Five years ago, New York City held a design competition called "What If NYC" to generate ideas for long-term disaster housing. Since then, the Department of Design and Construction and the Office of Emergency Management have been working to create a disaster housing program specifically designed for dense urban environments. The solution? Shipping containers. The Observer reports that the city tapped Sea Box, a container modification company, to create the units using 40-foot-long cargo boxes. At 480-square-feet, the one-bedroom apartments are bigger than the average Manhattan studio, and they come fully furnished and outfitted with necessities like pots, pans, towels, and toiletries.
The estimated cost for each unit is $50,000 to $80,000, and the hope is that FEMA would cover the costs, as the units would be at the agency's disposal. In addition to one-bedrooms, Sea Box also designed two-bedroom units for families. The company's plan would create 15,000 units, which could be dispersed throughout the country in groups of 500 or 1,000, and the containers would be stacked four high and six to 12 wide to create apartment blocks.
"We're not just restoring somebody's apartment, we're restoring somebody's street," said a city urban planner in regards to the importance of creating communities. While the need for density was the most important factor, shipping containers have another advantage over FEMA trailers: durability. "An ISO container will last 35 years, and you can reuse it 20 times," said Sea Box director. "The old FEMA trailers, tie them up for a year or two and they're through."
OEM is working on a 16-unit prototype, but Hurricane Sandy delayed the process. Hopefully, it will be deployed and tested in Brooklyn by the end of next year. FEMA and the Army Corps are tentatively on board, but the city has not yet given the final approval to Sea Box, as it's waiting to test the prototype.
· Home Sweet Shipping Container: NYC's Secret Plans for the Perfect Disaster Apartments [NYO]
· Sea Box [official]