PHOTOS: Emergency Response Studio Turns FEMA Trailer Into Traveling Eco Home

by , 05/09/11

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We wrote about the Emergency Response Studio back in ’08, but since then, the solar-powered mobile artist’s studio has gotten a fresh green paint job that really reflects its purpose. Artist Paul Villinski built the trailer as an off-the-grid live/work space designed for artists to be able to implant themselves and respond actively and creatively in post-disaster settings. Villinski came up with the concept right after Hurricane Katrina and hoped that the trailer and what it stands for would become “a symbol of transformation and possibility for the communities of the Gulf Coast” – a goal that he decidedly accomplished.

While you may not be able to tell (the trailer looked really “new”, even when we looked at it up close), the mobile studio was made from an old 30-foot Gulfstream Cavalier. Villinski gutted the trailer and took out all of the elements that might off-gas formaldehyde, added some pretty nifty clean energy improvements and made it totally self-sustaining. A 1.6 kilowatt photo-voltaic solar system featuring an array of nine large solar panels – the largest this writer has seen from so up close – powers the entire trailer with extra power coming from a micro-wind turbine. One of the most interesting parts of the studio is that part of the floor is comprised of a clear Lucite section that reveals the 8 large batteries that store the power right under your feet.

Although the high-tech elements of the trailer are certainly worth talking about, it seemed like most of the passersby and lookersinto were most taken by its equally impressive aesthetics. In fact, many people were straight-up loitering and sunning themselves on the roomy deck, which is actually a section of the side wall that lowers down on legs – so smart! And that isn’t the only way an artist living in the studio could get some sun. There’s also and amazing ten-foot, geodesic skylight in the living room area and almost the entire wall of the shop and kitchen area has been replaced by clear polycarbonate sheathing, flooding it with natural light. You could see a tinge of envy on many of the New Yorkers (including myself) passing through this spacious, light-filled studio. In fact, we bet if you set a few of these up on the East River and charged $1500 a month for them, the waiting list would be a mile long.

And if the off-grid clean energy capabilities and lovely interior aren’t enough for you, you might be interested to know that the studio was also built using recycled denim insulation, zero-VOC paints, bamboo cabinetry, compact fluorescent lighting, reclaimed wood and floor tiles made from linseed oil.

+ Emergency Response Studio
+ Inhabitat’s Festival of Ideas coverage

Photographs by Yuka Yoneda for Inhabitat NYC