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The Potential of Advanced Modular Housing Design for Post-Disaster Housing

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The Potential of Advanced Modular Housing Design for Post-Disaster Housing

A modular house at a construction site.Advanced Modular Housing can provide sustainable, resilient, and affordable housing that can be relocated as needed. This can be especially useful as temporary, post-disaster housing. Photo credit: Kondratiev

Natural disasters often create an acute and urgent need for affordable temporary housing units to accommodate displaced households as they and their communities recover. When a disaster strikes, the ability to supply temporary housing quickly is critical, especially for vulnerable households. HUD funded a University of Florida project to design rapidly deployable modular homes that are resilient, sustainable, and affordable and can be used as temporary or permanent housing. The research team designed blueprints for units called Advanced Modular Housing (AMH) consisting of three types of units: the Core, Space, and Dwell units. The research team incorporated the feedback of industry stakeholders, including modular home manufacturers, to design the final units. These designs can withstand natural disasters common to the southeastern United States.

The Core unit is designed to be deployed in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and incorporates the essential housing functions of a kitchen, bathroom, laundry area, and sleeping loft. The 160-square-foot unit can be delivered quickly to a temporary or permanent site post-disaster. The Core unit can withstand rain and high winds in high-risk areas and is rigid and hardened so that it can be installed on various foundation types. The structure combines light-gauge metal framing, sheathing, and closed-cell foam insulation. The Space unit can be either deployed alongside the Core unit or added to the Core later. The Space unit is 193 square feet and can be configured as a den, sleeping porch, or bedroom. Unlike the Core unit, the Space unit is wind resistant but not hardened, so it must be supported by the foundation. Finally, the Dwell unit is a 794-square-foot unit that can be delivered on a temporary chassis and, when combined with the Core and Space units, brings the overall area of the home to 1,147 square feet. The Dwell unit includes three full bedrooms and a full bathroom.

 Exhibit 14. Distinct Modules that Accomplish Three Core Functions of Housing: Core+Space+Dwell

The Core, Space, and Dwell modular units (Core+) are designed to address sustainability, resiliency, and affordability. The modular units incorporate climate-responsive and passive energy strategies to achieve hyper energy efficiency, and they can readily accept solar and wind renewable-energy systems. AMH addresses resiliency through structural strength that meets or exceeds Florida's building code requirements for wind loading, systems to mitigate extended power failures, and an adaptable piling system that alters the structure's elevation to accommodate the site's risk profile. Finally, AMH addresses affordability through the savings achieved by employing a factory-built, modular manufacturing process that reduces labor costs; shortens building time; uses low-cost, durable, and energy-efficient materials; and avoids weather-related construction delays, an especially important consideration in post-disaster situations in which the building site likely is still recovering. AMH's sustainability, resiliency, and affordability make it an attractive option not only for temporary post-disaster housing but also for permanent housing in light of worsening affordability in Florida.

Through this project, the research team developed a scalable design and associated construction documents, including blueprints for the Core, Space, and Dwell units and information for solar installation and energy storage system integration, and produced a life-cycle cost analysis. The research offers a viable pathway for developing rapidly deployable post-disaster housing that meets urgent and ongoing needs for resilience, sustainability, and affordability.

Published Date: 9 January 2024

The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.