Although basic relief assistance in Haiti after last week’s devastating earthquake is far from over, many in both the humanitarian and architectural fields are thinking ahead to the rebuilding and reconstruction stages. As MNN business blogger Melissa reported earlier, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has pledged to help and the San Francisco-based nonprofit Architecture for Humanity has initiated massive fundraising efforts. But what about the need for immediate, emergency housing to shelter the thousands of displaced people in and around the decimated capital of Port-au-Prince?

The team behind the Clemson University School of Architecture’s SEED project may have the answer in the form of repurposed, temporary shipping container homes. SEED was initially envisioned as a project that utilize the over 300 million shipping containers sitting empty at ports around the world and house those displaced by hurricanes in the Caribbean. Now, the SEED team believes shipping containers can also provide similar relief in earthquake-prone areas. But can SEED step in soon enough to provide emergency shelter when it is needed most?

Martha Skinner, assistant professor at the Clemson University School of Architecture and member of the SEED team, tells Fast Company:
This situation [in Haiti] which is so sad is forcing all of us to be quicker to implement something of great need while people are ready to help. This is something that will help a lot of places, and a lot of people.

The preparation and design of SEED shipping container emergency homes is simple and efficient. The 320 square-foot shipping containers are modified to allow airflow while still at the port and are then transported to the site where they are coated in colorful, insulating ceramic paint. Wooden shipping pallets that serve as “pods” for cooking and bathing are added to the interior. Outside, 55-gallon steel drums filled with dirt are placed on the roof of the structure to provide a space for starter gardens or “emergency food restoration.” Health issues like those sparked by the FEMA trailers provided after Hurricane Katrina would not be an issue and looting issues would be minimized.

Although SEED shipping container homes sprouting up in Haiti in the near future is certainly a possibility, it could take some time and further logistical planning considering the port at Port-au-Prince was significantly damaged in the quake. The SEED prototype home hasn’t even been completed at this point. So it won’t be tomorrow…

Skinner says:
We are working to get shipping companies on board to donate their empty containers already in Haiti, and governments that have sent containers with goods for the relief effort and neighboring ports could also donate. We will probably put a team together but we need help. It is a huge, but could also be a simple task, if all entities get coordinated.
For more on SEED’s involvement in Haitian rebuilding effort check out this article in Science Daily and this TreeHugger post that wonders if pushing the use of shipping container emergency shelters in Haiti is perhaps a hasty idea. 

Via [Fast Company]

Images: SEED

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

A SEED of hope in Haiti
Designed to provide emergency housing for hurricane survivors, SEED shipping containers are now being eyed for use in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.