PREFAB FRIDAY: Global Village Shelters

by , 07/07/06

Global Village Shelters, Architecture for Humanity, Ferrara Designs, Prefab Friday, Grenada, Disaster Relief, Design Like You Give a Damn,

We know you like Prefab Fridays, but many of you have been writing in recently to complain about the high costs of many of the prefabs we’ve featured lately. The burgeoning crop of chic modernist prefabs has been a double-edged sword. On one hand, it has helped to overcome the trailer-park stigma and proven that prefab housing can be stylish and well-designed (something we’ve known all along). At the same time, however, it has led to the growing association of prefab housing with vacation-home luxury that only the well-heeled can afford. On that note, we’d like to talk about truly low-cost prefabrication today — $500 prefab — the kind of housing that can shelter people suffering dire poverty or post-disaster homelessness. (We are feeling inspired by our recent forays into Design Like You Give A Damn).

A virtual origami house, the Global Village Shelter is made with large sheets of fold-up corrugated laminated cardboard, flat-packed in three easily shippable parts. The prejointed walls simply have to be unfolded, and two roof pieces connected and placed on top. It’s light and simple enough to be constructed by two people in less than an hour. And at $550 bucks a pop, this is truly affordable prefab. Global Village Shelters have been used all over the world in disaster relief: from Grenada to Afghanistan, Pakistan to the US – precisely because they are so quick, easy and cheap. I must say that for cardboard disaster relief housing, they are pretty cute as well. Who among us can resist the clean, simple white cube?

$550 from Global Village Shelters

While the Global Village Shelter is theoretically sound and watertight enough to provide a secure, comfortable dwelling for several years, these are not meant to be permanent housing. In fact the designer, Mia Ferrara, specifically says the shelter was designed to have a limited shelf-life: “Structures meant to be temporary can often remain in use for years after a disaster, leading to problems associated with poverty. The temporary nature of the Global Village Shelter does not allow for this.”

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  1. Dick March 4, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Yes, what do you have, Barry??

  2. Barry John Davis January 6, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    The shelter looks interesting but we are to launch in Feb a shelter for US$200 which will offer a unique format that is flat packed.

    We would love to tell you more and we have other products such a beds etc.

    New company, innovative products

  3. andrew cauthen December 16, 2007 at 6:36 am

    we need well designed completely green homes for people in america now, that are monetarily free. They could be pieced together by volunteers like myself. I am sure there are plenty of people out there who would help as well in exchange for a house and a place to put it themselves. I need a house too that won’t kill me with indoor pollution or the planet with non-renewable power sources (I don’t want to contribute to more global warming), or deep pockets because we’d have to be wage slaves in debt all our lives to have one. Being in debt and having to work all the time to survive makes bad citizens of earth. It’s irresponsible. Having to work all the time keeps people physically, mentally, emotionally un-equipped for reality. All people everywhere deserve the best the planet has to offer. If you have a viable project to offer that is fairly inclusive of the whole, I’m here for it. Lets do what works for all.

  4. Werner Gronwald April 16, 2007 at 6:00 am

    Dear Sirs,

    I am an architect who works since years in the post desaster business. Please give me resources of those cardboard houses. I may have a need for that in the near future. In the moment I am the construction coordinator for a big international relief organization in Sri Lanka.

    Kind regards, Werner Gronwald

  5. adrian January 1, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    How or who do I call to purchase these?

  6. Joe July 12, 2006 at 6:26 am

    this is rad, …innovative. I’m embarrased to admit that I was reading about Brad Pitt in July 10 Newsweek issue, but anyways, it connects to this subject,,it was mentioning his project with Global Green USA to sponsor an architecture competition to create ecofriendly, multifamily housing in New Orleans, this all is really positive and realistic, yeah Jill

  7. Travelscoop July 10, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    A couple of these parked up by the beach for the summer, that’d do me. Sounds better than a tent if you intend to stay in one spot for a while. Could be a whole new thing: cardboarding.

  8. Jaggae July 10, 2006 at 1:58 am

    This is truly ingenious. I always get saddened by reports of tents needed in disaster-stricken shelter…knowing it’ll collapse under bad weather…but this is more of a house that can withstand years while survivors rebuild their homes and their lives. So simple, yet so inspiring! But at $550…i think the cost can still go down…

  9. Inhabitat » Blog ... July 7, 2006 at 5:53 pm

    […] Serendipitously, while Jill was researching and writing up the Global Village Shelters back home in NY, unbeknownst to her, I was in the midst of constructing two of these shelters with Architecture For Humanity’s Cameron Sinclair, at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Here’s a bit more about my first-hand experience with the lightweight, portable dwellings… […]

  10. Andreas Paulsen July 7, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    It’s finally getting through to people/designers “shelter”. Shelter is the first step. We need more types of, and the ability to build, erect, and live, anywhere. Solve the shelter problem, then continue….


  11. Jill July 7, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    “can we get some prefab that would appeal (IE lower cost for similar design) to the masses?”

    Hi Willofgod-

    I’m not really sure I understand this comment above. We cover middle-class prefab all the time: check out our recent posts on Rocio Romero, WeeHouse, and Modern Cabana.

    The Global Village Shelter is disaster relief housing. It costs $550. It doesn’t really get much cheaper than that.

  12. Willofgod July 7, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    I like this design, but it sure does seem that prefab is always one or the other. Trailer park or posh. The bulk of housing in this country is middle class…. can we get some prefab that would appeal (IE lower cost for similar design) to the masses?

  13. Jennifer July 7, 2006 at 6:21 am

    Wow – very cool! I just found your site tonight – I will be back for more.

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