affordable modular vs FEMA

recent damage in Alabama image courtesy of google

We’re living in some interesting times.  Economic turmoil, natural disasters, man-made disasters, Global Warming, Global Cooling, Climate Change, El Nino, Lindsy Lohan and the Backstreet Boys reunion….it can seem as if everything is spiraling out of control.  No matter what your stand is on any of these “hot button” issues, the truth is there are people in need, people without homes, people who have lost loved ones, people that need to rebuild and they need help and support NOW.

sweet tornado image courtesy of google

But what’s the answer?  How do we (either through tax dollars or individual contributions) do the most good not just in the short term but in helping the permanent rebuilding of entire communities for the better?  The typical answer is to send in FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and they organize food/medical supplies, clean-ups and even on occasion drop off those incredibly unsightly and sometimes dangerous trailers for people to live in temporarily (NOT an ideal situation for anyone – just look at the Katrina aftermath and the nightmare FEMA trailers created there).  And this is only the typical “short term” solution that seems to be most comfortable and safe because it requires nothing on our part aside from the sacrifice of a few more tax dollars down the road.

It’s time for architects, engineers, celebrities, politicians and everyday citizens to talk about real solutions for the future of these cities that are faced with large scale rebuilding efforts and to implement them.  In today’s world with today’s technology, infrastructure and offsite modular construction capabilities, why are we not talking about a permanent restructuring and deployment of modern modular homes that are affordable and can be fabricated quickly and assembled on site to get people back to their daily lives?  This is the conversation I want to start here, now, with you.

The Strip House container prefab - r | one studio arch

People need housing.  Plain and simple.  What should they look like?  Should we provide a temporary fix, a band-aid?  Or should we provide something that is permanent, sustainable and affordable?  This should be an easy choice.  The reality is, it’s just as easy to provide permanent, modern, ecological and economical housing (both single family and multi-family) on a large scale and in such a way, in partnership with urban planners and other infrastructurists, to create a better, more efficient and more beautiful community for generations to come than it is to plop down a few trailers that will only take up needed construction space and need to be removed later.

Hive Modular - image courtesy of google

Oxley Prefab - Richard Rogers - image courtesy of google

Now for the “how”.

This really is the easy part.  Right now there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of architects and designers out there with affordable housing solutions ready to be deployed (including one or two on this site).  They are modular, pre-fabricated and easily assembled without the need for specialized labor.  So why don’t we use them?  Why don’t we leverage the power of the federal gov’t, through FEMA, and the private sector to task these companies to streamline these affordable housing options and get them in the hands of homeowners WHO NEED HOMES.  We could literally rebuild whole communities in a matter of weeks not months or years.  Allow people to get back to their daily lives, normalcy and allow the real rebuilding efforts to take place.  We have a chance, an opportunity for real change.  Will we take it?

3 thoughts on “affordable modular vs FEMA

  1. And that is exactly what I’m talking about. I’m talking about providing housing AND making profit (the ultimate American Way – doing good and making money). But I do have to disagree on one point. The “grass roots guidelines” conversation has already been had. We already know we can do this. Now is the time to simply DO IT. There are systems already in place for modular construction and fabrication all over the US. Simple, affordable designs are aplenty all over the world that simply aren’t being utilized to their potential.
    Here’s the “dream boat scenario”:
    Gather a team of Urban Planners, Architects, Suppliers and Contractors/Fabricators to quickly lay out the “scheme”, or game plan. The “game plan” being how to rebuild a given city. Obviously we would need the input of the local citizenry. Next, gather resources. Part of this would be to lobby the federal gov’t for aid money in order to get the ball rolling. The other part would be to get displaced homeowners on board and hopefully utilize a good portion of the insurance monies that are due them. Then we bring in the Venture Capitalists and other investors. This is where the profit comes in. By providing affordable modern homes and multi-family structures that can be constructed quickly in modular and expandable formats everyone wins. Everything constructed would be “sold” because we’re meeting demand that is already in place. This is the ultimate marriage of philanthropy and capitalism (with a little optimism thrown in for good measure). Not to belabor the point, but to throw out an old movie tag line “if we build it they will come”. It’s time to simply gather the tools we have available and get this shit done.

    • We’re both on the same page here, Alex. We’re just saying it differently. And I wasn’t suggesting that we use FEMA’s tactics, just their money. And while DIY is great, in this case, in order to literally rebuild communities, isn’t necessary. There are enough out of work contractors and laborers to put to work on any one rebuilding effort to fill every hotel within 50 miles of any of these affected areas. It’s not labor or production that is the problem, it’s the organizational and monetary effort that needs to be pushed forward. Hell, I’ve got a design (or three) in my sketchbook that could be developed in a matter of a couple of weeks and fabricated and finished within 3-4 months. DIY would take much MUCH longer than that.
      I’ll do another post on the whole “scalability” issue so we can talk about that separately. You are right that a lot of work needs to be done. But I’m saying all we are lacking is money (insurance payouts and some federal disaster monies – difficult yes, impossible no) and a group of dedicated professionals combined with the citizenry to get the ball moving forward. Speaking of which, where the hell is Habitat for Humanity in all this?

  2. OH, believe me, bro, I got no allusions about the uselessness of politicians…they’re POLITICIANS. 😛 We’re still on the same page, you’re just pointing out all the things that keep me honest and moving forward.
    Again, I’m all for DIY, but I think in this type of situation we need trained labor and trained professionals to design, organize and fabricate the solutions. The local citizenry obviously need to be part of the relief effort (it is their own town after all), but there still needs to be “the team” in place to guide the effort.
    Again, same page, brother! 🙂

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