Pitt checks out green project in New Orleans


NEW ORLEANS -- Brad Pitt toured the construction site of a house in the city's Lower Ninth Ward that is based on the winning design in a competition he launched to help the area recover from Hurricane Katrina.

Wearing khaki pants, a T-shirt and a hard hat, Pitt walked through the house Tuesday, pointing out its many "green" features, including blue walls treated with a nontoxic repellant for mold and termites.

"There's light coming in from all sides and a lot of ventilation," said Pitt, standing in what will be the living room. "A lot of thought has gone into this house."

The three-bedroom, single-family home is the first of five slated for the Holy Cross section of the Lower Ninth Ward based on the winning design in a competition launched in 2006 by Pitt and the environmental organization Global Green USA.

The winning design, submitted by Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen of Workshop APD in New York, includes energy-saving appliances, a cistern, toilets designed for water conservation, soy-based insulation, paperless drywall, solar panels and a roof on the second-story deck designed to help insulate the house and channel water to the cistern.

The house also is designed to relieve some of the burden of bills for low-income families, the predominant residents of the Lower Ninth Ward before Katrina. Pitt said electric bills will be cut by 75%; water use, by half.

Pitt and his partner, Angelina Jolie, purchased an early-1830s masonry mansion in the city's French Quarter for $3.5 million in January.

"There's so much of this culture here that is unlike any other city that we have," he said. "It's a feeling that I can't quite explain, but I love being a part of it."

He also expressed disappointment at the slow pace of recovery in much of the city.

Developers broke ground on the home in May and should be finished in the next few months. It will serve as a model home and visitor center while other houses are constructed. Plans also call for an 18-unit apartment complex and community center.

Global Green plans to sell the homes, giving preference to former residents of the neighborhood.