On Disaster Housing

Last week, Nepal was hit with a second earthquake which got me thinking about a topic that I’ve been interested in for a while: disaster housing. Given that this is the second earthquake to strike in two weeks, the Nepalese are in a dire situation. Three-fourths of the county’s infrastructure has completely evaporated, leaving millions of people displaced and without shelter. The intensity of this latest disaster underlines how important finding a long-term,  disaster-recovery housing solution is.

Unfortunately, like any socially focused enterprise, balancing business needs with high-impact design is hard. Architecture for Humanity (“Design Like You Give a Damn”), which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in January, is an example of this need to strike a delicate balance between being profitable and being highly impactful.

I recently came across an interesting and promising  company while reading up on disaster housing.  Reaction Housing is based out of Austin and they create beautiful smart (electricity and wifi-enabled) houses with the goal of making them widely available to disaster victims. Fast Company points out that a company like Reaction Housing has to consider providing housing for festival goers before being able to fulfill their true mission of providing disaster relief. I personally think there’s a ton of room in this space for innovative business solutions that give socially-minded companies an opportunity to find sustainable and long-term solutions for disaster housing.

the sweet spot.jpg

The Hexayurt project is another one that I’ve followed closely. The Hexayurt project is an open source housing project that enables regular people to build houses out of inexpensive, everyday materials. The cost of building the original Hexayurt is less than $300. The houses end up being quite resilient to normal weather patterns and with a few upgrades here and there, provide a rich opportunity for application in disaster-ridden areas. I’m planning on building one for a certain desert festival later this year and wanted to get conceptual experience with how it works using Camp Danger’s mini hexayurt book binding method.  Check out my final result below:

Materials: Foam Board, Tape, Heavy-Duty Twine, Pins, Utility Knife, Scissors

Hexayurt Prototype: Final Product


All the makings of an exciting Friday night for a design-loving, health food obsessed, Netflix freak….


1) I cut twelve 4 inch by 8 inch boards and divided six of those twelve boards into diagonals.


2) I then arranged the diagonals to create the the flattened version of the hexagonal roof.


3) Using Camp Danger’s mini hexayurt book binding method, I began taping the diagonals together, leaving a space approximately equal to half of the foam board height between the two pieces.IMG_5390

4) I repeated for the other diagonal pieces until they were all taped. Then connected all of the pieces together using the same book-binding method.     IMG_5396

5)  In order to connect the pieces, I literally needed to “raise the roof.”  And voila! The roof.IMG_5397

6) To build the main body of the hexayurt, I attached the other 6 pieces  using a similar book-binding method in two sections of three boards each.IMG_5400   

7) Finally, I attached the two sections together, forming the base of the hexayurt. IMG_5407

8) I then lifted the roof onto top of the base and taped down the edges. In the actual version, I would need to tape any exposed edge in order to protect the inside of the hexayurt from dust and bugs.


9) Using a double-carrick bend knot, I created a harness to fasten the hexayurt into the ground in anticipation of those desert wind/sand storms.IMG_5411

And voila! Hexayurt. I’m going to this give this baby a full test run in July with 4ft x 8ft insulation boarding and tarp (for the base). I’ll post the results afterwards !IMG_5427IMG_5415IMG_5424


2 thoughts on “On Disaster Housing

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