Brad Pitt’s houses

OK, so I don’t know Brad and Angelina that well, but when this CNN interview came up in my e-mail I thought I might as well use their names to get some attention.

As everyone knows Brad founded Make It Right (MIR) to build houses in New Orleans’ lower 9th ward.

More pictures of these houses are available on the MIR web site.  Whatever you think of the appearance of these houses (and there have been the usual number of snarky comments on the blogs – like the comments following this article), they are thoughtful, fitted to the environment and energy efficient.  Best of all they exist – which in itself outweighs any criticism.

Included in the design is a “float house” that is built on a polystyrene base, so it can rise with a flood.   Of course there are questions about the wisdom of this type of construction, specially the use of so much polystyrene, even if encapsulated in concrete.

What impresses me about the MIR houses, and should become the mantra for the industry everywhere are 2 points:

  • Cost is comparable to “normal” building methods
  • They are Net Zero Energy Houses

Some detail on the methods and materials used are here.

In Brad’s own words:

“Sure [the first houses cost more], but now we’re down to dollar-for-dollar what it costs to build anything else here,”

“And now every house you see here, last month, every one but one was producing more energy than it was consuming. That’s big news. That’s a game-changer. And there is no reason to build any other way now…”

There is no reason to build any other way now – well, yes, except for construction crew training, industry acceptance, economics, customer acceptance, standards and regulations, entrenched supplier pressure  and so on.  MIR is a very special case:  On the buyer side, the clients receive extensive assistance throughout the buying process – which they well deserve.  But they do not have to make the hard decisions of most new home clients when juggling costs vs. resale value and the like.  And on the building side, the star power of a Brad Pitt will do wonders in attracting skills from architects to carpenters, and will also help break through miles of red tape.

These houses are built for a specific climate, and a special need to survive a flood.  So a similar method or appearance is clearly not appropriate to the North-East, or much any place except the Gulf Coast.  That’s not the point – it’s the idea of building to last, to be energy efficient and to take advantage of the knowledge we have of “modern” construction technology.  It’s the idea of daring to introduce some new elements to the appearance, while retaining the social aspect of houses that tie a house into a community – like a front porch.

But after all those disclaimers – we just need the goal and the will to overcome them – my pal Brad has it exactly right:

There is no reason to build any other way now.

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