The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Friday, 13 June 2014 10:30cat

New York Unveil Emergency Housing Unit Prototype

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The Emergency Housing Unit prototype is unveiled in Brooklyn The Emergency Housing Unit prototype is unveiled in Brooklyn New York Times

New York City officials unveiled an emergency housing unit prototype at a parking lot in Brooklyn on Tuesday. The prototype was developed in response to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. All available apartments in the city were rented shortly after the storm ended by people whose homes were damaged by the storm.  However there was not nearly enough vacant apartments to handle the demand and many people became sick of living in hotel rooms. Many New Yorkers had no other choice except to remain in their damaged, water-logged homes.

City officials have been listening to scientists who believe that superstorms similar to Sandy will become more common.  Joseph F. Bruno, the commissioner of the New York City Office of Emergency Management, which helped oversee the project, believes the Emergency Housing Unit prototype is far better than anything the city could currently offer to disaster victims. The three story shelter consists of three apartments stacked on top of one another. While the prototype in no way offers many amenities, other than a full kitchen and a dry place to sleep, it is a significant upgrade from the Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers used after Hurricane Katrina. The units inside of the prototype range from a 480 square-foot one-bedroom unit to an 813 square-foot three-bedroom unit. 

It currently costs around $350,000 to $400,000 to build each unit, however, the city believes they can cut the costs in half though mass production. It took seven flatbed trucks to move all the materials for the prototype to the parking lot in Brooklyn. Officials would like to find a way to build the units where they are manufactured and ship them in after a disaster. While the cost to the prototype could be prohibitive, the larger problem with temporary emergency housing is finding a place for it in crowded cities like New York. City officials spent over a year trying to sort out permitting issues for the prototype because it would be considered a permanent residence. Under current laws, each apartment would need to undergo an inspection before disaster victims could move in. Finally, New York officials are also working on a way to ensure that the Emergency Housing Units do not become permanent apartments for people. There were still 3,000 people living in FEMA trailers four years after Hurricane Katrina. New York is committed to building quality emergency housing so it will not need to rebuild or redesign the units ten years from now.

Sources: NY Times

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