Over the last decade a number of global disasters have struck, leaving thousands homeless and without adequate shelter for months at a time. These span from 2004’s Indonesian tsunami and 2005’s Hurricane Katrina to the more recent 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan or the 2010 Haitian earthquake. In each event, the thousands were left stranded.
Six months after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, only 15 percent of the needed 92,000 temporary housing units were available to displaced citizens. And the UN reported earlier this year that more than half a million people are still living in makeshift tents in Haiti.
First world or third world, when disaster strikes, governments and people seem woefully unprepared to house the displaced. A sad fact considering that temporary, quick setup houses are needed on an almost annual basis.
Designed with these issues in mind, the Reaction Housing System sets out to solve that problem. The simple housing unit can easily be delivered in large quantities to areas of need. As you can see in the graphic above, one cargo ship can deliver up to 300,000 “Exo” units, which Reaction Systems says can house up to a million refugees. A semi-truck is supposed to be able to move up to 20 huts.
The Exo comes in a number of formats but the standard version is composed of two parts; a base plate and an upper shell, and is capable of housing four people. The upper shells are designed to be stacked atop one another. Installation is fairly simple with workers placing the base plate and then positioning the shell atop the plate. The parts are stuck together with two clasps.
Reaction Systems says that four people can set up one Exo unit in under two minutes. They estimate that a housing park of about a thousands huts can be installed in an eight-hour work day by a crew of 20 workers. One thousand Exos is expected to shelter up to 4,000 people.
The base plate weighs in around 250 pounds with the upper shell coming in at 370 pounds. Units come with utility hookups for power, heat/AC, water, and sewer services. Reaction Systems says that amentities like Internet access and individual HVAC units can be added if environmental conditions allow.
As mentioned, the standard Exo is a one-family (four person) unit that measures about 85 square feet and 9 feet tall. The interior is about 76 square feet of livable area. There are four bunk beds with the lower two capable of being used as benches when the top two are stowed.
It’s made of a polypropylene composite laid over an aluminum super structure. Insulation is provided by three-inches of closed cell foam that provides R-13 insulation. Insulation is rated in the “R”s. Standard American homes have R-19 to R-21, R-13 is generally rated for basements and crawlspaces. The base plate is made of heavy-duty steel tubing and wooden flooring, and the upper shell is also supposed to come in bullet-resistant form.
Exo units aren’t limited to the single unit form. You can see in graphics above, the units can be connected to create a more standard home with a family room, bathroom, and bedroom. Reaction Systems designed the units to be a flexible, relevant housing solution in case recovery lasts for years instead of months.
Easy transportation and set up is important but what about cost? Reaction Systems has a target cost of $5,000, and is designed to be reused after a housing need is over.
Just to give you some perspective, in 2007 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that a single FEMA trailer costs about $14,000, with long term costs soaring even higher (one incident involved a single trailer reaching costs of up to $229,000). FEMA trailers are also decertified for human occupation after one use, which means that they have to build and buy a whole new trailer.
Ease of transportation, reusability, and a relatively low cost mean that the Reaction Housing System could fill an expensive gap in the world’s current approach to housing dispossessed natural disaster victims.