In a brilliant example of material reuse I-Beam has created a sustainable emergency shelter built completely out of shipping pallets. Originally designed as temporary housing for refugees of the Baltic War in the nineties, the affordable and robust shelter allows families to reestablish a homestead. Pallets are ubiquitous and uniform in size, so they make ideal building blocks after tragedies like the recent floods in Pakistan. As supplies come in from throughout the world, the shipping pallets for those supplies can be erected to make walls, ceilings, and floors. By covering these structures in locally-sourced finishing materials it is possible to create a quality shelter that will stand long enough for families to build permanent housing.
I-Beam‘s Pallet House is based on the fact that pallet buildings can be erected quickly and last for years. Each of their experimental homes utilize about 300 pallets to create roughly 1200 square feet of living space. The prototype buildings use a contemporary polycarbonate fill, but the designers foresee local materials being used to finish the building — straw for insulation, waddle and daub (mud and branches) for an outside finish. Many other local materials can create infill as well. If available, foam infill and plywood, corrugated steel, stucco or tiles could skin the exterior.