By I-Beam Architecture & Design
Photography: Suzan Wines, Gabriel Neri
The Pallet House project by I-Beam Design, was initially conceived as a transitional shelter for the refugees returning to Kosovo after the war. These people needed an immediate alternative to the typical tent solution that could potentially transform into a new permanent home over time, even without sophisticated tools and materials. It has since become important to make this project available to everyone in need.
Pallets are versatile, recyclable, sustainable, easily assembled and universally esthetically pleasing
The Pallet House is an inexpensive, efficient and easily realizable solution to the problem of housing people displaced by natural disaster, plagues, famine, political and economic strife or war. It is intended to serve returning refugees who come home and find their house partially or fully destroyed. This type of transitional housing bridges the gap between temporary tent shelter and permanent home.
The Pallet House is made of wooden shipping pallets. Pallets are versatile, recyclable, sustainable, easily assembled and universally esthetically pleasing. They are readily available in most countries and their transportation cost and weight is negligible. A simple pallet structure evolves naturally from emergency shelter to permanent house with the addition of more stable indigenous materials like rubble, stone, earth, mud, plaster and concrete.
The evolution of one 16′ by 16′ (ca. 5 x 5m) shelter into a permanent home requires approximately 100 pallets nailed or strapped together and lifted into place. Tarps draped over the basic structure or plastic corrugated sheets prevent water penetration until enough debris, stone, mud, earth, wood or any material from the immediate surroundings can be gathered to fill the wall cavities and cover the roof.
The filled pallets can be covered with stucco, plaster, or roofing tiles transforming the makeshift shelter into a permanent home
Pallets may be pre-assembled with styrofoam insulation, vapor barrier, plywood or corrugated sheathing prior to shipping as well. As infrastructure is restored and cement or other materials become available the filled pallets can be covered with stucco, plaster, or roofing tiles transforming the makeshift shelter into a permanent home within a year or two. Pallets or skids, typically used for shipping are inexpensive to make and can be pre-assembled by hand at a rate of 200 per day per worker. The size and layout of each home can evolve over time encouraging the participation of the community that lives in the houses.