To understand how to build affordable green buildings, it’s useful to look toward low-income communities where these strategies are being applied at scale, where costs and paybacks are being measured. The Make It Right (MIR) Foundation is just such a test-bed community – a Petri dish for our examination. Make It Right builds affordable green homes and buildings and began by with the reconstruction of the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Started by Brad Pitt in 2007, Make it Right buildings are LEED Platinum certified and inspired by Cradle to Cradle thinking. The MIR Foundation’s primary goal is to change the building industry by implementing green building strategies that is affordable to all. MIR utilizes an array of methods:
- Advanced framing to reduce material and labor costs: studs at 24″ on center or the use of structural insulated panels are some of the techniques used (R-25 walls, R-33 roof, R-13 subfloor). Less labor means more affordable. Less materials means more green.
- Interior finishes that are low or no off-gassing make for healthy living.
- Green electrical through wireless electrical system (Verve). The higher cost of the system is offset by lower cost for installation.
- A high velocity air-conditioning system reduces size of duct/trunk lines which can then run in the structure, saving on structural and finishing costs.
- Well insulated walls and air tight buildings reduce energy loads and therfore long-term operational costs. Green Insulation such as spray foam and recycled denim insulation are used.
- Low-flow faucets, shower heads and dual flush toilets reduce water consumption.
- Cisterns for irrigation also reduce water usage.
- Tankless water heaters means no tanks — water is heated only when needed which reduces energy costs.
- 4.25 KW solar array (grid-tied/net-metered) uses the sun to generate energy for the buildings.
- Building Information Management (BIM) allows the organization to analyze and reconfigure the building DNA as it evolves. BIM provides feedback to increase the efficiencies to make their buildings ever more affordable and green.
The typical HERS (Home Energy Rating System) of a home is 100. The typical Make it Right home has a HERS rating of 15-20, or an 80% reduction in energy use over the typical. For $150/SF, including solar panels (of which a portion receives a government tax goodies), this is a remarkable feat.