Monday marked the one year anniversary of the South Asian Tsunami, which killed nearly 300,000 people and left many others homeless. In August, we (here in the U.S.) saw first hand how catastrophic events could change our lives and our landscape forever. Compelled to help persons like those who were rendered homeless by Hurricane Katrina, architect Carib Daniel Martin and builder Rob Bragan developed a prototype dwelling to provide disaster-relief housing.
Called HELP, which stands for “Housing Every Last Person,” their prototype will house three people (or six, if it is a double unit.)

With a footprint of only 8 by 12 feet, it not only contains sleeping, kitchen, and bathroom areas, but incorporates a front porch into its architecture, providing a welcoming entrance and encouraging atmosphere for occupants and neighbors alike.

The HELP prototype was designed to be quickly erected and transported where needed. In fact, the model that was built in Martin’s driveway was constructed in a weekend with only the help of a few handy neighbors – at a cost of $8000. The dwelling is also adaptable to varying home sites, so that it can be used without locally provided utilities, if they are unavailable. Utilizing a gravity-fed water system, composting toilet, and solar power, the unit can be completely self-sufficient.

While it is impossible to predict most natural disasters, it is entirely possible to prepare for them. Programs like Architecture for Humanity look for solutions such as the HELP model to employ in communities in need. Unfortunately, getting projects implemented in real-life crisis situations can sometimes take years of cutting through red tape. Hopefully the proliferation of well-designed and constructible prototypes will increase the probability that small projects can indeed make a big difference.

+ Housing Every Last Person

also see: “Emergency Housing Need Sparks Creative Designs” from NPR


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  1. Inhabitat » PREFA... August 17, 2007 at 5:22 am

    […] a year after Hurricane Katrina, we featured architect Carib Daniel Martin’s H.E.L.P. emergency shelter, a modular concept he developed to solve the challenges of widespread and sudden […]

  2. Richie Kessler December 31, 2005 at 3:05 am

    Certainly a noble effort. More realistically though… it would seem that (2) joined 8′ x 12′ units for 2 people would make more sense. One unit would house the Bedroom and Bathroom, while the second would house the Kitchen, Living Room area and closets ? Designed as a self-assembly kit would be ideal. (See: [their ‘Unit One’]) Of course, the spin off potential of such a design is huge. Imagine being able to purchase a small kit home, which you could assemble yourself, for $16K. It can be done. Somebody just has to do it…

  3. Jeff Goacher December 31, 2005 at 1:07 am

    Saw photo in Dwell. Great idea..I’m living in a huge historic hotel and cant wait for the day when I can design and build me a small shelter. It is unatural that we spend an entire livetime paying for shelter.

  4. Anna Varna December 29, 2005 at 7:51 pm

    This idea seems incredible in its higly ergonomic use of space. And the most friendly feature of it is the porch, I think.
    I also wanted to congratulate you on this blog in general, I love it!

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