Co.Design

A House For Refugees, Made From 100 Shipping Pallets

I-Beam turns cheap, discarded material into transitional structures for those who have lost their homes.

Here’s a mind-boggling statistic: 84% of the world’s refugees could be housed with a year’s worth of recycled American pallets--those wooden platforms used for shipping crates. That figure inspired the Brooklyn-based firm I-Beam to design the Pallet House, a 250-square-foot low-cost shelter constructed of 100 discarded pallets.

Nearly 21 million pallets end up in landfills every year; if repurposed, they could house more than 40,000 refugees. And since the pallets are designed for transport, they can first be used for carrying shipments of other types of aid, including food and medicine. Once onsite, it takes a five-person team less than a week to assemble and nail the modules together using basic hand tools. Tarps or corrugated roofing could serve as temporary measures to prevent water from penetrating the interior until enough locally available materials like dirt, wood, and thatch can be gathered to thoroughly cover the exterior and fill the wall cavities.

In addition to having the pleasing aesthetic of a garden shed, the Pallet House is far sturdier and more permanent than the tent structures common in refugee camps, where displaced individuals stay an average of seven years. I-Beam has built prototypes in New York, Indiana, and at the Architecture Triennial in Milan and is currently working on housing for those who lost their homes during the earthquake in Haiti and the floods in Pakistan.

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23 Comments

  • Georges Lacombe

    The company iBeam sell the pallet house project for $75 and the owner can only build one house. As they are not selling the project but the right to build one. I think that it is ridiculous to sell the project. It should be open source under the creative commons license model.

  • Robin macq

    Many people in our own communities have no shelter. This is just one
    more example how this problem could be addressed if the powers that
    be would allow non-standardized and alternative housing.

  • Dean Jones

    I have been an advocate of responding to the needs of OUR family here in the U.S.
    We don't need to try and take care of the entire world, until we can help our own.
    You are very right about the "powers that be" our largest demon and determent to make this America again rather than a place for more government and regulations.
    thanks
    Dean
    ndjalva AT outlook 
    back to my soap box

  • Wargothicj

    great idea, i can see where my next garden shed is coming from! ..maybe a boat house as well. Or a house on stilts! ..great idea!

  • Jhasselgren

    Seems like a positive move and superior to a tent!  As a temporary structure it would be easy to build and last maybe?  The steel shipping containers would be great, except there is the getting it there issue.

  • FreeDem

    A much better start is the steel shipping containers that could be modified with the shipping pallets to provide strong and secure structures very much superior to the purely shipping pallet builds.
    The additional equipment needed to cut holes in the steel would be an issue but not a huge one.

  • Staffer @ Plastics.com

    How the heck are you supposed to know if your pallet is treated or not? Dangerous! Also, you can probably get a great deal on land for your pallet house near Love Canal.

  • JJD

    It is not dangerous. Pallets are either treated by heat or by chemical. If they are heat treated they will have HT stamped on them. If they are chemically treated they will have MB for methyl bromide.  (Although, I feel treated pallets would probably be among the least of my concerns if I was a refugee...)

  • Givemeabreak

    This is a great example of why most people think designers are a bunch of twits and posaers.

  • Duncanmil

    I think this is fantastic! I'm sorry to say that most places in the world this would quickly end up as fire wood. I don't mean for a minute that it shouldn't be tried. As far as chemicals go... I think maybe some people are under the impression that they are living chemically safer environment, not to likely.

  • Misk

    "ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS COMMENT?  This is a key exampl of the small-mindedness of so many Americans living in their bubble.  Were taking about refugees here.  People who have just been through and wittnessed some of the most horrindous crimes, (their children being killed, raped, amptutated limbs, etc.) are fleeing for their lives and you're concerned about what the wood is treated with?  By all means take caution in our toxic world but while putting it into perspective. "
    If I'm going to be living in this pallet house for 7 or 50 years with my family, we better not be breathing toxic chemicals! So of course I'd be concern about what the wood is treated with. 

  • John Hagerman

    I'm the Development Director for World Wide Village, a non-profit working in Haiti. We build houses there and I think this idea has some possibilities for use in Haiti. I plan on passing the idea and design on to others. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Tingar

    So what happened? Were you able to use any of this type of idea there? I think this is a great idea and I'm sure that others would love to know if you were able to help some folks in Haiti with this wonderful idea!

  • Racheloverfield

    "I really applaud the inspiration behind this idea for creating refugee housing out of old wood pallets. It’s a worthy desire to find a solution to the homeless problem. But, I must inject a note of caution about humans living in wood pallet structures. Please make sure the wood pallets are not treated with toxic chemicals as they often are. Also, inspect them for formaldehyde, a carcinogen also often found in wood pallets. These will off-gas into the air anyone living in these structures breathes. If you do find these substances, don’t try and clean the wood pallets and then use them. Once these toxins are absorbed into the wood pallets, there is no way to get them out. Please use only unadulterated wood pallets…if you can find them."ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS COMMENT?  This is a key exampl of the small-mindedness of so many Americans living in their bubble.  Were taking about refugees here.  People who have just been through and wittnessed some of the most horrindous crimes, (their children being killed, raped, amptutated limbs, etc.) are fleeing for their lives and you're concerned about what the wood is treated with?  By all means take caution in our toxic world but while putting it into perspective. 
       

  • Amber

    Jgreene1981, almost all wood used to build homes in the US are treated in the same way with the same chemicals, including formaldehyde and arsenic. These pallets are toxic, but no more toxic than your standard US home.

  • Decryobliviots

    Unless they are building their first structure, without plans, I can't imagine why one of these structures would take more than 2 days to assemble. 

  • David Cohen

    We at http://www.divinemoving.com throw away at least 500-800 pallets a year if not more.. I would be happy if there was a place that can take them and use them for a better usage than just dumping them... in my area there are a least 20 additional companiese that get even more shipping crates and they too are stuck with them and need to dispose of them...