Sustainable Accommodations for Communities in Need: Providing Affordable, Sustainable and Portable Housing for Developing Nations

EPA Grant Number: SU835320
Title: Sustainable Accommodations for Communities in Need: Providing Affordable, Sustainable and Portable Housing for Developing Nations
Investigators: Jensen, Michael K
Current Investigators: Jensen, Michael K , Anzini, Claudia , Arntzen, Eric , Beaudette, Aimee , Caban, Katrina , Cahill, Jillian , Cassell, Yaroslava , Chung, Andrew , Gleken, Kyle , Hackett, David , Herman, Clarissa , Kim, Elliot , Li, Xiaohan , Lim, Nelson , Martinez, Dylan , McEvoy, Casey , Noronha, Daniel Holonda , Powell, Blake , Shi, Tianyuan , Warmann, Chris , Worcester, Alex
Institution: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2013
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Awards , Sustainability


To provide affordable, low-impact housing using converted end-of-life shipping containers for residents of economically disadvantaged countries, starting with a critical need: orphanages in Haiti.


End-of-life shipping containers are ideal for conversion to living space since they are readily available, easy to transport, inherently strong, easy to modify, easy to make secure, and relatively inexpensive. They also provide for growth of a community through modularity; multiple containers could be laid out in a geometric configuration to allow for a community complex to be built over time to accommodate more individuals. Through the design and construction of interior insulated walls, ventilation measures, and shading, the inside temperature of the container will be maintained at a temperature that is cooler than the ambient outside temperature. Solar panels will be used to provide energy for lighting and ventilation. A water collection system will be implemented to provide clean drinking water. Finally, sanitary restroom facilities will be provided which will reduce groundwater contamination, a major concern as the cholera epidemic continues in Haiti.

Expected Results:

Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW-RPI) will design a modular community built out of shipping containers which would provide environmentally sustainable and affordable housing for orphans in Haiti. This design would also be easily adaptable to other developing nations. A prototype container will be constructed and moved to the orphanage. With a container on the ground in Haiti, the group will evaluate the design and get feedback from its end users. As funding becomes available, and based on lessons learned for the first prototype, ESW-RPI will move ahead with the additional containers required to complete the complex. In addition to designing this complex and producing the first container, ESW-RPI will look into the economics of producing future containers locally, providing much needed employment for the people of Haiti. Based on lessons learned, information will be complied into a set of instructions for building such a home, translated and freely distributed to the people of Haiti so the design may be reproduced.

Supplemental Keywords:

sustainable urban planning, sustainable infrastructure design, resource recovery, green manufacturing, Alternative construction material, recycled materials, architectural design

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report