Home Is Where the Sea Box Is: Shipping Container Housing Could Help With Disaster Relief

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Thursday, November 29, 2012
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Sea Box Prototype (Courtesy Sea Box)

Sea Box Prototype (Courtesy Sea Box)

In New York City’s post-Sandy life, the important issue of provisional housing after a disaster is more prominent than ever. Although the plans will not affect those impacted by the recent storm, over the past five years the Bloomberg administration has been quietly developing modular apartment blocks for disaster housing relief consisting of ever-adaptable shipping containers. Relief housing for future emergencies could be quickly trucked in and stacked to create housing for dozens of displaced residents.

Furnished decorated living room and dining area (Courtesy Sea Box)

Furnished decorated living room and dining area (Courtesy Sea Box)

The design prototype constructed by New Jersey shipping company, Sea Box, takes the 480 square feet of a shipping container and converts it into a fully furnished modular one-bedroom apartment. Each unit can then be stacked one upon another with the idea that a large parking lot or playground could serve as a location for its speedy construction after a disaster. Officials believe the boxes would serve as a more viable and durable disaster-housing solution for NYC than FEMA trailers. Each module is expected to be reusable up to 20 times and cost between $50,000 to $80,000. The hope is that FEMA could cover most if not all of the expenses.

Constructing the Sea Box Complex (Courtesy Sea Box)

Constructing the Sea Box Complex (Courtesy Sea Box)

Uniquely answering NYC’s need for housing density in a compact area, the container solution was borne from a 2007 competition—titled WhatIfNYC—where entrants were asked to consider various criteria related to the urban disaster environment including the ability to house large numbers of people, be rapidly deployable, comfortable, inexpensive, and energy efficient.

Fully constructed Sea Box project (Courtesy Sea Box)

Fully constructed Sea Box project (Courtesy Sea Box)

To test the proposal the Office of Emergency Planning will construct a 16-unit prototype in Brooklyn, which they hope to complete by the end of 2013. FEMA and the Army Corps are tentatively on board as the model is constructed, but final approval from the city has yet to be declared.

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