Sandy Shows The Need For Quick To Assemble Emergency Housing

Designers are experimenting with shipping containers as widely available raw material for emergency housing. To prove the concept, architect Maziar Behrooz decided to build a studio and office with four shipping containers. had an interesting article about the potential use of shipping containters as an effective source of low-cost housing for the homeless. Naturally, with the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy still proceeding, the need for emergency housing presents very much the same problems; how to create housing quickly, cheaply, and safely.

There are a host of criteria that would have to be met before shipping containers could be considered as suitable housing, such as insulation from the heat or cold, structural soundness, fire retardant, and easily wired for electricity and plumbed for minimal bathrooms and showers.

James Holloway, the writer for Gizmag had this to say:

Independent schemes in the New York, USA and Brighton, UK are putting the humble shipping container to work as an effective source of low-cost housing to combat the problem of homelessness. The two schemes are poles apart in scope, and designed to address vastly differing causes of homelessness, however.

Though New York’s homelessness problem has been made all the more acute by the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, The New York Observer reports that Mayor Bloomberg’s administration has been developing a disaster-response housing program for five years. (emphasis mine, not Mr. Holloway’s)

The specifics of the scheme are yet to be finalized, though one idea is to use 40-foot (12-meter) containers as individual apartments, with a window and door added at each end. Arranged en masse, it’s hoped that containers could house tens or hundreds of thousands of people, though larger apartments made from modified containers would be needed to house families.

Architect Naziar Behrooz’s design called for joining the interiors of all four shipping containers – and even adding a basement level below with full standing headroom.

“Just because it’s prefab doesn’t mean it has to be an eyesore,” David Burney, commissioner of the New York’s Department of Design and Construction told the Observer, pointing out that the apartments would be larger than the typical Manhattan studio apartment.

The next step is to construct a 16-apartment test case near the Brooklyn Bridge near the headquarters of the Office of Emergency Management, who are cooperating with the program.

Unfortunately the program has not come in time to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which is thought to have made 20,000 New Yorkers homeless in the long term. However, also talking to the Observer, CUNY architecture professor described New York as being “ahead of the curve” in its plans for long-term for emergency-response housing.

These shipping containers are starting to look better than most rental apartments in New York.

From the outside, you can see the shipping container features. But from the inside, the containers have taken of the feel of high end New York City rental apartments.

The interior bears as much resemblance to shipping containers as it does to Manhattan rental apartments – that is, almost none.

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Written by Lorenzo

Lorenzo has been hanging around the office for the past 20 years, and, in the process, has become the president of,, and His mission is to build into New York's largest no fee apartment rental service. Before, Lorenzo was a Regional Sales Manager for Time Equities, Inc., one of New York's largest converters of rental buildings to coops and condos. Lorenzo was once a part owner of Swift & Watson Real Estate in NYC's Greenwich Village.

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