January 9, 2018|

Is Pre-Fab the Solution to Post-Disaster Recovery?

  • Ablenook_prefab_disaster_Relief | via ECHOtape

It’s been a hot minute since we discussed off-site construction, but Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Michael are putting the “tiny homes” back into the spotlight. And for good reason.

Sure, tiny houses have become trendy in recent years, as people trade in traditional consumer lifestyles for a simpler option — a living space that’s no more than 500 square feet.  But that’s just one sector of the off-site construction trend. There’s modular, and pre-fab, and flat pack homes. All of which have suddenly become more compelling as thousands of friends, neighbors and family members struggle to put their lives back together after this hurricane season.

Are pre-fab tiny homes the answer to temporary house and rebuilding efforts?  We think so.

ablenook prefab disaster Relief

AbleNook is a flat-packed, site assembled kit made from aircraft-grade aluminum structural framing that slides/snaps together with SIPs (structural insulated panels) for floors, walls and roof. Is this the answer to hurricane and disaster recovery?  Image via AbleNook.com

Consider Florida-based firm AbleNook. Architect and owner Sean Verdecia told forbes.com:  “We’re in a unique position to actually do something to help flood victims.”

He and a former classmate from the University of South Florida came up with an award-winning, all-in-one design for a modular home unlike anything else that exists. Taking into account all of the variables of a disaster relief scenario: a lack of foundation, uneven terrain, and few resources, the two came up with AbleNook, a home that requires no tools and little time to construct. Two people can connect the aircraft grade aluminum panels, creating a hurricane-resistant home in a matter of hours!

“We get six AbleNooks on one truck, whereas FEMA gets one trailer per truck and their structures need level terrain.”

Clearly, AbleNook blends affordable rebuilding efforts with affordable long-term building solutions.  A 36-foot long home with 3 rooms, 10-foot ceilings and a front porch currently costs $45,000 -$55,000.

There’s also Cubicco, a Dutch modular housing company, that has created a reasonably affordable hurricane-proof house that’s starting to pop up in Florida and the Caribbean. Starting at $160,000, it’s not an affordable temporary housing solution, but it does answer the call for sustainable rebuilding efforts. The prefabricated homes made of laminated wood and cork, can be built in under three months, and are designed to combat high-velocity Florida hurricane codes, meaning they can withstand 185 mph winds, have impact-resistant glass and can be elevated off the ground with stilts.  There are also sustainability options, like water reclaiming systems, solar panel compatibility, and slats that allow geothermal heating and cooling. Though Cubicco is focused on larger-scale group developments, we’re hoping the company recognizes the need, and potential profit, for its product post Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Then there’s Cazza’s 3D printing robots. It might sound like science fiction, but the Cazza X1 is a robot designed to build “houses, villas, shelters, warehouses, prefab modules, commercial buildings and freestanding structures” in just 7 days using the layering technique common to 3D printing. Cazza has worked with clients as large as the Dubai Government to create the 3D designs for its robot and ensure the process of design and construction in this new territory is not without guidance, and the approach seems to be working – Cazza recently announced a third office opening in New York City.  You can see more of the Cazza building process here.

AbleNook. Cubicco. Cazza robots. What about temporary housing? Well… would a prefab budget hotel help meet those needs? Perhaps.

Marriott International, the largest hotel company in the world, is betting big on modular construction to drive its growth in North America. The company will sign 50 hotel deals by the end of 2017 that use prefab spaces assembled entirely off site. And we mean entirely: the rooms arrive at the construction site fully constructed including bed, desk and toilet, right down to sheets and pillows in the closet and a high-definition television ready for viewing. Then Marriott’s construction crews simply slot the rooms into place in a hyper-efficient construction model called “stacking.”

While the initiative is meant to drive growth, reduce costs and therefore increase revenue, we can’t help but hope that the company will use their speed, efficiency and influence to improve post-disaster relief efforts.


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