The Greenbuild LivingHome being constructed on the floor of this year’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in New Orleans is a first-of-its-kind demonstration home, not only because of its extreme performance goals but also for the team that converged to develop them. Some of the country’s top sustainability experts guided the home’s design and construction to meet LEED v4 Platinum and Energy Star v3 standards and to showcase Cradle to Cradle certified products and strategies modeled on the WELL Building Standard. Driving the project is modular home innovator LivingHomes, and project partner Make It Right advised the team on details and products that meet its own requirements for the harsh environment of New Orleans

Project leaders Hanley Wood (BUILDER’s parent company) and builder/designer LivingHomes enlisted talent from Steven Winter Associates, InSpirit, Spruce Interiors, the USGBC, and title sponsor Propane Education & Research Council to integrate sustainable design, modular construction, energy and water efficiency, health, and resilience into the versatile home. After its stint at Greenbuild, the house will join Make It Right’s community of LEED Platinum homes in the city’s Lower 9th Ward. (The affordable housing nonprofit is the recipient of the 2014 Hanley Award for Community Service in Sustainability.)

Santa Monica, Calif.–based LivingHomes worked with Make It Right to learn how to safeguard the home against the challenges of the local climate. With seven years of experience building high-performance homes in the Crescent City, Make It Right has learned what works—and what doesn’t—in this hurricane-prone area. Its project managers have amassed detailed information about appropriate design and construction methods for their homes—with a laser focus on building science. Amy Sims, LivingHomes’ director of design, tapped Make It Right’s knowledge base and the collaboration yielded best practices for building a resilient home on a budget. 

Factory Engineered to Go the Distance

New Orleans is more prepared for the effects of a major hurricane than in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck. Since that catastrophic storm, levees and floodwalls have been overhauled and strengthened, greatly reducing the risk of flooding. Still, memories of the storm linger for the residents who witnessed it and shape much of Make It Right’s approach to building in the city.

The Greenbuild LivingHome’s new residents will sleep easier knowing their house is as resilient as possible. Several important strategies ensure its durability and guarantee it will withstand winds up to 140 mph, says Amy Sims, design director for LivingHomes. These include Storm Catcher hurricane screens for the windows, metal roofing and cladding from Metal Sales, and a 5-foot-high raised foundation—2 feet higher than city and FEMA codes require.

Sims also speced bathtubs in each of the home’s two bathrooms—something LivingHomes doesn’t normally do—because they are important during a disaster for use as holding tubs for drinkable water. 

“When a storm warning is announced, the first thing New Orleans residents do is fill up their bathtubs,” she says. 

Because the home will be transported from Austin, Texas, each of its three modules are engineered to withstand wind shear and vibrations similar to small earthquakes. 

“When a modular home is completed, it is often far structurally stronger than a typical site-built home,” says LivingHomes’ CEO Steve Glenn. 

“We realized early on that with a few changes we could meet Make It Right’s criteria and install the home for one of their clients when it’s finished at the show,” says LivingHomes CEO Steve Glenn. “This is going to be a new model for us, optimized to their needs.”

LivingHomes’ designers took every step possible to protect the 1,450-square-foot home from moisture. To help control the area’s notoriously rainy, humid weather, Sims speced Metal Sales standing seam pitched roofs with 2-foot overhangs and covered porches that direct water away from the one-story house. DuPont Tyvek’s DrainWrap housewrap and flashing system, Andersen windows, Jeld-Wen doors, and James Hardie horizontal lap siding, along with areas protected by Metal Sales exterior cladding, beef up the home’s ability to combat the elements. (Click here for more products from the home.)

Inside, the battle against moisture continues with Panasonic bathroom ventilation fans, CertainTeed’s VOC-absorbing gypsum board with anti-mildew properties, and a Unico high-velocity, high-efficiency HVAC system. The emphasis on healthy indoor air is a requirement for projects by both LivingHomes and Make It Right, and homeowners greatly benefit from it. “We have many homeowners reporting that their allergies or asthma symptoms have decreased or disappeared after moving into our homes,” says Tom Darden, Make It Right’s executive director.

Much of the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home will be constructed indoors at Palm Harbor Homes’ factory in Austin, Texas, where workers will frame, insulate, and finish the home before it ships to New Orleans. Thanks to the tight building shell and 4.2 kW PV system, the home’s electricity bills will be affordably low—something that’s crucial for Make It Right clients, Darden says. A recent study found that the nonprofit’s New Orleans homes save owners an average of $130 a month. “That means they have more money to save or spend on fresh food, health care, or ballet lessons for their kids,” he says. “Nothing makes us happier than to see these homes working on behalf of the families we serve.”

Greenbuild LivingHome Project Team and Products


Hanley Wood | LivingHomes | Make It Right Foundation | Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute


InSpirit Sustainable Interiors | International WELL Building Institute | Palm Harbor Homes | Spruce Interiors + Design Studio | Steven Winter & Associates | USGBC


Propane Education + Research Council propane supplies


Advanta Cabinets kitchen cabinets
Andersen Corp. windows and patio doors
Benjamin Moore paints and coatings
CertainTeed insulation, drywall, tile backer
Cosentino* countertops
DuPont Tyvek housewrap and flashings
Electrolux/Frigidaire appliances
Huber Engineered Wood subflooring 
Jeld-Wen interior doors, entry door
Kohler plumbing fixtures
Kohler Generators backup power system
MechoSystems* window coverings
Metal Sales roofing and cladding
Palm Harbor Homes modular factory construction
Panasonic bathroom ventilation
Rinnai tankless water heater/heat system booster
Roseburg framing and sheathing materials
Shaw Floors* wood floors, tile entry floor
SolarCity photovoltaic system and components
Spruce Interiors + Design Studio interior design services and furnishings
The Unico System heat pump and high-velocity air system


Accoya* porch floors
Big Ass Fans ceiling fans 
Cooper Lighting downlight fixtures 
Modern Forms, a WAC Lighting Company exterior light fixtures 
Mosa Tile* bathroom flooring and wall tile
Nest thermostat 
Norandex supplier of James Hardie fiber cement siding
Storm Catcher window and door protective coverings
YellaWood pressure-treated lumber

*Cradle to Cradle certified product