Cheaper Temporary Housing Is Coming

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Modern engineering has come up with a solution to deliver cheap temporary housing quickly in the wake of natural disasters.

Reaction Housing’s Exo is a portable, easy-to-assemble temporary house. It has a base and a dome and it sleeps 4 adults. The thing weighs less than 400 pounds.

A single flatbed tractor trailer could move nearly 30 Exos on a single run. Within minutes, they can be assembled by the families that would benefit. The best part? In mass production, these will cost $5,000 a pop.

Meanwhile, the Dutch believe much of the destruction to life and property in coastal communities after a flood or hurricane could be preventable simply by changing the method of home construction.

When you build in low lying communities, you typically have to put in footing and then your foundation is put on the footings. But if you have high enough water, that’s not going to be enough.

My executive producer Christa found out what that meant in September 2009 when her home was mostly submerged in a flood. She had to have her house rebuilt, basically from scratch, and she had it raised 9 feet off the ground by putting the structure on pillars.

The Financial Times  reports that Dutch engineers have developed a system where homes in flood zones and coastal areas sit on concrete piers, attached like a boat at a dock. If there is rising water, there are these steel and concrete rebar pylons that are built into a shaft on the side of the house. So as the water rises, the house lifts off the ground, off the concrete piers, and becomes essentially like a house boat. When the water recedes, the house goes down and sits back on the concrete piers as if a flood never happened!

The Dutch have been doing this for some time now and are getting better and better at it.

I also read about another construction technology that’s cheaper than the Dutch method and is intended to deal with hurricanes. These other houses can withstand hurricane winds because the windows blow out (or you can take them out as a storm approaches,) thereby eliminating a low pressure system from being created. Of course, the possessions inside the house are destroyed, but the house remains standing.

Living near a coast is the dream of so many Americans. We need to use the experience and imagination of the Dutch and others to rethink what we do with our home construction.


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