Gallery: PREFAB FRIDAY: Reaction Housing Emergency Shelters


Emergency shelters have rightly become a fad in the design world. In the aftermath of the hurricanes and other natural disasters in the last few years, it became clear we had a ways to go in providing safe and sturdy emergency shelters for victims. We’ve covered Paul Villinski’s Emergency Response Studio— a traveling artist studio that became a model for emergency shelters. And now, Michael Daniel, a Senior Designer at Frog Design’s Austin Studio, has designed, Reaction Housing, a line of dependable shelters that can be quickly and easily deployed and built– ready in time for the emergency.

The housing system was created to facilitate rapid deployment, so that transportation to the emergency site, off-loading, and set-up can all to happen within a matter of hours. Each shelter is a complete unit with infrastructure, interior furnishings, and wired for utilities. The shelters would be flat-packed and stored at a central storage facility, ready to be sent off at a moment’s notice. The units can be transported via truck, rail, water and even air. Once the shelters arrive, a team of 4 people can unload it, set one into position and set it up in less than two minutes without tools or machinery.

The units themselves are targeted to cost less than $5,000 each, and are meant to be reusable and can adapt to the disaster at hand. Compare that to the FEMA trailers in 2005, which on average cost $65,000 and were never used again. Units can be combined together to form individual deployments that provide more living space for a family, or each unit can be used as an independent shelter for up to 4 adults. Configuration of the disaster shelters depends on the needs of the victims, number of people needing shelter and the amenities available at the rescue location.

In the case of a very large disaster that creates need for thousands of shelters, units can be set up in close proximity of an existing facility like a sports arena or convention center. Deployment teams would set the units up in zones, like little cities, and then group them into semicircle to provide a private gathering space. This “soft deployment” set up utilizes the existing facility for power, sanitation and food services, while the shelters provide a space for living and sleeping. Alternatively, a “hard deployment” entails each unit operating independently, powered by a generator. Shelters would then, have their own climate control system, sanitation, a small kitchen, as well as areas for sleeping and living.

While the units look like barracks and aesthetically aren’t much to look at, their practicality is clear in the ease of transportation, modest price, adaptability to the conditions, and re-usability. We would like to see these units be a bit more self-sufficient in terms of power and water though. The units could definitely handle a solar panel or two on top, and maybe even rainwater catchment device and a culinary water storage tank. Overall though, we do really like this housing system as a viable solution to disaster relief shelters.

+ Reaction Housing

+ Frog Design


or your inhabitat account below

1 Comment

  1. christolles November 29, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    I don’t want to be a troll here, but this stinks of Accordion reCover:

    1. $5000 and reusable? Impossible.

    2. Props for building a full-size prototype, but the lack of technical specifications is worrying. How long is this supposed to last? What is it specifically made of? How does it fit into a shipping container? Can it only be loaded/unloaded from a truck one-at-a-time? Where does this “special umbilical line” come from?

    3. 1000 lbs of water in the floor isn’t helpful unless your slick click-in shell attachment points can handle 1000 lbs of force – extremely unlikely. The weakest link in the chain, etc.

    4. Ventilation? None.

    5. The idea of lockable emergency shelters is poorly considered and a security nightmare.

    Stuff like this is well and good for a student portfolio, but don’t try to pass it off as a real product. Besting FEMA a good emergency shelter does not make…

    Maybe the designer could speak up in the comments? A perhaps a little earlier in the game and without the personal insults like the reCover guy?

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home