As too many recent events have proven, the perils of a natural disaster don’t end when the wind dies down or the ground stops shaking. The journey to recovery, particularly in developing regions, is typically long, trying, and expensive. To see the scope of the problem of re-housing residents who’ve lost everything, one need only look to New Orleans, where five years after Hurricane Katrina many residents are still without permanent, safe homes, or to Haiti, where thousands of families have little but tents and tarps for shelter following January’s earthquake.

To address the problem of efficiently, safely, and permanently sheltering newly homeless residents, Reose, a sustainable kit-home manufacturer formed by steel SIPs maker Oceansafe and education consortium The Regen Group, challenged eight New Orleans-based architecture firms to design Emergency Disaster Relief Housing. Using the same set of materials, each team was tasked with creating a kit house that can be erected quickly, withstand extreme weather conditions (including winds from 160 to 225 mph and 8.6-magnitude earthquakes), and meet energy and performance guidelines. The homes also must be completely self-sustaining, able to generate their own electricity and collect water.

“These firms didn’t really need to get involved, but they did it because they believe in disaster relief and they believe in expanding it internationally,” says Oceansafe president Joe Basilice. “That’s why we chose these architects. We knew they would make an impact, not just in the south, but in the world.”

The design teams had 40 days to develop their entries. On July 22, a jury awarded the grand prize to architects and educators Judith Kinnard and Tiffany Lin for their “SunShower SSIP” house. The project “uses its roof surfaces to seemingly opposing roles—shielding the occupants from the elements while collecting energy, heat, and water,” the architects say, describing a two-part system comprising a large porch roof, tilted to maximize efficiency for solar collection, and a low-slope roof that shelters the house while directing water to a courtyard.

The set of materials each architect could incorporate—including Oceansafe steel SIPs panels (which have been used in New Orleans’ Make It Right houses, as well), high-performance windows, low-flow toilets, solar panels, cisterns, etc.—fit into a single shipping container for easy transport to sites. Designs also could include up to 30 cubic feet of additional items.

The buildings, which range from 800 to 1,100 square feet and cost $100 per square foot, must be easily adaptable and can be added onto as needed, including for use as community structures like schools. Though they’re meant to be permanent, the homes can be disassembled and re-transported.

The judges were impressed by all of the entries, says jury member Bill Reed, a founding USGBC board member and principal of the Integrative Design Collaborative and Regenesis, who says the specificity of the contest’s rules encouraged creativity while ensuring solutions were meaningful.

Some  entries focused on the immediacy of relief shelter, recalls Reed, while others looked more to long-term livability; Kinnard and Lin’s design best balanced the needs of both. “It was very readily built, had a great floor plan, had an interesting aesthetic, [could be used in] a wide variety of configurations, and generally answered all the questions,” he says. “As an entry it addressed all the issues on the table in a more elegant way.”

Kinnard and Lin’s project will be erected in New Orleans as a model for visiting governments, including Haiti, Iraq, and Chile, who will tour that home as well as review the other seven designs. Each entity can select a model from the collection that can then be customized for their regions and needs. The house, and subsequent models to be built and shown in other locations, also will allow Basilice to demonstrate the long-term efficiency of the building and the SIPs system through ongoing performance and energy testing.

“These are permanent structures, they’re sustainable structures, and they’re expandable structures,” Basilice says. “All the models are different, yet they come from the same pieces and parts.”

To view renderings of each project, click on the slide show above.

Katy Tomasulo is Deputy Editor for EcoHome.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: New Orleans, LA.