A few years back, young architects Sean Verdecia and Jason Ross put their heads together to come up with a cheap, flexible and mobile emergency housing system that would provide families with dignity and privacy during a natural disaster. The challenge, which was part of a research project for the University of South Florida, led the team to develop a new prefabricated living prototype that “snaps together” in a matter of hours.
“In the summer of 2009, in the heat of disheartening news articles and interviews from Hurricane Katrina survivors and more recently Hurricane Sandy victims, I decided to design a solution that would address the reoccurring problem of disaster relief,” Verdecia told Gizmag. “I requested assistance from a like minded friend of mine, Jason Ross, and we began a research project to design a solution to disaster relief.”
Dubbed AbleNook, the portable prefabricated shelter comes flat packed for efficient and economic transportation. Comprising of a series of interlocking components, the single-room home is designed to be assembled by almost anybody and does not require the use of power tools. And according to Verdecia each unit can be constructed by two people in as little as two hours.
A single AbleNook has an interior space of 64 square feet (6 square meters), however multiple modules can easily be put together to create larger dwellings and separate interior zones. “I love that there are no forced commitments to the size and shape of the AbleNook,” says Verdecia “You can add on or subtract as your lifestyle changes.”
The dwelling’s structural frame is made up from a series of extruded aluminum panels which feature electrical conduits so that the tenants can have easy access to power once the parts are locked into place. The aluminum framing slides together with structural insulated panels, which make up the floors, walls and ceiling. Four individual leg jacks which sit underneath the base of the structure are fully adjustable, allowing the AbleNook to find a home in a range of different environments or on uneven terrain. Furthermore the structure is robust enough to withstand a low level hurricane.
The structure has also been designed with sustainability in mind and features a large arched roof with integrated solar panels for an off-the-grid power supply. “We designed the units on a 4' by 8' module, so when raw materials are delivered to us, there is very little waste produced during fabrication,” explains Verdecia. “The extruded aluminum components are also waste free and any drop pieces can be recycled.”
The design also incorporates simple natural ventilation techniques to avoid the need for air conditioning units, while frosted glass windows allows enough daylight to enter without over heating the interior space. While the current unit does not feature bathroom or kitchen facilities, it does open out onto a protected terrace which could be perfect for a barbecue. The outdoor area also offers inhabitants the chance to enjoy some extra space without feeling trapped indoors.
Having completed a working prototype, the architects are now raising funds through Kickstarter with the hopes of launching the home into the market later this year.
“I plan to work with our backers of AbleNook to make it a widespread reality and to prevent history from repeating itself in natural disaster scenarios,” says Verdecia. “There are many ideas we want to explore which would make AbleNook even more of a nomadic, off-the-grid dwelling.”
Beyond just being used for disaster relief, we think the AbleNook could be a great idea for a backyard office or an affordable eco-retreat. Final prices are yet to be confirmed but the team hopes to price the disaster relief homes lower than the standard FEMA trailers of comparable size (approx. US$35,000) and the smaller residential version is predicted to start from US$16,000.