Pallet-House: Modular Refugee Housing


Emergency shelters should always be an important and prescient subject for designers. However the need for efficient shelters to help house displaced people seems more urgent than ever after the series of natural disasters over the last year and very recently again in Java. The work being taken on by groups such as Architecture For Humanity and Habitat For Humanity is on an unimaginable scale and they need all the help they can get. Various design solutions have been put forward time and again over the years, some with more success than others. Today we learnt of a proposal by I-Beam Design called The Pallet-House, which uses wooden shipping pallet as a modular construction material.New York based designers Azin Valy and Suzan Wines originally developed the concept as transitional housing for the returning refugees of Kosovo. ‘The competition guidelines defined transitional housing as that which bridges the gap between temporary tent shelter and permanent home. They stipulated that the house last about five years, the time it takes a Kosovar family to rebuild a typical stone house.’

There are various important and clever features about this proposal. Not only is the material chosen cheap, about $5 each, but pallets are already used to transport other emergency supplies such as clothing, food and medical supplies. This means the palettes will have a second life after performing their primary function. Secondly the Pallet-House is modular therefore allowing for variation in structure, meaning that not all the shelters will look the same. This is an important feature, since many proposals for emergency housing fail because of people’s resistance to homogenised housing; they would prefer to build their own.

The Pallet-House while quick and easy to build also allows for a gradual evolution from emergency shelter to permanent housing, ‘with the addition of more stable indigenous materials like rubble, stone, earth, mud, plaster and concrete.’ This is also adaptable to the cultural context and personal tastes. As I-Beam say, ‘The size and layout of each home can evolve over time encouraging the reconstruction of family and village clusters to develop naturally as they have for centuries throughout Southern Europe. The Pallet-House adapts easily to almost every climate on Earth.’ On their website you can see I-Beam’s original prototype for Kosovo, a prototype for Sri Lanka and a Palette House workshop With Ball State University in Indiana. Let’s hope that these Pallet-Houses don’t remain in prototype form and that what looks like a great concept does actually function in reality. via: o2 Group :: I-Beam Design