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