Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, recently joined Commissioners Joseph F. Bruno, New York City Office of Emergency Management, Feniosky Peña-Mora, New York City Department of Design and Construction, and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Brooklyn celebrating the completion of emergency prototype housing units designed to quickly resettle large numbers of people in urban areas after a major coastal storm or disaster. It is the only system of its kind in the U.S.
“This innovative emergency-housing initiative holds promise for use in densely-populated urban areas after a natural disaster,” said Col. Paul Owen, Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. “Arriving at my command two weeks before Hurricane Sandy, I’m keenly aware of the need for this type of housing. The Corps is pleased to serve as project manager for this forward-thinking initiative.”
ADVANTAGES OF HOUSING UNITS
Below are some distinct advantages of these prototype units:
● Ease of Construction Modular units were erected in a single weekend in April 2014. This is imporant as time is critical when helping storm victim’s access secure shelter, maintaining a sense of normalcy.
● Design These prototypes ─ with more space, large windows and a balcony ─ feel much more like a real home than other forms of temporary housing used in other parts of the country.
● Rapid Replication. Standardized units can be manufactured, delivered and constructed in large quantities in a short period of time ─ exactly what’s needed to quickly resettle large numbers of people.
● Economical A standard design, using similar materials and ordered in bulk, reduces costs.
● Proximity Many units can be constructed in a small area, allowing occupants to remain closer to home and family until conditions are safe to return.
CORPS IS PROJECT MANAGER
The District is serving as project manager for the prototype. Over the next year, Corps staff will collect and provide data on construction processes and living conditions ─ including air quality and energy efficiency ─ to help OEM and DDC fine-tune the prototype. The three-story prototype includes three factory-built housing units installed adjacent to OEM's headquarters in Brooklyn. It will be evaluated for suitability as post-disaster housing according to design, delivery, maintenance and occupancy.
ONE YEAR TRIAL
The units will be ready for occupancy this summer, beginning with short stays by OEM and City employees, followed by year-long stays. Throughout that time, evaluations will be conducted by Polytechnic Institute of New York University, studying how well the prototype performs as a living space, and Pratt Institute, looking at how the buildings could be used in large numbers to restore neighborhoods. After one year, the structure will be removed and the site restored. FEMA and the City are funding the project.
Sandy illustrated ─ in sobering fashion ─ the power of a major coastal storm. While we all hope it was a once-in-a-lifetime event, there’s no set pattern to severe weather. But with predictions of severe storms occurring with greater frequency, it’s prudent to pursue solutions that better meet public needs in times of emergency.