As large-scale natural disasters become increasingly common, we're learning that preparedness is by far our best hope for defense. Planners are laying out designs for a hurricane-fortified waterfront. Storm-proof bathrooms on stilts are replacing their low-lying brethren, and now, the city is also in the process of testing out its "post-disaster housing," reminding us again that it's not a matter of if we'll experience another Sandy-like event—it's when.
The term "post-disaster housing" calls to mind the classic 1960s backyard fallout shelter, and in reality, the conceit is the same. A coalition of agencies, including the Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Design and Construction, FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers have spent the past six years creating modular units that can be quickly snapped together and stacked in parking lots, dead-end streets or any other paved parcel of land, enabling victims to stay in their neighborhoods and communities as they begin to rebuild their lives. Now they just have to see if they work!
On Saturday, five of the units were stacked in an empty lot on Cadman Plaza East, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports, with each containing a living area, bedrooms, kitchens and storage areas. The prototypes will be hooked up to utilities, and live humans will help determine whether or not the disaster units are habitable.
“The idea is, try it out, solve all the problems, and then you’re ready to build quickly when the time comes,” project architect Jim Garrison told the paper. Unlike FEMA trailers and shipping containers—the current answers to disaster housing—the units are well insulated, intended to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. “You can heat one of these with a 1,500 watt hair dryer,” Garrison added.
The other benefit of the mods is their stackability, which mimics the setup of brownstones and allows people to remain near their homes following a catastrophic storm.
The prototype is a three-story structure with two three-bedroom units and one one-bedroom unit, with the ground floor slated to open in June and serve as a public gallery with information about the project. It will remain on the corner of Cadman Plaza East and Red Cross Place for one year.
Update: On June 10th the units were unveiled—check out photos and updated information here.