Launch Slideshow

Safe Houses

8 architecture teams used a kit of parts to design sustainable, safe post-disaster housing.

Safe Houses

8 architecture teams used a kit of parts to design sustainable, safe post-disaster housing.

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    Judith Kinnard With Tiffany Lin
    The SunShower SSIP House “uses its roof surfaces to seemingly opposing roles--shielding the occupants from the elements while collecting energy, heat, and water,” the architects say. The two-part roof comprises a large porch roof, tilted to maximize efficiency for solar collection, and a low-slope roof that shelters the house while directing water to a courtyard. Sliding SIP panels open up to extend living space to the outdoors. Windows and doors are positioned for optimal ventilation; free-form apertures in the porch panels provide additional light and breezes.

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    Judith Kinnard With Tiffany Lin
    Sliding polycarbonate panels expand the SunShower house's centrally located living room to the rear covered courtyard. Sliding SIPs panels on the opposite side of the room open for cross-ventilation. 

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    Ammar Eloueini
    The R-House puts a new twist on the traditional shotgun style, slicing the pitched-roof home into sections that are offset horizontally or vertically, transforming the “row of rooms” feel into a dynamic space with a subtle circulation pattern and new views/access to the outdoors. This flexible design also allows for easy expansion through stacking and stretching.

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    Bild Design
    The design features a folded roof plane for optimal solar and water collection. The Scheme E design can be mirrored north and south or east and west depending on the site. The mechanical zone is situated on the upper level, under solar panels and off the ground for easier maintenance. An upper-level terrace, over the lower-level deck, can be made into a roof garden or later enclosed for another room. Shading panels shield the front and rear.

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    Billes Partners
    French for “Flow,” the Flux House features simple forms, a compact shape, and open planning that allow for accommodation in various climates and cultures. The roof is optimized for water harvesting and alternative energy systems, while overhangs provide shading. Sliding SIP panels with removable or sliding screen panels allow for ventilation. The house is configured in two components--living spaces and sleeping spaces, which can be stacked or placed adjacent to a central outdoor living area, depending on conditions. Metal panel architecture and cable railings contrast with the softness of wood decking.

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    Mathes Brierre
    This home is created with three distinct modules that can be shifted into six different building geometries for flexibility of orientation and differentiation in a neighborhood setting; the roof can be rotated to face south. Loft-level window placement is guided by the tree canopy and provided in full-size templates with the kit; the operable loft windows provide a chimney effect for ventilation. A large roof overhang shades large windows, while there is minimal glazing on the other three facades.

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    MetroStudio
    This unit’s gable roof design provides equal solar exposure on both sides to accommodate optimized PV installation without specialized cutting for various orientations, while two front façade options provide flexibility with no change required to the primary design. A flexible, open floor plan allows the space to be used for short-term shelter as well as long-term housing. It includes overhangs to protect outdoor spaces and centrally located HVAC to reduce duct lengths and improve efficiency.

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    Trapolin-Peer
    Designed for an urban area, this unit has a long and narrow footprint made up of three modular boxes, two equal-sized modules on each end with living and sleeping areas, plus a central bridge module containing circulation and accessory spaces. Living and sleeping spaces are elevated, with a split-level design that keeps them close yet private. The elevated design improves privacy and protects living spaces from flooding, while also providing a space for vehicle storage underneath. The house’s orientation takes advantage of the Caribbean’s north winds and sunlight while blocking southern sun and heat; an open central staircase helps move breezes through.

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    Wisznia Architecture
    Inspired by New Orleans shotgun houses, this duplex (consisting of two kits) is designed for deep and narrow lots that encourage dense, walkable neighborhoods. The Origami Houses boast an overhanging roof in the front and rear for shading while still letting in natural light; steel cable trellises provide additional shading and privacy. Operable windows on upper parts of the second floor combine with an open first-floor plan to aid in ventilation.

As too many recent events have proven, the perils of a natural disaster don’t end when the wind dies down or the ground stops shaking. The journey to recovery, particularly in developing regions, is typically long, trying, and expensive. To see the scope of the problem of re-housing residents who’ve lost everything, one need only look to New Orleans, where five years after Hurricane Katrina many residents are still without permanent, safe homes, or to Haiti, where thousands of families have little but tents and tarps for shelter following January’s earthquake.

To address the problem of efficiently, safely, and permanently sheltering newly homeless residents, Reose, a sustainable kit-home manufacturer formed by steel SIPs maker Oceansafe and education consortium The Regen Group, challenged eight New Orleans-based architecture firms to design Emergency Disaster Relief Housing. Using the same set of materials, each team was tasked with creating a kit house that can be erected quickly, withstand extreme weather conditions (including winds from 160 to 225 mph and 8.6-magnitude earthquakes), and meet energy and performance guidelines. The homes also must be completely self-sustaining, able to generate their own electricity and collect water.

“These firms didn’t really need to get involved, but they did it because they believe in disaster relief and they believe in expanding it internationally,” says Oceansafe president Joe Basilice. “That’s why we chose these architects. We knew they would make an impact, not just in the south, but in the world.”

The design teams had 40 days to develop their entries. On July 22, a jury awarded the grand prize to architects and educators Judith Kinnard and Tiffany Lin for their “SunShower SSIP” house. The project “uses its roof surfaces to seemingly opposing roles—shielding the occupants from the elements while collecting energy, heat, and water,” the architects say, describing a two-part system comprising a large porch roof, tilted to maximize efficiency for solar collection, and a low-slope roof that shelters the house while directing water to a courtyard.

The set of materials each architect could incorporate—including Oceansafe steel SIPs panels (which have been used in New Orleans’ Make It Right houses, as well), high-performance windows, low-flow toilets, solar panels, cisterns, etc.—fit into a single shipping container for easy transport to sites. Designs also could include up to 30 cubic feet of additional items.

The buildings, which range from 800 to 1,100 square feet and cost $100 per square foot, must be easily adaptable and can be added onto as needed, including for use as community structures like schools. Though they’re meant to be permanent, the homes can be disassembled and re-transported.

The judges were impressed by all of the entries, says jury member Bill Reed, a founding USGBC board member and principal of the Integrative Design Collaborative and Regenesis, who says the specificity of the contest’s rules encouraged creativity while ensuring solutions were meaningful.

Some  entries focused on the immediacy of relief shelter, recalls Reed, while others looked more to long-term livability; Kinnard and Lin’s design best balanced the needs of both. “It was very readily built, had a great floor plan, had an interesting aesthetic, [could be used in] a wide variety of configurations, and generally answered all the questions,” he says. “As an entry it addressed all the issues on the table in a more elegant way.”

Kinnard and Lin’s project will be erected in New Orleans as a model for visiting governments, including Haiti, Iraq, and Chile, who will tour that home as well as review the other seven designs. Each entity can select a model from the collection that can then be customized for their regions and needs. The house, and subsequent models to be built and shown in other locations, also will allow Basilice to demonstrate the long-term efficiency of the building and the SIPs system through ongoing performance and energy testing.

“These are permanent structures, they’re sustainable structures, and they’re expandable structures,” Basilice says. “All the models are different, yet they come from the same pieces and parts.”

To view renderings of each project, click on the slide show above.

Katy Tomasulo is Deputy Editor for EcoHome.