Monday, May 10, 2010

A Flatpack Housing Concept for Haiti

See Harbor Homes response below to "A Flatpack Housing Concept for Haiti"
The Design of Everyday Life > Allison Arieff on February 9, 2010 at 6:00 am PST


TheHaitiHouse™ division of our company, Harbor Homes LLC, ( is the creator of theHaitiHouse™ FlatPackHome™, the FlatPackQuad™, the cargo2™ container series of bunkhouses, showers, kitchens, laundry, and office units, FEMA approved travel trailers, park models, mobile homes and support facilities for use as temporary AND permanent shelters.

Until the Haitian disaster we only worked privately with the government and its agencies, as in after hurricane Katrina. We produced thousands of portable homes exceeding stringent testing standards. We have the best air quality testing results in the industry, and we formed the HaitiHouse™division to directly assist every charity, mission group, government or non-profit with rebuilding Haiti called

With all due respect to the architect, Mr. Duany, who may be a wonderful planner for urban environments, we are not dealing with the same issues in Haiti as in Miami. While his creation is novel, we believe it won’t function as needed. He only addressed some of the fabrication and construction issues. We will clearly define the issues solved by our products and explain why his supposed solution is no solution at all. In fact, his shelter may present many physical dangers.

HaitiHouse™ FlatPackHome™ and FlatPackQuad™ homes are already being produced. We manufacture a superior, easy-to-assemble home, far better than the one you are discussing here today - because we spent many years developing methods for alternate housing construction by actually constructing and field testing houses of many types. We fabricate our own frames, aluminum and steel structures, ourselves in our own factories. See for plans for immediate mass production online.

We are already manufacturing a home that folds out in 15 minutes,packs down to less than 10 inches and fits 16 to a single cargo container. TheHaitiHouse™ FlatPackHome™ is 7’6”x18’9” long comparable to the creation pictured. We also manufacture a larger version, and an entire FlatPackQuad™line which creates private interior courtyard spaces for residents. Our unique FlatPackHome™ is engineer certified to withstand 130 mile an hour winds and hasa Seismic D rating. People are safer in such structures. The entire integrated raised floor frame sits on the ground with clearance for water to pass through but it does not have to be set up on blocks as the shelter in the photo youshow. Plus, the HaitiHouse™ FlatPackHome™ is already rated for 30-year use, is fireproof,waterproof and impervious to insects and rot. You can a time lapse video of the house being assembled with a wrench and a ladder by a few men in 15 minutes from placement on the ground at And because all walls and roof elements of our home are pre-joined by industrial steel hinges, welded and integrated to the galvanized steel studs that encase the entire structure, our HaitiHouse™ does not rely on small pieces of hardware, properly installed to hold pieces together after arrival. The Duany approach relies too heavily on post-delivery construction, which is completely unreliable as we explain later.

Our newest cottage about to be unveiled in the next day will represent a milestone in disaster recovery housing. It will incorporate security, safety, structural integrity, with great circulation, extensibility and many features most Haitians have never enjoyed, such as lighting, a watercooling system and will be rated even higher to withstand a tropical storm. It truly brings more of a liveable space to the Haitian people, one that is permanent yet we’ve managed to keep the costs to about the same as our previous standard unit, the FlatPackHome™.

Our home is MUCH safer than what Mr. Duany proposes since his offers absolutely no personal security for the residents. Large open screened areas are fine for enjoying the open air, but the focus of any permanent structure in Haiti has to be on how to keep women and children safe while they go about daily tasks. His temporary shelter woefully misses that mark. It also provides no security for personal belongings or a truly clean and dry interior.Another problem with this architect’s shelter is that the entire side coming up will act as a giant sail in a fierce storm or sudden squall. Even if residents manage to collapse it, the wind pressure can simply lift and remove the entire structure from its foundation. That is why the bulk of weight in a HaitiHouse™FlatPackHome™ is in the foundation frame and structural steel sides.

Mr. Duany’s temporary shelter is also not a long-term solution for families. They need space to store, and work, and go about daily tasks. His interior is geared towards cramming as many people onto bunks as possible. We could also install bunks, but after consultations with actual Haitians in Haiti, we found they would prefer to have more internal space, and will use cots, blankets, or hang their own bunks rather than be stuck using prepositioned bunks in an unalterable shelter. They prefer a shell approach which is what the HaitiHouse™ FlatPackHome™ has created for them.

Further, the main issue we have with recommendations about any on-site construction of a home using separate pieces is this is not functional in the real world of Haiti. Between the problematic nature of commerce and the impossibility of getting either professional construction crews, methods or materials in place, due to expense and logistics, we know our “whole house”ready-to-deliver approach is more sound to quickly house one to two million people.Various organizations we are supplying at this time agree.

Part of the reason for the scope of the disaster was the inferior mortar used to hold cinder block construction together. Mr. Duany’s barracks only perpetuates the problem by delivering stacks of pieces that can be pilfered as soon as they arrive.

The FlatPackHome™ by HaitiHouse™ has none of those issues since it is entirely a one-piece unit. The whole house unfolds, and can be erected by a small group with a single wrench in less than 15 minutes, with no power tools and no special knowledge. Once assembled it provides complete protection to the inhabitants with sealed screened windows and doors.

The problem with separately assembled pieces like Mr. Duany’s creation, or yurts or tents or any lightweight structure is they cannot survive tropical climates. They are a temporary novelty and waste of money. The house you picture here is not so much a permanent lodging as a temporary shelter. It is novel, but not practical. We haven’t even addressed the fact that them aterials Mr. Duany proposes would need to be analyzed chemically to make sure he would not be building a toxic cabin that would destroy the Haitians’ health. We too have investigated and rejected most composite and similar materials for the simple fact that they could not pass rigid testing requirements to safeguard the health of residents. And since we are the de facto testing agent for over $3.2 billion worth of FEMA contract award mobile home manufacturing,we can document that we have the best standard in the industry when it comes to exceeding all testing requirements. We practically wrote the book on methodology for selecting, processing and providing materials and construction methods that exceed the indoor air quality standards.

The company Mr. Duany has targeted to mass produce his open bus stop style bunkhouse is using a “proprietary” adhesive to create its panels with fiberglass and a polyurethane that is absolutely NOT fireproof as he may claim. The material safety data sheet for the components that are available for public review do not support his claims. And the typical method of cooking is open flame in Haiti. The materials he says will be used have a LOW flame point of around 240 degrees (on preliminary review) which is a low oven, and any spark or flame in direct contact with this supposedly miraculous material will ignite the structure. While the material in its post-manufactured sealed form may not be toxic in the short-term, once ignited and the chemicals released,they could cause a toxic cloud and respiratory problems that are very serious.Since sophisticated fire suppression and re-breathing equipment is needed there is absolutely no reason to chance building anything in Haiti out of untested,and unproven materials.

Worse, he mentions that the panels are rated for 150 mph winds of Category 4 hurricane-proof. The panel itself might be but his shelter is not.The structure of what he proposes, assembled in the normal manner must be tested by engineers to make that assertion. OUR HaitiHouse™ which HAS been tested IS rated to 130 mph in its final form, anchored into the ground. Mr.Duany’s shelter does not sit on the ground and cannot be properly anchored using the materials and construction he proposes. You cannot use simple straps to cinder block as one might with a large footprint, traditionally-built home.His shelter could literally be lifted away in seconds from a high wind gust.

Finally, the Duany shelter also seems to miss the mark as far as pricing. He is quoted as stating his shelter will cost as much as $6,000 per unit. Given the added costs of transhipment to Haiti and overland trucking, his idea is again unworkable for the millions who need housing. We have already created a bulk pricing strategy to supply units at less than $3,900, a far cry from what only exists on paper. We are actually building them now.

We currently supply the World Health Organization, several combined Church groups, and other entities. We are a long-time and current FEMA vendor ready to create several hundred to thousands of homes every week, and have even begun direct shipment to avoid the damaged port in the Haitian capital.

We feel very fortunate to have been able to spearhead some of the recovery effort and will continue to do so. We have also extended our wholesale pricing to all the groups as we understand the unique nature of this crisis and want to do what we can to be supportive. We have already been in direct consultations with a Haitian ministry, Dominican Republic representatives, the State Department, FEMA, the United Nations, World Health Organization,missions, private distribution firms, individual families and villages, to supply the FlatPackHome™ in an accelerated distribution.

While others anticipate manufacturing “something” at “some time inthe future”, or are designing their “prototype units”, our first shipment ofcargo2 container products for the United Nations arrived Sunday, February 11th,2010, in Haiti. We were called upon the day after the disaster to begin production because of our experience and knowledge. Having housed many families around the globe for many years, and having supplied permanent and temporary solutions for many types of needs, we are confident that our established designs and approach will become the standard in this crisis, as we are one of the leading disaster recovery housing specialists in the world.

While we admire Mr. Duany’s attempt, and we understand he is a known architect with some following, we feel his shelter has some very definite drawbacks, that he may have investigated from an architectural point of view,but not from the sociological view needed in Haiti. Overall, we feel Mr. Duany may have designed his shelter without actually looking into the needs of the people and his unit is more an architectural experiment than a real solution.We believe the crisis in Haiti calls for an industrial solution, not an aesthetic one which masquerades as such.

If you are a part of any organization or know one that could benefit from our support or they need to find custom portable buildings for relief efforts, please contact our company directly. Thank you.

- Harbor Homes LLC,

Thomasville, GA - All products made in the USA!

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