Final Report: 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 , Noronha, Daniel Holonda , Beaudette, Aimee , Worcester, Alex , Chung, Andrew , Powell, Blake , McEvoy, Casey , Warmann, Chris , Herman, Clarissa , Anzini, Claudia , Hackett, David , Martinez, Dylan , Kim, Elliot , Arntzen, Eric , Cahill, Jillian , Caban, Katrina , Gleken, Kyle , Lim, Nelson , Shi, Tianyuan , Li, Xiaohan , Cassell, Yaroslava
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 - Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


In January 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, Haiti destroying much of the capital city. Since that time many people have been living in tents, under tarps, or making do with whatever other materials they could acquire. The goal of this project is to provide affordable, low impact housing for residents of economically disadvantaged countries like Haiti. This housing must be able to be manufactured in the host country, employing local citizens and taking advantage of locally available materials and resources. The materials used and the manufacturing process itself must be environmentally friendly and sustainable. Furthermore, once constructed at a manufacturing facility, the structure must be easily transportable. It has long been known that centralized production reduces costs and increases efficiencies, reducing resource use. This practice is increasingly applied to manufactured homes in the US, but is not widely recognized in developing countries.

To meet its goals, this structure must not only provide safe, comfortable housing for residents, but will also provide an increased standard of living and wellness. The design will increase sanitary conditions and promote better health. Of equal importance are the financial aspects of the project. Developing a project which can be reproduced locally, developing business opportunities in local communities, and employing local people is of critical importance.

Shipping containers are readily available in most ports, especially those in countries which run a trade deficit. Our proposed shelter, built out of shipping containers, will provide a safe, dry, and comfortable place to live. Shipping containers are of standardized sizes, inherently strong, and built to be stacked on top of each other. Multiple containers can be stacked on top of each other or laid out in a configuration to allow for a community complex. Initially this development will focus on providing a place for children living at orphanages to live, do homework, and sleep.

One of the major challenges that shipping container homes face is maintaining a comfortable inside temperature. In tropical countries, many designs require air conditioning to be habitable. In a country like Haiti where the electric grid is down more than it is on, the use of air conditioning is not an acceptable solution. Thus, through the careful application of appropriate technologies like insulating materials, ventilation, evaporative cooling, and geothermal cooling, we will ensure that the home stays at a comfortable temperature. These technologies will be developed to meet the needs of the project: requiring no materials beyond what is locally available, having relatively low cost construction, and operating on no more power than what can be created with solar panels mounted on the roof area.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

We have already sent the first container to Haiti and now we are modifying the second container to serve as a daycare center. The first container was made possible through ESW’s partnerships with the charity “To Love a Child,” Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), and General Electric (GE). This is a large project for a group of college volunteers to take on and would not be possible without grants, donations and partnerships. The organizational challenge for ESW-RPI is to effectively engage other groups from the campus and the broader community to accomplish this project quickly and effectively. We have support from a broad range of organizations who will help us to successfully complete this task. For example, To Love a Child paid for shipping and helped us to communicate with the local community in Haiti. GE donated solar panels for both containers, while RPI donated funds for building supplies. Jordan Energy has recently donated the second container, which ESW is currently converting. This is, of course, in addition to the generous EPA P3 grant that is providing the bulk of the funding for the daycare center.

ESW has spoken with Containers2Clinics, which allowed the design team to understand how others are meeting the challenges of converting containers. We are grateful towards all the organizations and individuals who have donated time and money to help make Phase I a success.


The first container was originally intended to be an orphanage, but the local community decided during the design process that it would be best used as a patient ward attached to a clinic. The local community is extremely proud of the container and ESW’s partner charity, To Love a Child, estimates that the clinic and patient ward see an average of 200 patients a day. Before the arrival of ESW’s container, the village only had one clinic, located miles away. Now, with the patient ward in place, an entire community has easy access to basic healthcare.

From a design point-of-view, the first container design proved very successful. The container has not rusted, remains cool in the sun, and is used daily by the community. ESW has learned a lot about the container conversion process and has made a few small design changes for the second container, which will be shipping out to Haiti in the next few months.

  • The addition of a timer so interior lights are not left on

  • The addition of a window bar security system to prevent break-ins

  • A more efficient concrete foundation which reduces the amount of concrete needed

  • A retractable awning system that will better withstand high winds

  • Removal of unnecessary welding to simplify the building process

The second container has been designed and is in the process of being fabricated on RPI’s campus. The container has been painted with white reflective paint and bears the logos of ESW and its sponsors. The second container is intended to provide a safe environment for the village children during the day when their parents are at work. The exterior design of the daycare center reflects ESW’s focus on providing a safe place for children. It will be the first fenced-in area in the village, allowing an adult supervisor to keep track of up to a dozen children. ESW-RPI is excited at the reception of the first container is eager to install the daycare center in Haiti in the coming months, and continue supporting the village with sustainable solutions.

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 1 publications 1 publications in selected types All 1 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Lau G, Walter K, Kass P, Puschner B. Comparison of polybrominated diphenyl ethers PBDEs and polychlorinated biphenyls PCBs in the serum of hypothyroxinemic and euthyroid dogs. PEERJ 2017;5(e3780). SU835320 (Final)
R829388 (Final)
  • Full-text from PubMed
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Full-text: Peerj - Full Text HTML
  • Supplemental Keywords:

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

    Relevant Websites:

    ESW-RPI Facebook Page: Exit

    To Love a Child: Exit

    ESW designs shipping container orphanage: Exit

    Sustainable Bedroom for Orphanage: Exit

    Safe haven for a precious cargo: Exit

    RPI students help themselves, others with capstone project: Exit

    RPI students helping Haiti: Exit

    Return to Haiti gives Wiltonian a new outlook: Exit

    ESW project relieves Haiti health center: Exit