Clemson University researchers have been experimenting with ways to convert shipping containers into emergency housing that could now help a devasted Haiti. The project, called SEED, makes housing out of sturdy shipping containers that are abandoned in port yards.
Clemson researcher Doug Hecker says, “In the Caribbean, there is a surplus of shipping containers that build up in ports because of the trade deficit. Theyare importing more than they are exporting, so this is a sort of natural cycle today and they are looking for ways to dispose of them and we thought that turning them into housing would be a much more beneficial way.”
Professor Hecker is in architecture and SEED is a collaboration between his school, landscape planning at Clemson, and welding at nearby Tri-County Technical College.
It’s a large-scale recycling effort, making housing out of containers that will be going into the country.
Hecker says they have realized in the past few days that there will be a large number of these containers going into Haiti and none of them will be leaving. “Industry doesn’t like to ship things empty,” says Hecker,” so with all the relief supplies going in, we take the approach to convert as many of those as possible into housing.”
The key is these container homes are cost-effective, says Hecker. “We’re trying to do this for less than $5,000 per dwelling, to modify it as simply and as economically as possible because of the Caribbean context. But it makes sense as a structural building unit in ay part of the world,” he says.
Hecker and his colleagues have built a prototype of this shipping container home on the Clemson campus. As soon as possible, they want to put them to use in Haiti, since the steel is almost disaster-proof.
Hecker says the container itself is incredibly strong and exceeds the structural code of any country in the world.
“The trick is to design an inexpensive foundation system that will both act to tie in down in a hurricane and deal with the seismic requirements of the various countries in the Caribbean, ” he explains.
The project has been awarded an Environmental Protection Agency P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) grant to make the container part of the 2010 National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in April. Hecker hopes that the true test will be in helping the homeless families in Haiti.