Residents of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, are moving into sustainable and survivable new homes thanks to the Make It Right Foundation (MIR). By next year, the organization, created through a collaboration between actor Brad Pitt, Graft Architects, Cherokee Gives Back, and William McDonough + Partners, expects to have 100 of the planned 150 homes complete, and is just breaking ground on a series of new duplex designs developed to contribute to MIR’s affordability and sustainability goals. Standards are high, with all homes built so far achieving LEED-Platinum certification; future homes will shoot for that LEED level plus ANSI-Gold and will use Cradle To Cradle–certified products. Tight building envelopes, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and solar systems will keep energy loads and costs down, while durable materials, reclaimed products, and native landscaping and permeable pavers will help meet sustainability goals.

In addition to sustainability, designers have incorporated details and features designed to increase the residents’ safety and survivability in future storms. The homes are raised 5 feet to 8 feet above grade on deep-driven concrete pile foundations, will withstand 160-mph winds, and include hurricane fabric window covers that are faster and easier to install than plywood. Each design integrates rooftop access for emergency egress, a detail that could have saved lives during Katrina.

Make It Right’s mission has attracted architectural star power, with leading local, national, and global firms volunteering designs. Learn more about the organization and the people behind it at —Rick Schwolsky