By Beth Carter
Posting in Architecture
With just 100 recycled shipping pallets, a displaced family can have a safer, sturdier place to live.
Every year over 21 million shipping pallets end up in a landfill. Used worldwide to ship goods of all kinds in mass quantities, a Brooklyn-based design firm looked past the intended use of a pallet and saw a versatile, recyclable, sustainable and inexpensive building material that could be used to address another issue: improving housing quality for refugees.
The inspiration behind I-Beam design firm's Pallet House Project came from a mind-boggling statistic that 84 percent of the world's refugees could be housed with a year's worth of repurposed American pallets.
A pallet is the perfect material to provide a better standard of living -- they are readily available in most countries and they can be used first to carry aid to displaced people in the form of clothing, food and medical supplies (to name but a few) and then recycled into shelters.
The average refugee stays in a refugee camp for seven years, and the Pallet House (a 250 square-foot structure composed of 100 reused pallets), is a sturdier alternative to the tent shelters most common in refugee camps. Additionally, it can be easily converted from a temporary or emergency shelter to a permanent residence with the addition of more sturdy construction materials found in the area.
The houses are easy to assemble: once the pallets arrive, it only takes four to five people to nail together the house, and it can be built in less than a week. At first, when more standard construction materials are less available, the structures can be put together with the help of temporary supplies like tarps to keep the inside dry until materials from the surrounding area can make a more solid roof.
As time passes, pallets can be fitted with add-ons like insulation or plywood for the interiors(this can all be done prior to shipping as well), and stucco and plaster or roofing tiles for the exterior, if/when the materials become available. Due to the flexibility of the design, each occupant can build a shelter that fits their specific needs.
Though the Pallet House was originally conceived as a temporary transitional shelter for refugees making their way back to Kosovo, and has since been used to house people uprooted by natural disasters, famines and wars, I-Beam has widened the scope of the Pallet House to include a much bigger population by using the module as a pre-fab solution to affordable housing everywhere.
An estimated one billion people live in substandard housing, and I-Beam believes that the Pallet House could help to provide better conditions for people in need around the world.
The Pallet House has already turned many heads for its innovative take on temporary housing, and it took home the Architecture for Humanity Award in 1999. I-Beam has built Pallet structures in New York, Indiana, and the Architecture Triennial in Milan and have been active recently in Haiti and Pakistan.
Images: Samantha Perry/I-Beam Designs
Dec 21, 2011
Seems sort of a waste of time until you've put all those surplus shipping containers to use as temp housing. All so not mentioned in the article is that structural members are still required to reinforce walls and roofs - and they have to come from somewhere. Laminating pallet boards into roof beams might be possible with nails, glue and some basic tools - but you have to have those at a minimum. Assuming a situation where most displaced people are already scavenging everything not nailed down - basic supplies will be non-existent. Nice theory, implementation is likely to fall short of theory.
This is just another firm playing on public sentiment and sucking down tax dollars in the process. (For the unfamiliar, those that take donations or operate on grants are using tax money, regardless of their protestations.) If we are to raise up the third world to first-world living standards, as many of their inhabitants would desire, it takes a lot more than a fancy wooden tent. It requires infrastructure - roads, clean water, communications networks, sanitation, fuel/energy, security, education, a healthy local economy, and dare I say it - family planning. And worst of all, if it isn't done from the ground-up, it won't last. Good luck to those who think they can change third-world culture by delivering a tinker-toy house.
Have seen pallets used as fences and sidewalks, but this is not only recycling at its best but solves many housing problems and, maybe, someone could design them as cottages for the lake!!!
I'd love to build a simple storage building for my outdoor equipment, better yet a charming little tea house like in the photo above would be perfect on our 5 acres. Affordable to build, this idea is ahead of its time. Now I've just got to track down how we'd build one come spring. For the homeless it's the ultimate solution.
Hi, Can these designs be use in the USA? Will they meet any building codes or are they only usable in countries that do not have codes. We don't have many refugee camps but we have lots of homeless that could use this design. Also in my part of Northwest US pallets, other than the oddball sizes, have good resell value that keeps them our of landfills. Of course broken ones don't have value but most here go to peoples homes for firewood.
What about the differences in pallet sizes? The house shown is using pallets like building blocks assuming regularity in the pallets themselves, but if you have any experience with pallets you know irregularity is common place. Does I-Beam's design account for this?
And when they're not treated, what about that black mold on them? Look very closely at those photos -- you can see some black splotches.
- - 21 million shipping pallets end up in a landfill - - I have seen that figure and 6 million pounds of pallets are dumped annually, but not one article using either of those numbers reference a source for them. Are those numbers based on facts, speculation or opinion?
You forgot to mention affordable accessible health care which would naturally include family planning. If you had thought to do so you would not have had to be so - dare I say it - delicate in you post.
C'mon, there's no way we can live in anything other than stick frame and be safe from the beaurocrats.
You really don't need accessible health care if you have clean water, sanitation, education, and immunizations. Immunization, clean water and sanitation knock out most of the low hanging fruit of disease prevention. Education correlates positively with income and negatively with birth rates. Most of the rest of health care just keeps the elderly alive when they're scheduled to pass on. It's really nice to have easy/cheap/free/accesible health care, but definitely not necessary.