Princeton’s Answer To Disaster Relief Power.

Princeton’s shipping container disaster relief wind and solar power generators.

Princeton’s shipping container disaster relief wind and solar power generators.

The prototype system was a winner of an EPA-sponsored sustainable design competition. The entry in the competition was for a “rapidly deployable renewable energy system”. Its primary role to be used in disaster hit areas which lose infrastructure and power.

Princeton’s shipping container disaster relief wind and solar power generators.

Image by Frank Wojciechowski, courtesy of Princeton University

The solar and wind turbine is 40 foot tall and capable of providing 10kW of wind and solar power. Within the container also capable of storing the batteries and mechanical systems required to make the unit functional. There is a hope the unit will actually take off and replace diesel-powered generators in relief camps in disaster zones. Which can often be hazardous due to air pollution, ground pollution and the issue of a constant supply of fuel.

For the contest the shipping container and its equipment were taken on a flatbed truck from Princeton to Washington DC. The unit was erected and tested with the first day seeing no wind but a sunny day allowing good solar energy. While on the second day it was windy and rainy it put its wind turbine into action and was capable of providing power on both days. A grant of $90,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency, will see the project being developed further and the team hope to take the finished model on a tour of Africa.

The contest has highlighted the need for new solutions and developments and seen students from 165 academic institutions submit proposals to the competition. 15 of those were given awards for pursuing sustainable design solutions to issues ranging from erosion control to a seeking out a biodegradable alternative to plastics.

For me I support a lot of these ideas but things do come back to some basic issues, a lot of disaster areas and problems are preventable. Haiti seems to be a big favourite in U.S. circles to mention for aid yet has anyone even started looking at common sense things like reforestation? Land can protect itself but it needs people to stop destroying it.

SHRIMP (Sustainable Housing for Refugees via Mass Production)

SHRIMP (Sustainable Housing for Refugees via Mass Production) is a rather unique container house project with its ability to extend parts of the building due to them folding within each other.

SHRIMP (Sustainable Housing for Refugees via Mass Production)

The idea is mass housing relief to a disaster stricken area and the units are designed round a shelter for a family of 4 with the entire home taking up 1/4 of the space of a normal shipping container.

SHRIMP (Sustainable Housing for Refugees via Mass Production)SHRIMP (Sustainable Housing for Refugees via Mass Production)

Now I can see the concept and the idea being viable as a solution but often metrics aren’t taken into account with much disaster relief such as containers already being at the ports in a disaster area and quite simply cash and tools would be enough to get things moving rather quickly with the right manpower. At the same time I would be interested to get an ETA on how long it takes to manufacture one of these units as the number of disasters seems to be increasing worldwide on a regular basis. Areas that may not have needed them may do in the future. Also the floating ability of these on pontoons is a great idea to get them to a coastline but one question still bothers me “how do they get them out of the water?”.

SHRIMP (Sustainable Housing for Refugees via Mass Production)

SHRIMP units do however use sustainable wood which is rather ironic this late in the day with places like Haiti that bring a lot of disasters to their doorstep because they pretty much deforested the entire country. It would however whatever way you look at it utilise shipping containers that are no longer in service. Would however though prefer containers to be utilised in their current locations rather than shipped back to disaster zones which are normally thousands of miles away from where excess shipping containers can be found. I believe shipping a container back to its Asian origins will cost around double of what it costs to produce a new container in China.

House from a box – Roese Sunshower SSIP house

In one of the worst hit areas from Hurricane Katrina which left heavy flooding in its aftermath developers have come up with a new prototype home that is designed for rapid deployment for areas blown away by hurricanes and tornadoes or knocked down by earthquakes.

The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans  

The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans is designed to be shipped in a single shipping container as well as for rapid deployment as a quick housing solution that is also permanent as well as strong enough to withstand other calamaties. Adding to this a solar panel array to help with recovery as it can operate off grid.

 The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans

As you can see the wall sections are formed from SIP eps foam core encased in a Galvalume steel skin. I have used similar in the construction of large freezer/chiller buildings and factory units in the UK as the method is not only light but very easy to work with. Adding to that its also moisture resistant and works as a hydroscopic thermal mass which helps to remove heat from the building.

The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans

Models were submitted as part of a design competition and the winning entry was the Roese Sunshower SSIP house. Lots of good ideas and rapid deployment is always key to disasters due to the camera switching off generally public interest does to. So getting it done quickly while  there is still public support and funds is always critical.

The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans  The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans  

  The Roese Sunshower SSIP house in New Orleans

Flat Pack Container Home

I Came across this video tonight for disaster relief in Haiti. The concept is very simple as well as the fact they are using very basic materials that also make it light to construct and if more budget the interior could be lined. In the West something like this may appear as sub standard but in the developing world and areas suffering with natural disasters they are a lot better than most other things provided. You can find homes made with plastic bags and other materials found from dump sites which offer up many other problems. Having a solid framed home reduces the risk of infestation of rats and risk of robbery adding to that a dry family home. You can see why this type of home would not only work in Haiti but around the world in many location as being able to stack up several homes onto a truck flat packed at the same time is extremely cost affective.

Disaster Relief Container Homes – Green Container International Aid

Green container International Aid have realised the possibilities of rapid house development due to the shipping containers natural structure. On top of that it obviously is a housing development that is designed for more sustainable living. After years in the tropics myself  you see weathers offer the extremes from hot sunny long days to heavy rainfall and flooding and a shipping container home survives these issues without too many problems. Add to that over the problems of concrete housing such as the need for water and materials being moved to site for construction or going down the timber route to find problems with termite infestation the shipping container often comes up as the most viable for many projects especially if rapid deployment is needed.

disaster relief shipping container home

disaster relief shipping container home disaster relief shipping container home disaster relief shipping container home disaster relief shipping container home

Disaster Relief Shipping Container Home City Concepts

When I came across these yesterday I thought wow some great ideas going on here but they had “Haiti” plastered all over them. No offence but the disaster relief as well as low cost housing solutions shouldn’t be limited to Haiti. These places would work not only for poor but business sector workers in developing nations where city prices are expensive. Quite simply they are fantastic images and I can see how these shipping container homes could quickly become a shipping container city.

shipping container apartments

shipping container apartments shipping container apartments

But more importantly they aren’t ugly! They are however very viable for many uses although staircases need altering for safety reasons on the images but the concept in general is fantastic.

Disaster Relief Shipping Container Home City Concepts

When I came across these yesterday I thought wow some great ideas going on here but they had “Haiti” plastered all over them. No offence but the disaster relief as well as low cost housing solutions shouldn’t be limited to Haiti. These places would work not only for poor but business sector workers in developing nations where city prices are expensive. Quite simply they are fantastic images and I can see how these shipping container homes could quickly become a shipping container city.

shipping container apartments

shipping container apartments shipping container apartments

But more importantly they aren’t ugly! They are however very viable for many uses although staircases need altering for safety reasons on the images but the concept in general is fantastic.

Intermodal Design Shipping Container Homes

Intermodal Design although putting emphasis on disaster relief for container homes as you can see here in their “stages” of construction it also makes sense for low budget housing. For me it also makes the difference between government handouts and people taking responsibility for themselves as evolving their home from what would be just a live in shipping container to an evolved home where you can’t tell its a container is what can change the perspective of many on how container living works.

Building villages in these types of units allows the whole community to develop together, it also bonds the community together as they are more likely to get involved in each others projects to complete the homes into their finished state. Which in reality is what any architect in housing development wants more than anything or should be social development and community building.

Intermodal Design -IMDU0322 shipping container home Intermodal Design -IMDU0322 shipping container home Intermodal Design -IMDU0322 shipping container home Intermodal Design -IMDU0322 shipping container home

Disaster relief shipping container house

This type of house is obviously designed to be cheap and quick to construct. My biggest concern would be the costs of this type of operation as I know more often than not NGOs (Non Government Organisations or Charities) will exploit the situation. E.g. why construct it here when it can be done in places like Haiti very cheaply as well as create some short-term work for people badly needing it? Why go with the fancy bath and sink when people just need basic functions such as a sink for kitchen use! The bunk beds look very cheap at the same time I think they would also work making them functional. But the rest of the layout I think needs work as its just not practical for the sort of areas these would be needed.

I live in the Philippines myself and we don’t use a shower for example generally its a bucket with what would look like a plastic pot to most people. Why don’t we use a shower? because the water has a lot of sulphur in it and we find we go through a lot of shower heads for that reason. Yes the mains water is likely to be less harsh but we run on a deep well as its free.. At the same time most people in developing nations are used to such hardships so having a big shower room and bathroom like in this just isn’t practical. Much better to have increased the sleeping capacity as well as a simple sink for cooking, at the back a simple wet room would be more practical and take up less space.

disaster relief shelter–shipping container home

Not trying to rip into this container too much as they may be a very valid organisation trying to do something practical. But at the same time I would question it simply because I see these sort of organisations in the Philippines all the time and its generally just a money making machine fed on poverty and hardships.

25 reasons for building shipping container homes

1. Utilizes wasted shipping containers that may never see any other use.

2. Economically its a cheap solution to home building.

3. Ideal for emergency and disaster relief.

4. Quick to construct and even fast if modular internal fittings.

5. Stackable giving a quick and easy solution to “adding the games room!”.

6. Easy to source shipping containers to buy internationally.

7. It will give a unique and interesting home.

8. Creates minimalist living allowing people to de-clutter their lives.

9. Almost anyone can build a container home or at least design it within basic metrics.

10. Ease of conversion from a shipping container to a home.

11. Able to say “I did that” when its finished.

12. Environmentally friendly and a symbol of environmental awareness.

13. Fashionable building concept.

14. Smaller homes mean a small land needed either giving a cheaper purchase price on land or a bigger garden.

15. going minimalistic also means that your electrical and water supply could go off grid due to drastically reducing your use/waste.

16. Sets the standard to show your kids you are doing your bit in helping the planet.

17. Friendly community of shipping container home builders professional and DIY.

18. Brings a house within reach of people who cannot afford one otherwise.

19. Hurricane resistant.

20. Earthquake resistant.

21. Typhoon resistant.

22. Can be constructed in modular form then transported to site making it easier to build.

23. Lots of great ideas on how and what to build on the internet to help you with your first shipping container home.

24. Can be made mobile or semi-mobile for those travelling such as in the construction industry.

25. Practical and in a frame structure that is easy to understand.