URBANbuild is a design/build program where teams of students design and construct prototypical structures for New Orleans’ neighborhoods. URBANbuild partners with a community organization in the development of these homes. Partners have included Make It Right, Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans, Inc., Harmony Neighborhood Development, and Bethlehem Lutheran Church.


The program is an educational collaboration of individuals, organizations, and businesses committed to revitalizing New Orleans’ rich cultural and architectural heritage. Neighborhoods are strengthened by the rebuilding of homes, allied professionals and educators come together for a common cause, and students develop as designers with a deep understanding and commitment to the urban environment.


In 2009, URBANbuild Prototype 4 received LEED Silver certification from the United States Green Building Council. The USGBC awards Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification to buildings with improved performance in energy savings and indoor environmental quality, and CO2 emissions reduction.


In 2010, URBANbuild was invited to collaborate with Brad Pitt’s Make It Right program to develop a residential duplex strategy for the devastated 9th Ward neighborhood. Students completed the design and construction of their prototype in conjunction with local architecture firms BILD Design and John Williams Architects.


In 2021 during the construction of UB16 students formed a rapport with the neighboring Bethlehem Lutheran Church (BLC), a local church with a focus on community outreach. Conversations revealed a common interest in equitable community investment in Central City, resulting in more formal partnership to achieve this mission. This collaboration was set to realize a shared vision of a multi-family ADA housing project with a multi-year phasing strategy coordinated with the church site across the street.


Many URBANbuild projects received recognition from the American Institute of Architects. The URBANbuild 3 residence was awarded an AIA New Orleans Honor Award in 2009. URBANbuild residences 4 and 7 were awarded AIA New Orleans Merit Awards in 2010 and 2013, respectively. The URBANbuild 8 Market Pods received an AIA New Orleans Honor Award in 2014. In 2016, URBANbuild residence 10 was recognized with an AIA New Orleans Honorable Mention. In 2018 URBANbuild residence 12 received an AIA New Orleans Design Award. In 2020 URBANbuild 14 received two awards from AIA New Orleans, the people’s choice award in addition to an honorable mention for residential design. In 2023 URBANbuild 18 received the AIA New Orleans people’s choice award.


In the summer of 2005, a small group of students and faculty conceived a design/build program to address the deteriorating conditions in many neighborhoods of urban New Orleans and to provide students with the opportunity to work collectively on the design, development, and construction of affordable housing prototypes. The goal was to provide struggling neighborhoods with a sense of progress and value, and to provide students with an opportunity to work with the community.

In August of 2005, New Orleans was struck by a catastrophic storm, Hurricane Katrina. The city was left 80 percent damaged with the population immediately reduced by one third. Occupants of the city’s most underprivileged areas struggled to return with limited community, economic or social foundations in place. Rebuilding became a critical task. Suddenly, URBANbuild was challenged with explicitly addressing the imminent threat of water and the changing social demographics of a city struggling to survive.


URBANbuild evolved as a post-Katrina program that addresses and investigates pre-Katrina problems. It relies on a comprehensive understanding of New Orleans as a city in a constant process of reconsidering and defining itself. The program challenges designers to both respect and question the architectural history of New Orleans and possibly redefine a contemporary vernacular. URBANbuild is a program of optimism and investment.

In recent years, the program faced new challenges from positive economic growth in the city. Completed URBANbuild projects, along with investments from various other nonprofit and private entities, have helped increase the value of property in Central City, the neighborhood in which many URBANbuild projects have been realized.


URBANbuild Creators

Doug Harmon, Ila Berman, Reed Kroloff,  Elizabeth Gamard, Sam Richards, Byron Mouton, Emilie Taylor Welty (in collaboration with her classmates – class of 2006)

Special recognition is given to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the grant funding awarded in support of the program’s establishment following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Those grant requirements were fulfilled through the efforts of:

  • Ila Berman, Principal Investigator, Former Co-Director
  • Byron Mouton, Present Director
  • Sam Richards, Former Co-Director of Construction
  • Reed Kroloff, Former Dean
  • Alan Lewis, Former Studio Instructor
  • Mona El Khafif, Former Studio Instructor
  • Scott Bernhard, Studio Instructor
  • Coleman Coker, Studio Instructor
  • Emilie Taylor Welty, Former Project Manager


URBANbuild students, Emilie Taylor Welty, Will Crocker, Dave Armentor, Jeff Johnston, Byron Mouton, Sara Allen Harper, Hugh Jackson

Website Creation

Julie Charvat, Matt Fox, Meaghan Hartney, Byron Mouton, Mary Johns, Bhumika Shirole, Sara Allen Harper, Hugh Jackson


  • Albert Small, Jr.
  • American Bar Association
  • Andy Byrnes, The Construction Zone
  • Harmony Neighborhood Development
  • Kilgust Family
  • Len Reggio
  • Bethlehem Lutheran Church
  • Michael Lacey
  • Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans, Inc.
  • Raymond Wooldridge Foundation
  • Robert and Michelle Diener Foundation
  • Roloson Foundation
  • The State of Qatar
  • Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design (formerly Tulane City Center)
  • Tulane School of Architecture
  • US Department of Housing and Urban Development