Homes for Haiti

Thursday, January 28, 2010

House Arc, a modular house designed to withstand hurricane-force winds. Courtesy Joseph Bellomo

Bay Area architect Joseph Bellomo was putting the finishing touches on one of his side projects, a modular studio for a client in Hawaii, when he heard about the earthquake.  Because of the nature of the structure, which had been designed specifically for a tropical climate, he couldn’t help but think that it might be a good option for those made homeless by the devastation.

Instead of heavy concrete walls, this modular house has an incredibly lightweight frame of steel tubes. Yet it can withstand tropical gales and requires only a minimal foundation of a few concrete blocks.  It is robust enough to be a permanent, not a temporary shelter.  “It’s the concept of an eggshell, where you only need the minimal amount of structure and still have something that is incredibly strong,” says Bellomo, who was inspired to take a bike shelter he designed for Bike Arc one step further.

The modules can be grouped into various configurations. Courtesy Joseph Bellomo.

“We’re going for a kit of parts that the average person can assemble quickly–like an IKEA house, only easier to put together,” says Bellomo. The prototype 150-square-foot module weighs only 3,000 pounds, and all the components can be flat-packed into a box that is 4-by-10-by-3 feet, for easy shipping. Now Bellomo is looking for sponsors that are interested in sending hundreds of insta-houses to Haiti.  Clearly, speed is of the essence.

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23 Responses to “Homes for Haiti”

  1. David says:

    I’m not sure I buy into this as a permanent soultion, but as a quick and affordable way to provide shelter for those in need, maybe. I am doubtful that this will hold up to an earthquake or extreme weather events and i’d push to see something a bit more “anchored.” Ok, i’ll be honest, I don’t like this design at all. It is not very inventive and i’d give it a thumbs down on aesthetics. Let’s see what other architects come up with, as i’m sure the rebuilding of Haiti will be a hot design topic in the coming months.

  2. W Martin says:

    My thoughts is that this is an attractive and seems to be a simple design solution. Not sure if it would work in every situation but for a quick and liveable option I like it.

  3. Peter says:

    This is an incredibly inventive design! Personally, I like the aesthetics. More importantly it makes sense – Its simplicity and modularity is a perfect solution for providing permanent shelter in Haiti. I would certainly rather see a community installing a few thousand of these instead of tents.

  4. sherry says:

    The displaced Haitian are put up in tents at the moment. Certainly will not be practical, or feasible option once the seasons turn.
    This design is perfect for permanent housing situations such as the devastation in Haiti or Katrina. New Orleans remains in shambles.

    The materials & design are brilliant, and can be readily shipped and assembled on location.

  5. Christopher says:

    This design is whimsical and full of life, which is exactly what devastated areas need after a time of crisis. Plus, if it is as easy as assembling an IKEA kit of parts, people could put together their own home. I think it would be fun to live in one of these!

  6. Jiao-Long says:

    As with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, designing a housing prototype for Haiti will be a high priority for architects. But, hopefully this time around we will act quickly and decisively, which is what Bellomo Architects seems to already be doing. It’s great to see this architect thinking globally in order to help others. This solution is the perfect balance between temporary/ easy to install and permanent.

  7. Carol Krinsky says:

    This well-intentioned proposal would be more convincing with a different rendering. No way will Haitians have those mature trees and nice lawns around the houses. From descriptions of Port-au-Prince and the country in general, it seems that it’s deforested and dry except during seasonal hurricanes and heavy rains, when the terrain turns to mud. Moreover, the capital is said to be densely populated, with space on flat land at a premium. If the architect produced a picture of what these houses might really look like, he could have a better chance of having them accepted and built.

  8. […] prototype includes 150 square feet of space and weighs 3,000 pounds.  According to The Architect’s Newspaper, the House Arc can be flat pack shipped in a box that’s merely 4×10×3 feet.  Says […]

  9. […] prototype includes 150 square feet of space and weighs 3,000 pounds.  According to The Architect’s Newspaper, the House Arc can be flat pack shipped in a box that’s merely 4×10×3 feet.  Says […]

  10. Rick Lehtinen says:

    Another option for Haiti Housing would be the ECO-SHELL, a shotcrete dome created over a reusable airform. Architect Richard Crandall of Mesa, Arizona has already created a villiage in Central Java using this concept. See, and click on Domes For The World.

  11. […] módulo tiene una superficie de 14 m2, pesa unos 1.400kg y, según cuentan en The Architect’s Newspaper, esta House Arc puede enviarse en un paquete plano al más puro estilo IKEA y ser montada […]

  12. […] modular house can withstand strong winds and at least goes a step further than a storage unit, but says nothing […]

  13. […] working in Haiti–especially designers–to rebuild the city. And there are many more like him. (Listen to Sinclair, along with historian Patrick Sylvain, Global Green’s Ted Bardacke, and […]

  14. Charles Babcock says:

    Fabricated, packaged and shipped from somewhere (presumabaly the States) and constructed of steel tubes – not a sustainable design at all! Have you ever heard of LEED. How about putting Haitians to work building Haitian houses with materials found in Haiti! The last thing Haiti needs is to increase the cost of housing in order to by Venezualan oil to power a Korean freighter to ship a US built building made of corrodable steel. sustainable development should be both sustainable designs that develop industry in Haiti.

  15. Fred Finster says:

    Yes, these designs look nice and are pleasing to the eyes.

    Consider using local workers and local materials like sand, stone, and cement
    to create an ecoshell and keep floors from becoming wet where you have to sit or stand or lay down to sleep.
    Hatians worried about the coming rains and flooding

    Maybe we should consider installing plastic drain pipe to take away the excess water?

    Video of building 72 ecoshell homes in Java in 2006. Watch how it is done.
    To contact the One Dome at a Time Foundation email: or call 310-424-5420

  16. Bob GIlmour says:

    Those are beautiful, I want one for my home site in the mountains! Nice job on the design and kudos for thinking of those less fortunate in disaster areas who have so little

  17. […] architect Joseph Bellomo proposes a lightweight, modular pod supported by a shell of steel tubes. The design, based on a backyard studio for a client in Hawaii, has a small footprint, weighs less than 3,000 […]

  18. […] architect Joseph Bellomo proposes a lightweight, modular pod supported by a shell of steel tubes. The design, based on a backyard studio for a client in Hawaii, has a small footprint, weighs less than 3,000 […]

  19. Manuel says:

    I like the aide for a semi permanent home. Been working in an emergencies for the last past 20 years type of homes like that are really one of the best posultions for temporary and semi permanent homes. Been realistic the problem will be the cost of the unit.

    Good job

  20. modular house says:

    Yeah, These modular houses really gives the relaxation and I must say that parking homes like this always a good tourist as well as living place on the earth.

  21. Frank Schooley says:

    We have developed a completely new idea for disaster housing, Shelter In A Day. We assure you that if you look it over, we’ll make you two promises, one: that you have not seen anything like it anywhere and two: it is the most sensible design you have seen for disaster relief. Our house ships flat and assembles in a couple of hours using just included hammers and muscle power. Safe, strong and secure and inexpensive, this shelter is designed to last through the transition from tents/tarps to permanent housing. Please take a few minutes and see our interesting 2-1/2 minute video on our website at:


    Frank Schooley

  22. MFHCM says:

    Great to see that people are thinking of ways to help the Haitian people!

  23. Chris says:

    Well I guess the look of the house is ok, and it seems like it would be very cost effective. It looks to me like it might hold up to a earthquake, but I don’t know about the storms they get there. That is a bigger concern to me than the quakes. The storms happens several times a year and are, on occasion, extremely bad. I like the idea, but I just don’t see it holding up.

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