Each year natural disasters and civil unrest leave hundreds of thousands of people homeless throughout the world. Many of these crises occur in developing nations where traditional building materials are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive, and where the focus is often on staying alive, not maintenance of a home. The ECO:Shield system from Innovative Composites International Inc. (ICI) may present a welcome solution. The earthquake and hurricane resistant houses use recyclable materials and according to ICI, are cheaper than both conventional and other modular constructions. They are energy efficient and durable – resisting moisture, insects, rot and mould. And they can be constructed quickly using unskilled labor: an 8' x 16' (2.4 x 4.9 meters) ECO:Shield house can be assembled in less than 45 minutes with standard tools.

ICI is part of a consortium bidding to construct housing in Haiti, following the earthquake there a year ago.

Terry Ball, ICI's founding Chief Executive said, "We've developed a bunch of products that take high-strength fibers, we combine them with low-cost plastics and provide structural applications to replace steel, concrete and wood with something that lasts [longer], is stronger, lighter and is completely recyclable."

The housing is based on composite panels. A rubber seal is used to attach the plastic structure to the concrete slab used as the foundation (other foundations can also be used), enabling the house to "float" above the foundation and provide flexibility in high winds or earthquakes.

The panels provide seamless construction, minimizing the risk of air leaks, and provide an insulation level of R7.6-R17.

An open interior floor plan negates the need for load-bearing walls, and any interior walls that are used can be easily moved to customize the floor plan.

The ability to use unskilled labor allows local populations to take ownership of building their own homes and other facilities such as schools, offices and hospitals.

And as quickly as the ECO:Shield goes up it can be easily disassembled and transported if it is to be moved to another disaster zone. The 8 x 16-foot house can be folded to a height of just 17-inches (43 cm).

ECO:Shield is also suitable for permanent housing in areas where there is low affordability for home ownership. Because of the durability of the materials used, ICI promises decades of longevity.

ICI also offers the ECO:Scape, a larger scale housing solution which enables two-storey constructions but can also be assembled by unskilled labor.

InnoVida also offer a composite panel emergency housing system that is being used to help rebuilding efforts in Haiti following the tragic earthquake of almost exactly one year ago which killed an estimated 230,000 people and left 1,000,000 homeless.

Via Financial Post