Sustainable Design Competition: Fifth Anniversary


This week, we mark the 5th anniversary of our Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans. To celebrate the competition, we are looking back with daily posts, including reflections from Global Green CEO Matt Petersen and one of the winners, Andrew Kotchen from Workshop/apd.

To begin with: the finalists from the design competition. As part of our commitment to the sustainable rebuilding of New Orleans and demonstrating green building as a solution to global warming nationally, we sponsored thisinternational sustainable design competition, in collaboration with Brad Pitt as jury chairman, during the summer of 2006. More than 125 entries were received, each representing designs for a net zero energy affordable housing and community center development in the Holy Cross neighborhood of the Lower 9th Ward. Our design jury selected six finalists, who worked with the technical jury and met several times with the Holy Cross residents to refine their designs before presenting their refined concepts to the design jury the last week of August. The winning design selected by the jury came from Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen of Workshop/apd, a young NYC firm.

For the two-stage, open design competition, we called for designers to demonstrate sustainable solutions for the redevelopment of New Orleans -- and for big ideas that we could actually build. One of the goals was to generate ideas for the sustainable development of New Orleans, to serve as examples of how thoughtful and environmentally responsible rebuilding could take place. The results impress us, five year later. Below, here the six stellar finalists from the Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans.

On the River Brininstool and Lynch/Brad Lynch - Chicago, IL

Brad Lynch
Brad Lynch
Brad Lynch 2
Brad Lynch 2

Green features of the design:

  • Taking full and creative advantage of the site's close proximity of the Mississippi River, this design includes smart use of cooling winds that come over the levee and maximizes natural daylight, strategies that are both energy-efficient and cost-saving for the residents.
  • The layout of the buildings is simple yet sensible, creating a nice shared space for the residents, and neighborhood
  • The design raises the living areas off the ground, important for preparation and passive survivability for future flooding.
  • The project features creative ideas about energy generation placing solar electric arrays on a barge in the adjacent Mississippi river -- that may be challenging to implement, but responded to the competitions goal of identifying ways to use the features in the area around the site to produce energy.

Notes from the designers:

  • Our design developed from the premise that sustainable ideals are incontrovertibly linked to the lives of the people who will live there, and in so doing, the buildings must have a sense of permanence and substance, as well as fulfill the principles of sustainability and sound environmental practices. The design should establish a places that speaks of community, home, and stewardship.
  • The site plan alludes to the Spanish influence of courtyard settings within the French Quarter, with the apartment building as the gate to the river, hovering above the levy. Its South facing facade is clad in a veil of cypress planks, held in tension, that speak to the window blinds of the old houses of the city but are also an important tool in providing ventilation to the apartments along with shading.
  • Raising the residential floor heights to almost fifteen feet from the ground on the first floor levels provides a psychological, if not tangible level of security against the damage of flooding, and is accomplished by using pre-cast concrete panels that rest on pylons. Lifted from the ground, and coupled with high ceilings within the units, this system provides for superior flow-through ventilation. The structure and interior walls of the buildings are constructed of this affordable material to deliver substantial wind and flood resistance. Along with the cypress wood, it is one of the few building materials available and produced within a five hundred mile radius of New Orleans.
  • The pre-cast concrete panels will be embedded with a closed loop tube, which in turn would be connected to a tube system running through the pylons and deep into the ground. This geothermal system will provide radiant cooling and heating by thermal mass from the concrete walls that divide the units and rooms. For more than half of the year this system will be adequate, and in more critical months, primarily for intense summer humidity, a liquid desiccant technology system can be used -- using a salt solution. The process could be driven with thermal solar panels (either flat plate collectors or vacuum tubes) located on the buildings themselves. The regenerated solution gets pumped into the individual facilities where each building has its own ventilation system with the integrated liquid desiccant system. Supply air gets provided in a 100% fresh air system (no recirculation) for ventilation purposes only. Heating and cooling is independently organized by the radiant system, where the thermal solar panels provide the required heat in winter while the geothermal systems provide cooling in summer in combination with a chiller. The electricity required by the chiller comes from the photovoltaic system.
  • Electricity would be generated by two large arrays of photovoltaic solar panels. One located on the site, as a visual divider between the apartments, community use and the single-family residences. This array would generate enough power during the day for minimum electrical use, and with a bi-modal battery system, could provide emergency power. The other, larger array of PV panels would be maintained on a barge docked at the wharf, so that in the incidence of hurricane warnings it could be towed to a safe location to prevent damage to the solar panels. Excess generation of electricity by the PV panels could be sold to the power company during the day at peak rate, and use of grid electricity at night could be purchased at a lower non-peak rate. There is the possibility for a net economic gain through this exchange.
  • Water management and reclamation are provided by green roofs and raised concrete terraces for two primary purposes. The first is to control rainwater runoff with plant vegetation and drainage systems. The second is to use the excess water derived through the drainage systems to filter and store potable water for use by the residents. Potable water will be stored in cisterns, with a three-week capacity.
  • Another benefit to the green roof and terrace system is that the plants used could be herbs, spices and vegetables to be maintained and consumed by the residential community. In addition, before Hurricane Katrina, there was a market for fresh, specialty herbs and vegetables in the gourmet restaurants of New Orleans, supplied by small local purveyors -- it is reasonable to assume that market exists today for excess growth at this location.

Cooling + ventilation

  • Horizontal airflow: Shotgun-like plan layouts provide natural ventilation and air movement through the apartments.
  • Vertical airflow: An air gap between the glass and the trellis helps cool the building.
  • Geothermal cooling + heating: Pipes running on a continuous water loop reach deep below ground bringing back cool water that is circulated through the concrete panels cooling the interior spaces. Warm water is used to heat the panels during the winter.
  • Liquid dessicant technology: In the humid summer, a dessicant system dries the air.

Power supply

  • 650 kWh monthly without A/C, 1,300 kWh monthly with A/C per household; 500 sq ft of PV are needed for 1 household, 11250 sq ft for 18 households.
  • A typical New Orleans barge is 195'x35', enough to fit 9000 sq ft of PV. This PV supporting barge could become a prototype for supplying energy along the Mississippi.
  • 22% PV on site, 78% PV on barge
  • PV panels: The structure is fixed at 15 degrees, to allow precipitation to run off easily. The panels can rotate up to 45 degrees, ideal for sun capture in New Orleans.

Water management

  • Demand = 24,000 gallons per week; average monthly rainfall in New Orleans is 5.2''.
  • Management: Total green roof area and herbal garden area exceeds 17,650 sq ft.
  • After removal of dirt, rocks and other debris, water is stored in a common storage tank. A corrosion filter makes the water usable for all purposes, including drinking. Separate cisterns store the filtered water for houses and for the apartments and common areas.

The Levee Drew Lang Architects/Drew Lang - NYC, NY and New Orleans, LA

design_Drew Lang Architects
design_Drew Lang Architects
design_Drew Lang Architects 2
design_Drew Lang Architects 2

Green features of the design:

  • This smart yet clean design takes advantage of natural cooling through common sense but often neglected strategies -- building overhangs for shading and cross ventilation to cool the homes.
  • The building is designed with trellises made of recycled plastic. Plants grown on the trellises will reduce the buildings cooling costs and energy needs.
  • Including the caf in the community center responds to the request that the designs address the economic and social needs of the community needs, as well as environmental concerns concepts key to sustainable design and the goals of Global Green and Brad Pitt.
  • The natural systems are augmented by a smart and efficient closed loop geothermal system -- a natural cooling and heating system -- for the building.

Project notes from the designer:

Project concept:

  • A central yard is carved out from the site, both as a front yard to the free standing single-family homes and the apartment residents. The yard is retained by rising walls east and west and gently rises up from the street in a southerly direction through the site to the top of the levee overlooking the Mississippi River. The neighborhood is invited into the yard and it becomes a place of community gathering. A cafe on the street in the base of the apartment building doubles as a community center and the daycare facility is positioned at the other end of the apartment building level with the levee peak.
  • The horizontal ground plane of the central garden transitions to vertical green screens at the houses and apartment building. The screen serves to visually soften the buildings and the site, provide residents with shade and protection from TStorm winds and it acts as a source of food production for residents and the local public.
  • A new street is cut on the east side of the site making the site and the buildings more functional and accessible. It serves as a rear alley where residents park, enter the apartment building lobby and transition secondarily up and down from street to yard. On the west side of the site is the rear and private entrance to the free-standing single family homes, where parking is provided in side yard driveways or beneath raised houses.
  • The project concept derives from an observation that New Orleans neighborhoods and people are not visually connected to the Mississippi River. By raising structures and gently manipulating the site and levee grade, a connection is made while residents and structures are better protected from storms and flood waters.

Green Design:

  • The natural vegetative environment that is created by this project provides passive cooling. Indigenous plantings will be utilized, including fruits and vegetables on the vertical vegetative green walls for resident and public food production. Daily shuttle bus, fueled by electricity generated by extensive rooftop photovoltaic panels, will carry people back and forth from the site to the St. Roch market on St. Claude Avenue where fresh food exchange and purchases can be made. The public city bus is accessible at the St. Roch market. Electric fuel stations for cars will be installed, again powered by photovoltaic cells. Cross ventilation and shading will act as passive cooling and where augmental cooling is needed and for heat, a geothermal loop will be installed centrally on the site to service all residents.
  • Salvaged materials will be utilized in the mixture of concrete, the principal building material for the project. Salvaged wood material will also be used for miscellaneous elements, such interior doors, cabinetry and trim. We proposed that a barge be installed at the dock on the site where salvage materials will be collected and used in an experimental fashion within a shop set up on the barge to facilitate the building of the project. A local program called "the Creole Cottage Project" will be employed in the building of this project, where local public high school students work in an apprentice fashion on projects, learning about craft and trade and the business aspects of developing and building projects. Recycled plastics will be used to form the lattice structure that comprises the green screen.

NOLA shotgunLOFT Schwartz Architecture/Frederic Schwartz - NYC, NY

design_Schwartz Architecture Frederic Schwartz
design_Schwartz Architecture Frederic Schwartz
design_Schwartz Architecture Frederic Schwartz 2
design_Schwartz Architecture Frederic Schwartz 2

Green features of the design:

  • This creative adaptation of the traditional and historic New Orleans shotgun homes utilizes modular construction and fabrication approach for the buildings which can be efficient, cost effective, and as designed here, sustainable.
  • The buildings are placed efficiently on the site thus creating opportunities to beautify the grounds and provide local production of food for the residents (e.g., community gardens, orchards, and open space).
  • The designers used a strategy to effectively help cool the buildings (solar chimneys that draw out the heat through the natural convection process), that will dramatically reduce energy use as well as planted trellises and trees will help to reduce the increased heat from the sun.
  • The designers gave thought to how to finance the projects, proposing a self-help/sweat equity financial model.

Project notes from the designers:

  • A sustainable affordable prototype and economic self-help program for rebuilding. Sustainable design improves lives across a wide range of environmental, economic and social situations. This project utilizes smart planning and design by reinventing time-proven New Orleans building and landscape models. Interpreting the effective principles and proportions of the city's revered shotgun houses, we offer an economical, flexible, sustainable new typology for New Orleans: the shotgunLOFT. Seen from the levee, a jazz-like vibrancy is achieved by the alternating linear strips of the program.
  • The shotgunLOFT studios and 1 to 3 bedroom units combine open loft living space with pre-fabricated bathroom and kitchen cores. Common sense approaches include the use of regional, renewable and recycled materials (telephone poles, southern pine, bamboo screens and floors, recycled wood wall panels) and passive design (through cross-unit and chimney-effect cooling, deep porch shading, alternating green and PV-panel shaded roofs) to reduce energy needed for heating and cooling (which helps to preserve natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions). Corrugated galvanized siding -- made from local post-Katrina recycled steel -- references the riverfront's industrial landscape.
  • Windows, waterproofing, insulation, air barriers and finishes are prefabricated off-site to insure a tight and efficient building envelope (a practical and important aspect to low-energy consumption construction). Roof water collection feeds a garden that includes a bio-retention pond for treatment of grey water and storm run-off. Permeable paving is used for walkways and parking, which is divided into three areas to lower heat mass.
  • Maximum density is achieved with a 12-unit shotgunLOFT typology with Mississippi River views and efficient floor plans. Density minimizes the exterior exposure of the units thus conserving materials and energy. The building is lifted four feet off the ground for ventilation and positive airflow. In contrast to the riverfront elevation, the northeast garden-facing elevation is a vertical stacking of porches and decks with shared stairways covered by lush vines that utilize storm water runoff. The porches are outfitted with a dual-protection shuttering system for the hurricane season and southern shading.
  • All units have multiple outdoor spaces (private & semi-private) as well as a communal area - deep wood porch, lawn with play/BBQ/picnic area, vegetable garden and a fruit=bearing orchard as a living/active symbol of cultivation and renewal. Porches and yards face onto this shared open space, reinforcing informal interaction and accessibility with a sense of security. The buildings shield the site interior and frame the communal space.
  • Equipped with a bicycle rack and parking area the Community Room is located at the corner Andry and North Peters Street for maximum visibility and accessibility. Along with the Day Care Center, these two facilities are conceived as a prototype for other NOLA neighborhoods which may be better served by other programming such as ground-floor commercial use (that would provide income from maintenance) or live/work opportunities.
  • A sustainable model for the Holy Cross neighborhood in terms of its architecture, site planning and economics, the shotgunLOFT is pragmatic ecological, economical, efficient, innovative, relevant and realistic.
  • Self-Help Financial Strategy: New Orleans still lies in ruins and thousands of citizens/residents continue to be left behind. Our design for high-quality sustainable affordable housing recommends a self-help financial approach. Through a lottery low-income neighborhood residents will qualify for long-term low interest loans in exchange for elective community service. Buyers that agree to learn emergency preparedness and response methods will have the opportunity to live in high-performance housing.
  • The units will qualify as affordable homes for eligible buyers who were displaced from the Holy Cross neighborhood. FEMA and state/local governments will subsidize affordable housing. These funds will allow buyers to purchase dwellings well below market rates, as long as they met the following requirements:
  • Agree to live in the home for a minimum of 5 years
  • Commit to emergency response and/or paramedic training
  • Maintain occupancy with families during hurricanes
  • Agree to active service, including aiding in the care, feeding and treatment of community members during hurricanes
  • Volunteer in the community and day care center
  • This self-help concept program is a model prototype for federally subsidized facilities that could be strategically located throughout New Orleans neighborhoods and other Gulf State coastal communities in the future. There are low-interest loans specifically designated for the New Orleans area from organizations such as the AFL-CIO. Additional financial incentives are available through renewable energy tax credits.

Rebuild Renew - Sustainable Design for the Holy Cross DistrictMetroStudio - New Orleans

design_MetroStudio 2
design_MetroStudio 2

Green features of the design:

  • This entry celebrates and uses several common sense, traditional features of New Orleans development to help cool the buildings and protect the residents:
    • Buildings oriented and designed well for natural ventilation, while leaving room for growing food or gardens.
    • Raising buildings -- as was traditional -- allows for ventilation beneath buildings and protects the living space in the event of future flooding
    • Covered porches provide natural cooling of the homes and create a popular social area for residents.
    • The placement of the solar panels is innovative in that the panels: help achieve the net zero energy goal; shade the buildings from the afternoon sun, and protect the residents from high winds in hurricanes.
    • The design incorporates community vegetable gardens and includes rainwater collection system as part of small park.

Notes from the designers:


  • This project couples concepts and ideas found in traditional New Orleans site planning and architecture with green building design and sustainable practices to create a vision for New Orleans that embraces its past while looking to the future.
  • We see in historic New Orleans planning strategies and architecture a number of concepts that are inherently green. City blocks, for instance, were platted into long, narrow lots with enough room for a home, vegetable garden and small livestock -- everything a family needed to sustain itself. These lots were also designed to that homes were close enough to shade each other and protect each other from high winds, but far enough apart to allow air to move around each structure. The buildings themselves were raised off the ground to prevent flooding and allow for air flow underneath; they were tall allowing heat to rise, and narrow, which eased cross ventilation. In these concepts we see a sound basis for sustainable design and planning.

This is reflected in the completed design by:1. Creating a permeable site plan and massing strategy that allows air to flow in and around every structure2. Orienting the block on a north/south axis and placing the tallest structure on the south end of the site effectively acting as a solar screen that shields the block interior while allowing prevailing winds to pass through3. Raising all buildings above grade to allow for additional ventilation beneath buildings and to keep the habitable portions of the structures above flood levels4. Encapsulating the apartment building in a thermally isolated solar shed that provides shade and protection (wind, debris, etc.) through the use of photovoltaic louvers and wood shutters5. Incorporating community vegetable gardens and a rainwater collection system for irrigation into the design of the park

  • Solar shed: Photovoltaic arrays both collect solar energy and act as shade louvers for the structure, operable and inoperable louvers provide additional protection at less optimal exposures while providing additional protection during high winds
  • 100% bolted construction: The solar shed structure is comprised of off the shelf manufactured building components that can be dismantled and reused
  • Green Roof: Reduces heat load of structure
  • Generous ceilings/permeable walls: Facilitates cross-ventilation
  • Reclaimed timber: Small spans allow for the re-use of old growth timbers from deconstructed structures. Older more dense lumber found in older structures has proven to be more resistant to decay and infestation
  • Community vegetable garden: Food production
  • Day care/community center: Creates a public amenity within the district. Day care facility can also serves as location for scheduled pediatric clinics and health education. Community center can also function as a training and conference center for local sustainable design initiatives.
  • Storm water retention and irrigation system: Reduces volume to city storm system
  • Irrigates park
  • Provides on demand water supply to vegetable garden
  • Thermal mass: Concrete parking slab acts as a thermal mass/heat sink at the base of the apartment building

GreeN.O.LA Workshop APD/Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen - NYC, NY


Green features of the design:

  • This is a well thought-out and integrated approach to ecological design. The result is a project that reduces energy demand, resulting in lower energy bills for those that live in the homes.
  • The designers used a smart and efficient approach to energy using a heating and cooling system that combines natural ventilation with a geothermal system.
  • The project features an innovative rainwater collection and recycling system, which reduces the potential for neighborhood flooding, provides resiliency in the event of future disasters, and provides environmental benefit.
  • The planted trellises will help to cool the buildings and provide the residents an additional benefit that is aesthetically pleasing.

Project notes from the designers:

Ripple effect:

  • Effective, sustainable design needs to infiltrate all scales of production and consumption, from the macro-scale of global distribution networks and community rezoning, to the micro-scale of site strategies, individual building systems, and social interaction. Here we follow a common thread through each of these elements: the result is a design system for sustainable human environments that is not only beneficial to the end user, but has positive effects through its development.
  • We propose a modular construction system whereby the individual units can be fabricated in factories throughout the United States and transported by barge down the Mississippi River to the site. When the units arrive in New Orleans, they are offloaded in Holy Cross via crane and placed directly on site. By building this and similar sites throughout the community, the Lower Ninth Ward would become a hub of economic activity providing jobs fro many in the area.
  • The factory-made modules are designed with an emphasis on eco-efficiency. By taking advantage of the extensive production network while also concentrating production in controlled environments, waste and cost are reduced, while quality and efficiency are maximized.
  • The speed with which a modular-based site is constructed is advantageous with respect to New Orleans' pressing housing shortage. Prefabricated construction takes less than half the time of traditional construction, and job-site waste and energy use are significantly reduced.
  • We have also suggested zoning modifications to the Holy Cross neighborhood that would create stronger retail/commercial corridor along St. Claude Avenue, space for professional offices along Andry Street, and a large public park and recreation area, all connected with a community trolley system. By setting up a variety of uses within the local area, we hope to attract residents and business back to the community.
  • On our site, public space for a farmers' market and a community garden makes use of local produce, limiting the amount of energy and expense used to ship food from afar. A community compost heap also aids the fertilization of green roofs, while reducing the demand for landfill space.
  • In a city where 100,000 citizens do not have access to a personal vehicle (1), public transportation is a necessity. A bus/trolley stop provides convenient access to local and regional employment, and onsite commercial space and childcare facilities reduce the amount of transportation related pollution. For pedestrians a series of paths and ramps through the site encourage circulation from the residential neighborhood on one side of the site to the new waterfront park on the other, creating a dynamic and verdant environment that will stimulate similar activity in the rest of the community.

Just Add Water:

  • "Permaculture," or the contraction of permanent and culture, is about designing ecological human habitats and food production systems to produce self-sustaining environments.(2) Our goal is to infiltrate every aspect of this project -- from the psychological to the physical -- with this idea.
  • All buildings on the site have vegetated "green" roofs and wall panels. In addition to filtering and cooling air and improving the insulation of the buildings, the soil captures and filters the 60 inches of rainwater that New Orleans receives each year. This water augments the municipal water supply used throughout the building system and is designed to perform independently if the public supply is interrupted.
  • The water is stored in water storage tanks, or bladders, which are located in the ceiling of each structural module. Primarily these bladders serve as thermal masses to regulate the interior climate as water is twice as efficient as concrete when used as a thermal mass. Additionally, the tanks are shipped empty, which significantly reduces the weight of each module compared to a concrete substitute. The bladders are controlled via separate closed geo-thermal water cycles, using deep ground temperature for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.
  • The filtered water is also used for regular domestic and sanitary activities. High-efficiency hot water tanks are fed by solar heating cycles, using panels in the southern facades. Runoff water, or grey water, is collected in a separate system for such activities as flushing toilets.
  • The buildings are oriented to protect the dwellings from the southern sun while capturing the prevailing winds for passive cooling. Fresh air intakes can be opened or shut during the day or night to regulate temperature.
  • Structural elements are made from engineered lumber (a renewable natural resource), while facade elements are made of recycled resources such as plastic lumber and rubber (culled from, for example, recycled automobile tires). Insulation is made from wood debris that is otherwise not practical for framing.
  • All green roofs are accessible garden areas as well as potential areas of refuge. They replace backyards, creating semi-private outdoor spaces without eliminating public ground level space. The bladders are also accessible from the roof to prevent potential dehydration in the event of a catastrophe.
  • Designated surface areas house 5,000sf of photovoltaic panels. With the combined use of low-energy appliances, the solar heating panels are capable of providing 100% of the electricity needed on site. In addition, the system will be able to supply excess power back to the city for credit.
  • We acknowledge the initial investment that these systems require, but we believe that, with mass production and increased long term energy savings, the "payback period" is reasonable and the positive effects make the system justifiable and warranted.

1 U.S. Green Building Council. New Orleans Planning Charrette. "New Orleans Principles" page 14. 2 The word "permaculture" was coined by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren during the 1970s.

BreatheEskew, Dumez and Ripple - New Orleans

design_Eskew, Dumez and Ripple
design_Eskew, Dumez and Ripple
design_Eskew, Dumez and Ripple 2
design_Eskew, Dumez and Ripple 2

Green features of the design:

  • The site design and building orientation makes for an efficient solar energy system. The solar systems includes both electricity (photovoltaics) and solar hot water heater that can meet much of the hot water needs for this site.
  • The community garden will be accessible to those living in the homes, and the rest of the neighborhood, connecting the project to the community in a friendly way.
  • The team included wetlands as natural filtration systems, using one of nature’s best techniques to deal with pollution.
  • The proposed river turbines as a means of generating electricity is innovative, and if feasible could help produce clean, renewable energy for the whole neighborhood and electricity if power went out in future hurricanes.

Notes from the designers:


  • The traditions of the courtyards in the French Quarter and the tight grain of shotgun houses throughout the city are drawn upon the conception of breathe. While the Quarter is perceived as solid monolithic blocks from the exterior, the interior courtyards and covered galleries are lush with light, air, water and vegetation and are cooled with breezes and shadow. Like its original influences of Northern Africa and the Mediterranean, the dense residential nature of the quarter acquires an internal vitality, comfort, and economy through its porous condition. Concurrently, the slivers of space that run between shotgun houses provide similar animation by reflecting light, offering shade and breeze, and, acting as secondary circulation into side galleries, these collections of long raised boxes provide for greater density of occupants while achieving a lightness and airiness inside.
  • Within Breathe, we propose to overlay these two systems. First by organizing the residential floors and units as extensions of a traditional shotgun fabric raised onto the upper two floors, the circulation paths to the units run along the sides to landscaped entry courts in the heart of the overall body of the building. This offers light and air not only at the ends of the units but also from the middle. At the alternating gaps, there are openings that reach from ground to sky again creating corridors of breezes, light and shade for the rooms along the sides of the units. Internal to each unit, drawing from the French Quarter model, there is a private landscaped patio that opens to the gap and in some instances to the sky.


The public realm of New Orleans is known for rich and delicate ironwork draping the porches and balconies. Shielded from the sun, these metal fabrics provide areas for verdant gardens and activities behind semitransparent boundaries. Breathe incorporates a series of balconies along the edges of the upper floors for views out and for exterior unit uses, and recalling the successful veiling of local buildings, proposes an met the region and is realized with ionized metal panels with various perforations to generate the images of patterns not unlike a bed of ferns. The figures of plants will also be seen from within and will produce spectacular patterns of light and shadow on the interior. The percentage of perforations is adjusted to respond to the solar orientations of each side and the shuttering system allows for individual preferences by the residents. The dynamics of living render the outer surface to be in a constant state of change while admitting light and air to move through it. The veil is conceived of as a single entity in heavy weather mode and can be buttoned up much like the shutters on a shotgun house in the second position to ensure a taut protective layer on the exterior. The envelope not only engulfs the sides of the building but turns up onto the roof. This umbrella is made up of solar collectors, solar hot water heaters and canopies. Holes exist over key open spaces below and the entire system floats over the building to reflect heat and to protect the waterproof membrane from UV damage.


As part of the larger project strategy of Breathe, the Mississippi River levee is reconsidered as a continuum of landscape that connects the site to the Industrial Canal and St. Claude Avenue. To reinforce the housing complex as a segment of the circuitry, and as more than merely a site that abuts the levee, a sloping mound is extended into the site and reaches along Andry Street into the neighborhood and folds down into the central garden. This literally turns the levee up into the neighborhood where it currently dead-ends into the industrial complex. The topography of the landforms provide a diverse series of spatial experiences and are supported by programmatic components that include terraced vegetable gardens, exterior play areas for the daycare center, a landscaped parking court and a variety of wetland conditions. The topographic finger blurs the overpowering edge of the levee, raises the project above the FEMA Base Flood Elevation recommendation, caps the contaminated soil of the site, and, establishes a new gateway typology to the levee and Mississippi River from the Holy Cross neighborhood.

Sustainable Strategies:

Site: Project location transforms a neighborhood eyesore into a source of community pride and support. Contaminated soil will be encapsulated by using a new layer of clean earth obtained from a local source. Landscaping will be used for soil remediation. I.e.: sunflower gardens, which extract lead contaminants from soil. First floor of building is located above FEMA Base Flood Elevation. Residential floors are located from the second floor up for extra flood protection. Landscape terraces provide areas for community vegetable gardens and engage topography of Mississippi River levee. Self sufficiency is encouraged, and fresh, organically grown produce will assist residents in times of emergency. Development respects scale and urban fabric at existing street, and scales up appropriately along the levee adding necessary density for future viability of neighborhood. Project reinforces a sense of connectivity with the neighborhood, providing needed functions accessible to the public at the lower levels, and encouraging connection to the levee and river through the building. Project improves a site in the middle of a viable urban neighborhood that might very well qualify as an EPA Brownfield (if so evaluated by EPA). Project takes advantage of alternative transportation - near a future commuter streetcar line, and neighborhood bus loop line 0 Bicycle racks and private storage spaces provided - Pedestrian connections throughout community emphasized and encouraged - On site parking minimized to meet minimum zoning requirements - Community center van provided, as well as alternative fuel recharging station. Site development protects and restores existing open space at levee, and creates a beautiful and useful landscape that is capable of managing and treating stormwater runoff from the building site and surrounding neighborhood. Shaded outdoor space under the building provides areas for multiple uses and social opportunities. Impermeable surfaces are minimized - stormwater will be managed to improve pre-development conditions, and will emulate natural processes as closely as possible. Heat islands are eliminated through the use of permeable ground surfaces and shared roof surfaces. Carefully designed and controlled night lighting will help to preserve views of the river, city and night sky while supporting a sense of security and community.


  • Passive and active ventilation systems will be designed to ensure healthy air movement in all areas of the building. Ventilation will comply with ASHRAE 62.1. All materials, adhesives paints and sealants used in the building will meet appropriate standards for Low VOC content.Lighting systems, both natural and electric, will be easily controllable by building occupants. Photo sensors will allow light fixtures to be automatically adjusted in order to work in concert with daylighting. Motion detectors will shut down lights when spaces are not in use.
  • All dwelling units and public spaces will have views to the river and levee, as well as the Holy Cross neighborhood. The project will embrace its riverfront location, without turning its back on the neighborhood. Every occupied space in the project will use natural light as its major daytime light source. The use of natural light will significantly reduce power requirements during post-hurricane occupation.Water:
  • Captured rainwater will be used for irrigation of vegetable gardens and areas planted for soil remediation. Other landscape areas will be planted with native drought tolerant species and will not require additional irrigation once established.
  • Captured rainwater from the roof of the building will also be used for flushing of toilets and other non-potable uses. In case of emergency, purification equipment can be connected to the cistern water to purify it for human consumption.
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures will be used to reduce potable water use by 30%. A "Living Machine" will treat all wastewater on site. Outflow from this source will be directed to a constructed wetland adjacent to the levee.


  • The project proposes several revenue producing program opportunities that can offer payback to the development. These include the fitness center, vocational training, children's development and adult learning. From an energy production perspective, the project proposes numerous large scale financial generators - wind turbines, river turbines and solar collectors - that can greatly exceed on-site energy demands in order to produce renewable energy to be sold back to the energy companies or other third parties.


  • Along with the raised earthen route to the river, a mezzanine level is incorporated into the daycare and community center level. This concourse bends through the site and passes several views down into the activities below recalling the balcony experience in the French Quarter. The elevated route is supplemented within the site with a collection of neighborhood social services that would provide children's development, vocational resources and adult learning opportunities, and extends over N. Peters Street to connect to the crest of the levee. The building itself is considered as a method to directly connect the Holly Cross neighborhood to the Mississippi. Andry Street south of Douglass Street is redefined as a light traffic lane for driveway access and minimal surface parking for recreational levee visitors. The end of the lane is highlighted with a living machine wetland for the project and is crossed with a pedestrian boardwalk. This would be a model condition for much of the street grid in the neighborhood that simply fades into the levee and is surrounded by underdeveloped or vacant fields.
  • The vehicular circulation is also reconsidered. The industrial traffic is proposed to be on a designated thoroughfare directly between St. Claude Avenue and the industrial complex along Lamanche Street to minimize heavy truck traffic impact on the site and to residents within the neighborhood. The vehicular access to the Andry Street wharf would also be along that route, thus eliminating the existing driveway up the levee at the end of Andry Street. Drivers to the site and the adjacent single-family houses would access the parking court from N. Peters Street. This eliminates all through-traffic and provides a more safe and secure environment.


  • Architectural form of the building is a direct result of a desire to minimize energy use:
  1. East/West orientation of major building axis provides each unit with controlled southern sun exposures at living spaces, while flooding bedroom spaces with abundant daylighting from the north. Major operable building apertures are oriented toward prevailing southerly breezes.
  2. Porosity of building -- carved courts and spaces between units allows for deep penetration of natural light into private exterior spaces protected from direct exposure to the sun, as well as allowing free flow of breezes through and between units for natural ventilation. Harvesting these free sources of light and ventilation will lower overall energy use, and allow the building to be comfortably inhabited in the aftermath of a future hurricane.
  3. Shutters reinterpret a time honored New Orleans building tradition, providing filtered sunlight and protection from storms.
  4. Roof of building provides an armature for integrating solar hot water photovoltaic panels and building mounted wind turbines, providing a net zero energy use facility and serving as a source of power during extended electrical outages.
  • Residents will be trained in the operation, monitoring and maintenance of the building systems in order to maximize efficiencies and enhance employable skill sets.
  • Efficient mechanical air conditioning and dehumidification will be provided, combined with a properly insulated tight building envelope, properly shaded windows and well designed distribution for maximum efficiency and high indoor air quality. CFC's and HCFC's will be entirely eliminated.
  • Operable windows and free flowing cross ventilation paths will allow the shutting down of mechanical systems in favor of passive systems for most of the spring and fall months, as well as mild winter days.
  • Peak air conditioning loads directly correspond with peak energy generation from the rooftop photovoltaic array, significantly reducing the use of expensive energy during peak energy demand.
  • All glazing is protected form solar heatgain by fixed or operable shutters, insulated double panel glazing with low-e coatings, high visible light transmittance and low U values and low solar heatgain coefficient will be installed.
  • Walls, floors and roofs will be well insulated with formaldehyde free insulation. Exterior vapor barriers will be utilized so that the structure can dry inwards, preventing mold growth.
  • Exterior wall and roof surfaces will be installed in front of radiant barriers, reflecting heat and ventilating it out through the air cavity before it enters the building.
  • Ducts and HVAC equipment will be located entirely within conditioned spaces -- "hot attics"
  • Efficient lighting and Energy Star rated appliances will be used.
  • Each tenant will have an "Energy Dashboard" in their unit, directly connected to a building energy management system, giving the residents immediate feed back on consumption and production of energy.


  • Community composting will provide the gardens with rich soil and nutrients.
  • Reduction of material consumption will be encouraged through neighborhood education programs, and recycling will be supported building-wide.
  • Relocation and renovation of up to six existing houses will be accommodated on-site, preserving a valuable community resource, and reducing strain on already overburdened landfills. In addition, construction waste will be recycled or diverted from landfills. A target of 75% diversion will be established for the development.
  • The use of salvaged, reused and refurbished materials will be encouraged for non-structural and non-envelope purposes. Salvaged materials will be carefully analyzed to make sure no toxic or harmful substances are introduced into the project.
  • Building materials with high quantities of recycled materials will be used throughout the project. Fly ash will replace 50% of Portland cement in the concrete, all reinforcing steel will be minimum 90% recycled, and crushed concrete from local sources will replace new aggregate in concrete. Locally harvested and manufactured products will be used throughout the project in order to stimulate the local economy and minimize shipping costs and environmental impacts.
  • Regionally manufactured rapidly renewable materials such as wheat straw board and wallboard made from sugar cane waste material will be used.
  • Wood products will be obtained from FSC Certified sources.