Blog by EPEA: Make it Right and the importance of material health

By: Hein van Tuijl of EPEA Netherlands


This summer I had the opportunity to visit the Make It Right housing project in the Lower Ninth Ward district of New Orleans and jumped at the chance. The project, that was launched in 2007, gained attention in Dutch (online) media over the years primarily because of Brad Pitt’s role as one of two founding fathers of the Make it Right Foundation. (The other one being Cradle to Cradle co-author William McDonough)

The Make it Right Foundation was launched two years after hurricane Katrina hit large parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. After visiting one of the hardest struck parts of New Orleans, the lower ninth ward, it became clear to Pitt how the city had been unsuccessful in restoring the old neighborhood to a livable state. Not only was reconstruction progressing slowly, many people were still displaced or living under miserable circumstances. Facing a population of thousands of displaced people right after disaster struck, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) moved trailers into the area as temporary homes and shelters for people to live in while the city was being rebuilt. Even though the trailers were meant to house people only up to 18 months, the last one left the city not until 2012 – more than six years after the disaster.[1]
What´s worse, it became apparent soon after the first trailers were occupied, that they were unfit to house people. Materials in the shelters emitted amongst others toxic levels of formaldehyde – a known carcinogen. Many families were exposed daily to these toxic gasses, by absence of a real alternative. They often suffered the immediate effects of formaldehyde uptake such as dizziness, nosebleed and respiratory problems.

 The Make it Right Foundation was started with the simple goal to create safe, healthy and affordable homes for people in need. The houses are inspired by Cradle to Cradle which means amongst others that healthy materials have become a top priority in their realization, thus preventing any negative health effects for their occupants. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z57YiB2pYn8)

Today, more than 100 new homes have been realized in the Lower Ninth Ward alone. The idea is now successfully being implemented on other locations and with different communities in the United States. 

One of the main challenges in the realization of Cradle to Cradle inspired homes is access to affordable high quality materials.[2] Especially because `quality’ in Cradle to Cradle also means ´safe for the user’ or even better ´benefits the user and/or its environment’. This is why so much work in Cradle to Cradle is focused on selecting and developing the right materials.

Working with EPEA on Cradle to Cradle in The Netherlands, it is uplifting to see that many companies are taking this responsibility to look beyond legislation compliancy. They take it upon themselves to develop products and materials that are defined, safe and recyclable.
The newest addition to this growing list of companies is the Dutch company TGM who, since yesterday, can deliver Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM custom made façade solutions!
http://www.tgm.nl/en/hv60/C2C


[2]http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/08/28/the-awful-odyssey-of-femas-hurricane-katrina-trailers/

 Pictures:

1. New Orleans` lower ninth ward after hurricane Katrina hit in 2005: http://bit.ly/1lV4t5l

2. New Orleans` lower ninth ward after hurricane Katrina hit in 2005: http://bit.ly/1lV4t5l

3. Make it Right house with terrace and solar panel rooftop. Pic Hein van Tuijl

4. Make it Right playground with solar panelled entrance. Pic Hein van Tuijl

5. & 6.  Make it Right houses are designed for easy assembly and maintenance, reducing construction and operating costs. Pic Hein van Tuijl

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