it meant a lot to be able to control what house they wanted and how it would be finished,” Rodriguez says. “They take a lot of pride in their homes because of that.”

As for criticism of the decidedly modern style of the MIR homes, the project team defends it as being based on the “functionality of traditional New Orleans design,” per covered porches and roof decks, high ceilings, and lots of light through large windows. Residents, meanwhile, have embraced and responded to it in large part because they helped create it. “There are no critics on Tennessee Street,” project architect Sarah Howell says. “And that’s all that matters.”