Ingenious homes built from shipping pallets could rehouse disaster victims and refugees

People around the Caribbean are counting the cost of Hurricane Gustav, which killed at least 97 people and damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of houses. As the clean-up begins, some of the storm’s victims will need temporary housing until their homes can be repaired.

Enter an ingenious idea from firm of US architects. I-Beam Design’s has created a house made from wooden pallets. The house was conceived as a shelter for refuges returning to Kosovo. They needed a cheap and easy to erect alternative to the typical refugee camp tent.

pallet house

The houses are made from standard wooden shipping pallets which are cheap, available in most countries, easy to transport and often used to ship aid to the refugee camps. The 4.8m2 homes used about 100 pallets nailed or strapped together and lifted into place.

Tarpaulin sheets draped over the basic structure or plastic corrugated sheets prevent water penetration until enough debris, stone, mud, earth, wood, corrugated metal or any other materials from the immediate surroundings can be gathered to fill the wall cavities and cover the roof.

Pallets may be pre-assembled with styrofoam insulation, vapor barrier, plywood or corrugated sheathing prior to shipping. The filled pallets can be covered with stucco, plaster, or roofing tiles transforming the makeshift shelter into a permanent home within a year or two as infrastructure is restored locally and cement or other materials become available. Plumbing and electrical conduits can also be incorporated within the thickness of the pallets.

pallet house

The basic structure can be built in less than a week for under £1693 and the homes can be altered according to the needs and size of the families living in them.

pallet house

The Pallet House has won an honorable mention in Architecture for Humanity’s design competition for transitional housing for the returning refugees of Kosovo but so far it has only been built as as prototype. The firm is now looking for entrepreneurs to help them produce it for mass use.

As well as being a way to rehouse people displaced by disasters, plagues, famines and war, Azin Valy, partner at I-Beam, says it could also provide better homes for the 1billion people living in substandard housing worldwide, especially slum dwellers.