The typical home capable of withstanding hurricane force winds isn't especially warm and welcoming, but ShelteR3 (pronounced shelter cubed) gives disaster-proof design a smart new elegance. Wrapped in an ultra-strong shell that deflects debris in big storms, the house belies its rugged functionality with an open, comfortable interior and aesthetically-pleasing cladding. Specifically designed as a demonstration home for tornado-prone cities such as Joplin, Missouri, ShelteR3 is powered with 36 photovoltaic panels that produce more solar energy than the house is expected to consume and ensure self-sufficiency when the grid is defunct. In the event of a natural disaster, the shelter can be shipped in two modules and set up either as a response center or a home that helps ease the long journey to recovery. We stopped by Crowder College and Drury University's submission to the 2015 Solar Decathlon competition - take a look at our gallery of photographs.
What makes the ShelteR3’s skin so formidable is both surprising and ingenious. Instead of using standard 2-by-4 wood studs in 16-inch intervals, the design team used 2-by-6 studs placed in 12-inch intervals. This is then further reinforced with a steel chassis connected by half-inch vertical rods – to anchor the roof and aid in wind resistance. Adding to this is the absence of eaves or overhangs, which are said to be dangerous in high winds since they make it easier to rip off the roof. In their place is a completely flat roof topped with photovoltaic panels. In the aftermath of a disaster, this structure fulfills the most basic requirement – a safe roof overhead – but it does so in a way that is also comforting with a sophisticated but friendly interior.
Inside are all of the amenities expected of a conventional modern home: a fully-equipped kitchen, bathroom and living spaces, along with off-grid heating and lighting. A front porch and rear deck extend the living space during calm days, and carefully-engineered apertures in the walls ensure privacy while still making sure plenty of natural light illuminates the interior. Adding to a sense of security while inside, walls comprised of several layers of polycarbonate shielding prevent debris or projectiles caused by high-strength winds from penetrating the interior. You’d never guess just looking at the home that it would be capable of such hard core resistance.
The Crowder Drury team are hoping an organization like FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) will be interested to take their concept on board as a viable solution for tornado-proof cities. While it may initially be less cost-effective than some of the other models of disaster-proof housing we’ve featured over the years, this model has the added benefit of creating a way forward. So many other refugees of natural disasters are stuck in a perpetual cycle of rootlessness. A real home with the same safety performance can help rebuild communities.
Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat; renderings via ShelteR3