Hurricane Sandy unleashed a lot more than just wind and rain on New York City. As a result of the devastating storm, the city had thousands of displaced residents.
Big Apple officials learned a lot from the natural disaster, and one of the most important lessons is ensuring that citizens unable to return to their homes have a safe housing alternative while the city pieces itself back together.
Which is why the New York Office of Emergency Management is designing a housing prototype to hold refugees should another natural disaster strike the city. The “Urban Post Disaster Housing Prototype,” helmed by architect and Pratt Institute professor Jim Garrison, is a multi-story housing unit comprised of prefabricated modules that can be constructed in just 15 hours, according to Fast Company.

“A long time ago, we had a conversation about what it would take to house the homeless,” Garrison said. “People were coming up with all sorts of elaborate cardboard boxes. Finally, we came to our senses, in that a home for a homeless person is no different than a home for anyone else.”

The prototype includes three 480-square-foot-bedrooms assembled to form a walk-up on stilts while also providing wheelchair access. But the emergency housing project could also serve as an affordable housing model, according to Garrison, who says that the prototype could last 20 years.
In fact, part of the design includes ensuring energy efficiency through cross-ventilation and a balcony system that shades the unit from summer sunlight, which can save a resident two months a year from using an air conditioner, according to Garrison.

He’s also entertained the possibility of placing the unit on a barge anchored to the harbor, but it’s still unclear if it could weather severe storms.

For now Garrison is performing experiments on the prototype, which is perched on a hill near his firm in Brooklyn. As part of the test, The Pratt Institute and The New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering plan to invite residents to use the prototype for up to five days.

“The idea of this housing was to make it versatile enough so that you could install it in neighborhoods so that residents aren’t displaced, so they’re not sent to other neighborhoods,” Garrison said. “Your children can still go to the same schools they were part of. You can still be part of the social and economic circle of your neighborhood.”

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