Eco All Stars January 2009 Challenge

Real Estate Agent with Realty Pro Albuquerque


Share the Make It Right NOLA designs - Or Not?

 Why should Brad Pitt be asked to share these designs with my community and how many could benefit from them?

 Perhaps it is just my Contrarian nature, but I do not think he should .  

Before you start wondering how many marbles I have left, let me explain. These homes were designed to address a very specific need in a very specific area; in fact they were designed to meet the needs of a very specific neighborhood.. There was a process employed that involved hours of consultation among architects, planners, and residents to determine what they needed and wanted in homes. This was a neighborhood that had one of the highest percentages of home ownership in the country. Many of these homes had been passed down through generations. These designs are not appropriate for any other area except in one very important way. THEIR PRINCIPLES AND CONCEPT are a model that should definitely be emulated IMHO.

 From the Make It Right NOLA website:

In keeping with Make It Right's overarching priority to work in cooperation with former residents of the Lower 9th Ward, the approach to new home design began directly with the homeowners themselves. Because local cultural influences gave rise to the pre-Katrina architecture so emblematic of the area, preserving that identity remains vital in reclaiming the spirit of the neighborhood. MIR's goal is to join the history of this tradition with creative new architectural solutions mindful of environmental and personal safety concerns in order to encourage both the evolution of aesthetic distinctiveness and the conscientious awareness of natural surroundings.

 I live in the Desert Southwest. The only floods we are likely to see with the exception of a broken dam is an arroyo gone mad in a flash flood. The safety issues are very real but they are also very different. Our climate is hot and extremely dry. Humid days are a rarity.

 The thing which most needs to be shared about these homes in addition to the fact that they still need to be built is contained in that paragraph. One of the problems we have created is our tendency to globalize everything. The old adages to Think Globally, Act Locally is perhaps the idea we need to apply here. If Brad Pitt or anyone else were to encourage other groups of people in other communities to come together the way that the Make It Right project came together and share the process of developing their designs, there could be real progress toward creating affordable housing and putting people to work again to build it.  

 Adobe has been the building material of choice here for several reasons not the least of which are it's indigenous characteristics- It is generally made from soil from the site, it is low cost and provides great insulation and thermal mass. Rammed earth and  various permutations of lightweight concrete or insulated concrete forms are the closest modern technologies to this traditional material and they meet the criteria of "local cultural influence:

Aztec Ruins national Monument, New Mexico

This is a picture of the Aztec Ruins thought to have been built in the 11th century.


  This is the Hyatt Tamayah Resort at Santa Ana Pueblo built in 2000


Welcome to the Hyatt Regency Tamaya 

 this is the Santa Ana Pueblo Mission Church built in the mid 1700s

There are approximately 6,000 people counted as homeless in the statistics I could find in Bernalillo County which contains the bulk of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Area. I emphasize counted because there are many who are not included in the numbers just as there are many unemployed who are not included in the official statistics. This also does not include those living in substandard housing or living with relatives because they have no other place to go. These are people who could benefit from participating in a plan to create workforce housing, infill development and cohousing projects using the cradle to cradle principles employed in the Make It Right houses and designed not for the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans but for the neighborhoods in which they live.  Cradle to Cradle principles call for ecologically intelligent design that fits the environment around it.  In a climate with single digit  humidity, evaporative cooling makes a lot more sense that in a place like New Orleans. Is it the best choice for a given site? Maybe, maybe not. That's why the real take away from Make It Right NOLA is the process of deciding what to build based on who is going to be living in it and where, very specifically, it is located.  

  There are many people who work at full time jobs who cannot afford housing. I am not talking about people who have been laid off and are facing foreclosure. I am talking about people who work in day care, elder care and service jobs like housekeeping, fast food and gas station attendants.  Low maintenance homes with healthy air quality not only give them more money and more time to spend with family instead of working on the house, it means fewer medical bills which is a huge relief when you have no insurance. Water and water quality are huge issues in the desert southwest. Wars have been fought over water rights and legal battles still rage today. Water is a scarce commodity here in the desert and while putting a rain barrel on a house in the Lower 9th Ward, here they provide an option for watering a vegetable garden or a fruit tree. Did I mention lower grocery bills?

 The other group that comes immediately to mind are the reservations surrounding where I live. If Hyatt can build a resort like this in cooperation with the pueblo, it is certainly possible to design homes that reflect the Hogan of the Dine (Navajo) Nation

This is a picture of a traditional Dine Hogan on the Navajo Nation from a brochure about the Nation.


 This is a picture of a modern Deltec Home from and advertising brochure for Deltec Homes.....



There is a continuity here that fits the vernacular. These buildings do not belong in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans any more than the homes designed for homes in the Lower Ninth Ward belong here. What they can and should share is a faithfulness to their location and the people meant to occupy them. What Brad Pitt and his project have to offer if they choose is insight into the process they used to work with the displaced residents in order to develop a design that provided exactly what they wanted and needed in a home while also incorporating Cradle to Cradle principles and safety enhancements geared to the environment in which they are built.

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Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. . 4Terra Land Brokers .. 828-776-0779 Asheville NC 01/28/2009 01:36 AM
  2. Sylvia Barry 02/06/2009 06:46 AM
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Frances Sanderson
Bean Group / Franklin - Franklin, NH

Bravo, Deb. You hit the nail on the head. The beauty of the challenge was that it made you think about your particular part of the country and how a group of people with a desired goal to provide sustainable housing for its residents could accomplish great things. If Brad Pitt and his team were able to put together a guide for those who wish to emulate his team's accomplishment, we might be able to get somewhere. Great post!

Frances Sanderson, Franklin, NH  REALTOR®, Certified EcoBroker®

Jan 26, 2009 10:21 PM #1
Michael I. Pulskamp
Mainstreet Brokers - Jackson, CA
REALTOR, EcoBroker, GREEN Desingnee

Once again I note we are of one mind!

Deb, I applaud both your firmness and tact, things that I have trouble balancing on this subject. I tend to want to grab people and shake them

Using the same technology and building plans for different areas is one of the big problems with "modern" housing. We need to understand that every area, heck every LOT, has different characteristics that come into play in the endeavor to build truly fitting, efficient, and human buildings. If we look to the way local people built in the far past and bring the design technology that they used up to toady's standards the buildings we build will fit us and the area they are built in better.

Fundamentally people figured out ways to be efficient in the past because of the climate of the area they built in. Metal studs, or 2x4's, waddle and daub or stone, reeds, hides, or bocks of granite, NOE ONE BUILDING IS RIGHT FOR EVERYONE!

I think I would like to see the plans shared as a best practices example, but not for people to build from so much as to see what ideas were used and how. I also think that funds could be raised by selling numbered copies for display purposes only.

The process needs to be pushed to any and all, I hope for a great documentary that touches on these opportunities to build housing that fits! Maybe some good will come of this tragic unnecessary calamity.

Jan 27, 2009 04:45 AM #2
Dena Stevens
Rocky Mountain Realty - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004

One size does not fit all! Diversity is a good thing. We can learn from one another, and build from shared ideas. Isn't that what made this country great?  

Jan 27, 2009 07:46 AM #3
Pete Jalbert
The Maui Real Estate Team, Inc. - Paia, HI

Aloha Deb-Nice post. I like the sense of place in your part of the country and the call for local solutions.

Jan 27, 2009 11:23 AM #4
Deb Hurt
Realty Pro Albuquerque - Albuquerque, NM
ABR, e-Pro,Green, TRC

Frances. Dena and Pete, Thanks so much. I really believe that our diversity is percious and we can maintain it and still follow universal principles that make the planet a better place for all of us to live. One of the things I find so appealing about the Cradle to Cradle philosophy is it's application of a set of priciples to anywhere you are with the result being totally unique for the circumstance.

Michael, you are very sweet. Tact has never really been my strong suite about things that I am passionate about but 25 yeas of social work taught me to figure out ways to say things so that the message rather than my attitude came across to people. Istill want to grab them and shake them sometimes too but it never helps them understand so I have given it up......

Jan 27, 2009 02:56 PM #5
Joanne O'Donnell
Chic Home Interiors - Oakland, CA

Deb, amazing - your thoughts were exactly mine when I first heard the challenge and so didn't enter.  But you had the intelligence to not get stuck in the box of the challenge but to take us to new, even better directions.  Bravo, Deb, very well done!  I am subscribing to your blog!

Jan 30, 2009 03:11 AM #6
Deb Hurt
Realty Pro Albuquerque - Albuquerque, NM
ABR, e-Pro,Green, TRC

Joanne- I've never been very good at staying inside the box or coloring inside the lines! I really think the sharing of the principles involved and the method of doing what is so often ignored in all but custom upscale building--really involving the people who are going to live in the homes is the take away here. The designs per se are not necessarily what is important in the lessons to be learned from the Lower Ninth Ward.

Jan 30, 2009 03:23 AM #7
. 4Terra Land Brokers .. 828-776-0779 Asheville NC
What's Most Important to YOU? Call(828)-776-0779


We are SO lucky to have you sharing your wisdom! Thank you for your entry into the Eco-All-Stars January Challenge. This post is FANTABULOUS (of course)...and demonstrates why I subscribe to your BLOG! Good luck on the Challenge!

Jan 30, 2009 06:42 AM #8
Sylvia Barry
Coldwell Banker Previews International (#1 Marin_Sonoma_San Francisco_North_Bay) - San Rafael, CA
Marin and Sonoma Real Estate Leading Expert

Great job, Deb!  Love your detailed, local analysis. 

I had a very difficult time figuring out how Brad's design can fit in with Marin also. 

I think I finally figured that the concept is to 'share' and once (o.k. if) he actually shares the design, they can always be modified to fit the specific local situation.  

Some ideas are pretty basic (energy efficient windows/appliances, etc), natural / reusable energ, etc.. , others might be very unique.  The bottom line is, if a plan can be shared, we don't have to reinvent ALL the wheels.  I think that's the kind of sharing I have in mind.

Jan 30, 2009 11:15 AM #9
Sabrina Kelley
ERA Herman Group Real Estate - Woodland Park, CO
Woodland Park Colorado Mountain Homes and Land

You are so right that the building style and method has to take into account the environment. Sustainability will always have to consider the region and the elements a particular region is most likely to face.

Feb 01, 2009 10:59 AM #11
Deb Hurt
Realty Pro Albuquerque - Albuquerque, NM
ABR, e-Pro,Green, TRC

janeAnne- I think it is your lucid posts and probing questions that keep me much more focused than I sometimes am.

Sylvia, Eloise & Sabrina - I am convinced that the green building and Cradle to Cradle principle are very clear and we know what they are. Applying them to individual places in a unique fashion is the challenge that we face. That, and the will to make it so. I do not think the mechanics of the design are not what we need. There are lots of designs available in various places that could be used. The real contribution of the MAKE ITRIGHT project is the forging of relationships with the people of the neighborhood and their involvement in the process of deigning and building their new homes. I believe that what we really need is the growth and development of this kind of approach.

Feb 01, 2009 12:51 PM #12
Jeff R. Geoghan
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
REALTOR, Marketing Manager

Deb, you've got a great article here.  The area you serve is so hot right now (pardon the pun) due to the sun's power down there.  As an ex-southern Californian I am somewhat jealous, although I would miss the ocean...

Solar power can be truly harness in the American Southwest - I hope to read more about your "green" home investigations!  Thanks for contributing to the Eco All-Stars Challenge.

Feb 02, 2009 06:50 AM #13
Deb Hurt
Realty Pro Albuquerque - Albuquerque, NM
ABR, e-Pro,Green, TRC

Jeff- Thanks. You make some great posts too. Congratulations on your winning contibution to the Eco All-Stars Challenge (and on the Steelers Super Bowl win)

I am originally from Northern California- I was born in Sacramento and lived in the San Francisco Bay area for many years. I miss the sourdough bread and the ocean. I've finally started making my own sourdough but the lakes here are no substitute for the ocean.  Solar power is a growing industry here and we have wind as well. We are poised to become more involved than ever in developing more efficient ways to harness the power of both the sun and the wind.

Feb 02, 2009 09:36 AM #14
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