BNIM Announces Design of Low Cost, Sustainable Home for Make It Right

BNIM Announces Design of Low Cost, Sustainable Home for Make It Right

Houston, Texas - As part of its ongoing efforts to help rebuild New Orleans, BNIM Architects today announced the completion of a design for a low cost, highly sustainable home for a new community in the city. This summer, an organization called Make it Right announced plans to replace 150 destroyed homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward with environmentally sustainable and affordable ones.

BNIM has worked closely with Make it Right, community leaders and residents to create a prototype home design, which has been selected to be part of the new community. A total of
14 international, national and local firms collaborated to create multiple home designs to be built in the Lower Ninth Ward.

“We are delighted to participate in Make It Right’s effort create a new sustainable community in the New Orleans,” said Kimberly Hickson, AIA and principal of BNIM Architects. “The level of collaboration with Make it Right and its partners has been remarkable. We have also received valuable input from the community to design a home that respects the unique character of the Lower Ninth Ward.”

BNIM’s new design of the 940 square foot, 2 bedroom home originates from the shotgunstyle home that was common in New Orleans, but includes measures to improve on the tradition. Outdoor spaces are incorporated with ample porches, fostering interaction between neighbors and enriching the urban fabric of the neighborhood.

The building is designed to be energy-efficient and easy to construct. Building orientation and daylighting were important considerations during the beginning design stages. Structural Insulated Panels and mold-resistant walls maximize efficiency, minimize waste, and respond to the local climate. A rainwater cistern and portable solar energy pack outfit the home’s “area of refuge” so that residents may remain safe in the event of future flooding. The roof structure is ready to receive south facing photovoltaic panels that will contribute to achieve the ultimate goal of a zero-energy house.

BNIM organized the design effort out of the firm’s Houston office, with Filo Castore as project manager, Bob Berkebile as principal in charge, and James Anderson, Jr. as project designer. Architectural Engineers Collaborative, based in Austin, Texas, as well as John Porretto with SBS Home Builders in South Carolina, were both instrumental to the project’s development. Final design documents to begin construction on the home will be executed by John C. Williams Architects, LLC in New Orleans.

Team members made several trips to New Orleans throughout the design process to work directly with MIR organizers as well as constituents of the Lower Ninth Ward community. During these meetings, members of the community were able to offer to the design team valuable input regarding their needs for function, beauty and safety – and ultimately it was the community that influenced final design decisions. A panel of 50 citizens representing the community met to review final designs and to voice their preferences for the future rebuilding of their neighborhood. Construction of the homes is expected to begin early next year.

BNIM Architects’ rebuilding efforts began immediately after the hurricane Katrina, when the firm volunteered its help through the U.S. Green Building Council to develop sustainable rebuilding guidelines for New Orleans. This initial effort resulted in the “New Orleans Principles” published later in 2005. Parallel efforts included an advisory role for the Global Green/Brad Pitt sponsored design competition for sustainable rebuilding in the Lower Ninth Ward, sponsorship and a sustainable consulting role for the UrbanBuild house designed and constructed in the Upper Treme neighborhood by students at the Tulane University school of Architecture, and participation in the development of a Sustainable Restoration Plan for the Lower Ninth Ward. BNIM is currently working with New Orleans architect John C. Williams to develop a Master Plan for reuse of the Holy Cross School site, located in the Holy Cross District of Lower Ninth Ward.

Make It Right has pledged to build the 150 homes using private funds, with Brad Pitt and Steve Bing committing $5 million each in matching funds for the project. For more information about Make it Right, see