When a natural disaster hits, there are so many aspects to consider in providing relief – adequate food, clean drinking water and basic health facilities, not to mention housing for hundreds, if not thousands of people. It’s not just about providing adequate shelter in a short space of time, but having the manpower available to construct shelters, level ground to build them on and foot the huge transport costs of getting them there. Even in developed countries where financial resources are not severely limited, humanitarian disaster relief is a huge challenge. Enter Ablenook.
Imagine a house that could be assembled in just a couple of hours, with no tools or skilled laborers needed and can be flat-packed to consolidate delivery! The team at AbleNook has made it a reality with a prefabricated living module with interlocking components that snap together in no time at all. Not only could this revolutionize the approach to humanitarian disaster relief housing, but it could be a practical solution to housing shortages in other regions too.
What is AbleNook?
AbleNook is an innovative prefabricated modular dwelling, created using identical, universal aluminum structural insulated panels (SIPs) and extruded aluminum structural members which clip together and are weather sealed. The units were designed quite purposely on a 4’ by 8’ module so that when the raw materials were delivered to the design team for fabrication, very little waste was produced. Natural ventilation has been incorporated into the design, eliminating the need for air conditioning units, while frosted glass prevents over heating, whilst still allowing enough light inside.
As the walls of AbleNook are built, the integrated electrical system is connected, together with integrated lighting and water storage space. While solar panels along the arched roof generate renewable power, four individual adjustable leg jacks sit beneath the base, allowing it to be constructed even on uneven terrain. While there are no bathroom or kitchen facilities in the AbleNook, a protected terrace provides additional outdoor space so occupants are not confined to the interior.
One of the real assets of AbleNook is that it can be constructed without any tools whatsoever and without the need for skilled labor, meaning that in just a couple of hours you can have it assembled, even in the most challenging situations. The structure is also robust enough to endure a low-level hurricane without any issues. It’s this that makes AbleNook such a promising solution to humanitarian disaster relief housing and emergency shelter.
Who is behind Ablenook?
Architects Sean Verdecia and Jason Ross designed AbleNook as part of an assignment at the University of South Florida’s School of Architecture and Community Design. In their vision they state: “We really believe that good design can help save people’s lives and restore human dignity after a natural disaster”. Verdecia describes their design as a “LEGO version of a bungalow” and hoped that eventually the AbleNook could take the place of the unattractive FEMA trailers which have traditionally been issued by the US Government to provide housing following disasters. In fact, it was watching FEMA trailers being deployed following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans that Verdecia was inspired to develop a cheaper, more efficient and safer alternative that offered a little more dignity to victims. Not only were the FEMA trailers expensive (costing around $2.7 billion to install following Hurricane Katrina alone), but they ended up infecting around 60,000 with formaldehyde. After completing their working prototype in 2013, Verdecia and Ross launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to continue AbleNook’s development and work on building larger-scale dwellings.
What can they be used for?
Originally AbleNook was designed for humanitarian disaster relief shelter, with the quick assemblage, lack of skilled labor needs and relatively affordable cost making them the perfect candidate. The aesthetics of the AbleNook were carefully considered to give dignity back to disaster victims, with the front porch an essential element in fostering community within disaster-hit regions.
The interior space of a single AbleNook is 64 square feet (6 square meters) and they are designed to hold 2.5 people. But they can be expanded, combined with other units or stacked to cater to larger families or groups, allowing occupants to add or subtract as their needs change.
But their modular design and ability to expand as needed also show promising potential for school classrooms, dorm rooms and office space, together with prefab housing in areas not affected by natural disasters. They can be shipped flat-packed, which reduces shipment sizes (around nine units can fit in a single truck) and enables more people to be assisted per delivery.
Representatives from FEMA and the United Nations have shown interest in AbleNook, with the model clearly filling a space in the humanitarian disaster relief market. While UN tents have an estimated 6-month lifespan, the AbleNook is built to last for 50+ years. As such, they are not only purpose-built for disaster relief, but can be used well into the future as a secure dwelling. Even Verdecia has moved into an AbleNook because his 1924 bungalow is in his words “just falling apart”.
While the cost of the AbleNook has not been officially disclosed, they’re expected to be below the US$14,000 of similar-sized FEMA trailers which will give them yet another competitive advantage.