PopTech speaker Tom Darden is the executive director of the Make It Right Foundation, the organization started by Brad Pitt to rebuild affordable, green homes in New Orleans’ lower ninth ward. Make It Right has already built 50 homes and are in the midst of construction for another 30. Their initial goal is to build a total of 150.
So far, Darden has helped raise $36 million for the foundation. In 2009, Darden was named Louisiana’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Small Business Administration. After being in New Orleans for four years now and having worked with the foundation since 2007, Darden explains why his work is so essential and how these types of homes can transform a family’s quality of life:
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Make It Right partnered with award-winning architects who worked pro bono to design homes based around the needs of lower ninth ward residents. Design features such as covered porches and wide front stairs allow residents to maintain social connections to their neighborhood, preserving the “culture of engagement” that characterized the neighborhood prior to Hurricane Katrina.
Other design features such as large windows maximize daylight, and high ceilings facilitate passive heating, cooling, and ventilation. While the aesthetic is contemporary, many of the designs are inspired traditional New Orleans design, and reflect the unique spirit of the community.