When natural disasters strike, thousands of people are often left homeless. Emergency shelters are always in need, and new innovations have recently allowed for many new creations, such as the Biosphere and Exo-Units.
Recently, the idea of “cargotecture” has been taking off. “Cargotecture” takes shipping containers, refurbishes them, and turns them into sustainable homes. A new proposal using this type of construction is the proposal for the Hive-Inn hotel, created by a Hong-Kong based company. The design takes refurbished shipping containers and stacks them like Jenga-blocks in order to create a stable building. While there have been some criticisms of the design, the company claims that their idea can also be applied to create emergency housing.
The general idea of using refurbished shipping containers for housing in humanitarian disasters seems to make sense. They are easily transported, provide adequate protection, and hold multiple people, and would be readily available as other supplies would be shipped in. In fact, a few designs have already been fabricated.
The Clean Hub was a repurposed shipping container used after Hurricane Katrina left thousands of people homeless. It was fitted with a clean water source, electricity, and sanitation facilities. It’s compact build also made it easy to be transported where needed. However, since they were not mass produced, it cost a whopping $15,000 per unit, which hindered its sustainability. If mass production had occurred, costs could have been lowered, and the shelters would have proven to be much more effective.
After Japan’s earthquake and tsunami hit in 2011, the Ex-Container was developed. It was modeled after shipping containers, but looked like a two-story home. They were also equipped with water, electricity, sanitation facilities, and a kitchen. They were also said to be easily moveable. However, they were never actually used in the Japanese response, most likely because of their extravagant cost — upwards of $20,000 — per unit.
While there is a large issue regarding the cost of refurbished shipping containers, they do have potential. Could this be a new innovation with the capability to house the homeless during emergencies?