Katrina Cottage No. 3 sits outside the New Panel Homes factory in Englewood, Fla. Architect Andrés Duany selected Brian C. Bishop to provide SIPs and technical advice for the prototype Katrina Cottages.
Emergency Housing: First Katrina, Now Haiti
Our goal at New Panel Homes is to help prevent another debacle like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which forced thousands of Gulf Coast residents to live for months or even years in formaldehyde-ridden "FEMA trailers" that were purchased at great expense by the U.S. government until they could return to real homes.
We believe our panelized construction system provides a better approach to disaster relief housing. Our building kits can be deployed quickly in the disaster zone, like trailers, but our buildings are permanent — strong enough to resist the next disaster. They are also certified green, owing to their energy efficiency. And while our disaster relief houses are modest in size, they can easily be enlarged later or disassembled and moved, perhaps to be combined with others into a larger structure.
New Panel Homes has designed several small building kits specifically for emergency relief. These range from a 64-square foot green-certified "casita" that we produced for a homeless shelter in Florida (see photo below) to a 96-square-foot cabin we developed for the Haitian relief effort, all the way up to 600-square-foot "Katrina cottages" that were designed as renewal housing in the wake of Hurrican Katrina.
Much of the labor that goes into a panelized building kit occurs in our factory, away from the disaster area, allowing houses to be produced despite shortages of building materials in the disaster area. When the panel kits arrive at the site, local people can be put to work immediately building homes for themselves and their neighbors. Our smaller kits, such as our "casitas' and cabins, can be erected in a matter of hours by a crew of four after a day of on-the-job training.
We welcome inquiries from individuals or organizations that are trying to provide housing relief in Haiti. Our plant in Englewood, Fla., is ready to produce any of our stock kits in quantity and to assist in training Haitians how to build them. We believe that by providing decent, strong, energy-efficient homes, our partners will be able to effect meaningful change in Haiti long after this earthquake emergency has passed.
New Panel Homes staff members show residents how to build a "casita" at the Pinellas Hope homeless camp in St. Petersburg, Fla. The residents and the New Panel Homes team were able to build four of these 64-square-foot structures in their first day working together. BELOW, completed casitas stand in a row.