Helter Shelter: A Cheap Portable House made from Packing Materials

Natural disasters like earthquakes and floods have been the scourge of society since our ancestors decided to park their horses and settle down in one place. Today, even as our knowledge of how to mitigate damage from these disasters grows, the number of people affected by such events manages to keep pace – a function of growing populations and limited living space.

Students at Nanjing Forestry University located in eastern China's Jiangsu province have recently displayed one possible solution to the problem of quickly providing temporary housing to the victims of natural disasters. Made from common packing materials, the six square meter (211.89 sq ft) area house can be assembled within just one hour.

Looking at the house, it seems quite flimsy and cramped, the latter characteristic magnified to a much greater degree should it be used by even a small family. Consider, however, the alternatives: in the event of a major disaster that flattens housing, destroys larger accommodation such as community centers, and results in the loss of water, gas and electrical power, this little cube will look like a castle!

The use of packing materials by the Nanjing Forestry University students is based on the materials' light weight and flat format which are ideal for convenient transport to disaster areas by air. As well, packing materials have insulating qualities meant to cushion items being shipped but that do double duty when used as the walls of a shelter.

Last but not least, cost is a factor since authorities will need to provide hundreds, even thousands of these shelters on short notice. This particular demonstration house costs approximately 2,000 yuan or $309. It may be homely, but in a worst case scenario it may be a home. (via China Economic Net)

Jun 8, 2011
by Anonymous

Cheap portable housing is NOT an 'innovation'

Wow...it's too bad that the various nomadic tribes that have travelled the world since the dawn of time didn't have access to synthetic packing materials! Instead those poor, uneducated, savages had to make due with a much more primitive solution - theTENT. When it comes to portable, lightweight, housing, despite a tent's wide variety of options in terms of spaciousness, layout, and construction materials; not to mention the ease and speed, and speed of assembly/disassembly - obviously this masterpiece of Chinese engineering is vastly superior to such a primitive construct. After all, THIS temporary housing solution is in the shape of a CUBE (which is, of course, a substantially more civilized shape).

I'm sorry - but the fact that these engineering students have not only wasted a great deal of time and energy on what apparently amounts to nothing more than a greatly inferior re-invention of the wheel - but are apparently actually being honored for doing so...is absolutely unbelievable to me.