Shipping container architecture has gained a lot of ground over the past few years for its simplicity, affordability and flexibility. Yes the very same containers that make transatlantic voyages and are carted around hitched to trucks have become a tool for architects to design restaurants, to serve as retail or pavilions and even homes. According to an article by Matt Chaban on the New York Observer, NYC plans to prepare for the next disaster with apartments built out of shipping containers to be used as disaster relief shelters.
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The modular and utilitarian form of the shipping container has a remarkable amount of flexibility. They can outfitted to provide comfortable shelters, either permanent or temporary, and can easily be taken apart or stacked together to build complex structures. For many, the reality of long term disaster housing can’t come soon enough. The New York Times reported that an estimated 400 homes need to be demolished with 500 still awaiting evaluation. Chaban also reports that approximately 20,000 people are estimated to become homeless in New York City alone as a result of natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.
The idea is to be able to deploy these shelters in parking lots of playgrounds and stack them to create apartment blocks, even communities by incorporating retail and community spaces. The prototype is a 480 square foot one bedroom apartment that includes all the amenities that people may be missing or have lost in a disaster. A living room, kitchen and bathroom all fit within the quaint space and are provided with adequate light and ventilation, independent septic systems and the option of dependent or independent power generation.
The balance of cost and comfort are also mediated by the need to make this housing option a temporary convenience but not a permanent solution. Though NYC is pushing this concept, the hope is that FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers get on board to help cover the costs and make this amenity deployable through the country.
A 160-unit prototype is in the works to test the structural and community aspects of the project. NYC’s Office of Emergency Management has been planning this since before Sandy and hopes to have the prototype ready by late 2013. The value of this program, notes Chaban, is that it strives to rebuild community as it provides emergency relief. It keeps people in their communities among their neighbors and inspires the rebuilding process to begin.