Inhabitat recently had a chance to check out the prefab, hurricane-resistant, energy-efficient (and very lime-green!) Sunshower SSIP home with our own eyes in New Orleans, Louisiana. Designed by Tulane University Architecture Professor Judith Kinnard and Assistant Professor Tiffany Lin, the home was the winner of the New Orleans Sustainable Design Competition held by Sustainable Building Company REOSE. REOSE work with Steel Structured Insulated Panes (SSIPs), a material more commonly used in commercial cold storage, to construct homes which can withstand winds of at least 160mph. The company challenged eight architects in the New Orleans area to design a home using a set array of building materials, all of which can fit in a shipping container and be purchased for under $100,000. REOSE hopes that these container-held pre-fab houses will provide eco-friendly, weather-resistant emergency housing in areas hard hit by hurricanes while also providing a durable, efficient solution for mass global housing needs.
Situated on a residential street in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans, the innovative two bedroom, two bath, 1,100 square foot model home stands out from the surrounding traditional New Orleans architecture. The main structure of the home loosely resembles a typical New Orleans side hall home – with a continuous hallway through one side of the building and with rooms lined up along one side of it. But the building’s roof slopes downward from each end to meet in the center, allowing for higher ceilings and more sunlight at each end of the home. More importantly, the unique roofline allows rainwater run off to be collected from the center of the home, which is fed into under-house storage, where it is then filtered and ready to be reused to water their edible garden and also feeds into an outdoor shower (don’t worry, there’s an indoor one too).
The bright, lime-green sloped frame surrounding the home supports five Kwh of solar panels, enough for the home to be completely off the grid. The water and energy independence of the home is a huge advantage in disaster zones where basic infrastructure can often take weeks or even months to be reestablished. Additionally, designs for the home show that the frame can also be equipped to support a wind turbine to provide additional power.
The SSIPs keep the eco-friendly interior well insulated, further lowering energy demands for the home. The interior features bamboo flooring, energy star appliances, and — thanks to the unique roof line — a subtly sloped ceiling to provide a distinct feel to each room. Large french windows on each side of the main communal room allow for natural cross ventilation when the weather is appropriate, and lead out to porches on both sides. While the architects initially planned only for a porch on one side, providing a platform for the outdoor shower, plans were amended to suit New Orleans tradition and maintain large outdoor communal space.
REOSE was specific about the home’s location. Lakeview was particularly hard hit by Hurricane Katrina, as a floodwall collapsed at the nearby 17th Street Canal and left parts of the neighborhood under fourteen feet of water. As the neighborhood has recovered and rebuilt, REOSE hopes to showcase the future of sustainable housing.
Indeed, OceanSafe, a sister company of REOSE, began manufacturing SSIP systems for residential usage after their founder, an ophthalmologist named Vincent Basilice returned to his Florida home after Hurricane Andrew, to find that where traditional housing structures had been badly damaged, the cold storage units within local restaurants had been largely unharmed by the Hurricane’s powerful winds. The SSIP design system affixes the panels into runners along a steel frame to form the sides and roof of the house, to create a uniquely wind resistant structure. In Sunshower SSIP we have a eye-catching example of how this technology could be applied to economically and environmentally sustainable emergency housing.