NEW ORLEANS—After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Global Green USA, had a vision for rebuilding this city green. His goals are to help rebuild 10,000 sustainable homes, to help rebuild schools, and to adopt a neighborhood.

“The Holy Cross Project represents that,” he says. “We wanted to create a sustainable, affordable community in the Lower Ninth Ward.”

Global Green teamed with actor/ activist Brad Pitt to hold a competition in 2006 in search of the best design for a zero-energy affordable housing development in the Holy Cross neighborhood. New York-based Workshop/APD had the winning design.

With support from The Home Depot Foundation, the lead funding partner on the project, and the Gulf Coast Housing Partnership as co-developer, the team started on making the project a reality.

Once completed, the Holy Cross Project will comprise five single-family homes, a community center/sustainable design and climate action center, and an 18-unit apartment building, with the goal of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum standards.

The single-family homes will be the first phase of the project to be completed and are expected to go on the market by September for displaced residents of the Holy Cross neighborhood and Lower Ninth Ward. The two-bedroom homes that are just more than 1,000 square feet will sell for an average price of $175,000, with Global Green providing a soft second mortgage financing option to reduce the equivalent price to $150,000 or lower.

According to Petersen, the homes will be 75 percent more energy efficient than the average home in New Orleans. They also feature energy-efficient windows, highly efficient HVAC systems, Energy Star lighting and appliances, cross ventilation, water-efficient plumbing features, and solar panels on the roofs.

Home energy monitoring systems are also included so residents can monitor their electricity and water usage. Petersen estimates that residents will save on average between $1,200 and $2,400 a year on utilities. In fact, according to Global Green, if 50,000 of the homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina were rebuilt to the standards applied to the Holy Cross Project, New Orleans' residents would save $38 million to $56 million every year, and more than half a million tons of carbon dioxide would be eliminated.

Initially some of the project's neighbors were uncertain about the modern design, says Petersen. But the development team worked hard to incorporate all of their feedback. “[The neighbors] have been really involved every step of the way,” he says.

The team is expected to break ground on the community center at the end of August. However, the affordable multifamily component has been put on hold.

Petersen says the project received 4 percent low-income housing tax credits from the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency but is still waiting for the bond issuance from the state Bond Commission.

Petersen says the Holy Cross Project will help to create a more resilient and stronger community as well as a model of how developers should be building neighborhoods across the nation. “It improves the lives of those in need and leads the way in fighting global warming.”