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Brad Pitt honored for humanitarian work in New Orleans

 Actor Brad Pitt speaks during a panel discussion about rebuilding New Orleans, at the Clinton Global Initiative, in New York, September 24, 2009. About 1,200 participants including heads of state, business leaders, humanitarians and celebrities will attend the fifth annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) which started on Tuesday. REUTERS/Chip East - Reuters
Actor Brad Pitt speaks during a panel discussion about rebuilding New Orleans, at the Clinton Global Initiative, in New York, September 24, 2009. About 1,200 participants including heads of state, business leaders, humanitarians and celebrities will attend the fifth annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) which started on Tuesday. REUTERS/Chip East
— image credit: Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actor Brad Pitt was honored on Thursday for his humanitarian work in helping rebuild hurricane-ravaged New Orleans at former U.S. President Bill Clinton's philanthropic summit, the Clinton Global Initiative.

Pitt was presented with a plaque from the U.S. Green Building Council which said the actor and his foundation "Make It Right" had created the "largest and greenest single-family community in the world."

"'Make It Right' has exceeded my expectations," said Pitt who set up the foundation in 2007.

"Our criteria from the beginning were at odds, to say the least. We demanded that these homes be sustainable, that they have aesthetic qualities ... that they be storm resilient and take safety in mind of the families who live there and that they would be affordable."

"Make It Right" has created 13 homes in the New Orleans area the 9th Ward, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Each house is unique and has eco-friendly features like green roofs, which can cut heating and cooling costs dramatically.

Pitt said the biggest challenge was keeping homes affordable.

He said the average utility bill for the homes he is building is $35 a month but the goal is to bring them down to zero.

"If we had not been so blissfully naive to the potential, we would not be experiencing what we are seeing today and that is the unquantifiable joy of families returning home to the 9th Ward and returning home to something that was better than before," said Pitt.

Thousands of people lost their homes in the 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of New Orleans, killing 1,500 people and causing more than $80 billion of damage.

The majority of that population has not yet returned because re-construction efforts have been slow.

Pitt said much still needs to be done in New Orleans but the model he created could be applied to communities around the world.

"What the team has done here is not so exceptional. All we did was put the right people together and answer the problems as they came along and that is why we're here today," he said.

Pitt's goal is to have 150 green homes up and ready in New Orleans by next year.

(Reporting by Reuters Television)

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