Help in a Hurry: Disaster-Relief Container Homes for Japan


Abstract designs and architectural theory are well and good, but when the stuff hits the fan (or tsunami hits the land, as it were) these notions are put to the test in a very rapid and real way. The result shows who is ready to roll out workable housing solutions to address catastrophes as they unfold.

The Ex-Container project is a joint effort to address the displaced populations following widespread earthquake and tsunami devastation still unfolding in Japan. Cheap, easy and fast, container homes provided an obvious answer.

Containers are of a size that offer a flexible framework in terms of location, transportation and domestic application – they are versatile-but-stable enough to make for makeshift residences, semi-temporary homes or long-term dwellings (or hotel complexes) depending on demand.

Interestingly, in this case it was determined that using manufactured, container-framed units would be quicker, simpler and more cost-effective than reusing existing containers. The various configurations sit within a reasonable price range – tens of thousands (rather than hundreds of thousands) which again fit the bill: not cheap enough to simply throw away, but sufficiently inexpensive to produce in volume on demand.

They are minimalist – tall, narrow, white-walled modern boxes with windows at both ends and not much else – but that puts them firmly in Japanese tradition, and is certainly a step up from emergency shelter design ideas that never got off the drawing board.

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