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Temporary Housing Prototype Survives Ultimate Test: Cyclone Marcia

25 Mar 2015

Last year, three students at CQ University in Queensland came up with the idea of a flat-pack shelter made from old wooden pallets that could be used as temporary housing by people who had lost their homes in a natural disaster.

No Shortage of Wooden Pallets

There are over four billion wooden pallets in use at any time throughout the world, so the basic material for these temporary homes is not hard to find. The important matter is to ensure that the pallets are made from heat-treated wood (that matches up to ISPM15 standards) rather than chemically (methyl bromide) treated wood. The former is stronger and more reliable than the latter.

Construction Tips

The pallet house can be constructed to be as structurally stable as a standard framed home.

However, there’s more to the job than just fitting pallets together. Not only do you have to find a firm foundation for the house to stand on, but you also need some good tools. Wooden pallets are generally made from hardwood, so it can be difficult task to insert screws, saw the wood or drill through it. Power tools are an absolute necessity. Hand tools or battery-operated tools are best left at home for simple DIY jobs.

The next step is to prepare the pallet. You will need to dismantle the original shipping pallet first and then attach wooden planks to the individual pallet sides. Standard 2 x 4 ones will do. This will make the pellet units easier to nail or screw together.

It’s always a good idea to make the job easier by clamping together the sides before connecting them permanently with screws, bolts or nails. Once the main structure is in place, conventional joist and rafters can be fitted inside. Equally, window and door frames can be installed.

Cyclone Survival

The final house is comfortable enough for a family to live in, even on their own property, as any rebuilding work is under way following a disaster. It’s always a worry if a second disaster follows the first event and endangers any temporary housing.

In Queensland the students’ invention was tested in March by Cyclone Marcia cutting through the region. The prototype survived, even though the cyclone destroyed some 350 conventional homes in the area.

With the durability of the pallet house tested successfully, the Queensland students plan to design further prototypes. They are also working with Australian businesses to see if the project could be developed as part of Australian disaster-relief programmes and then move on for global use.

The pallet house is unlikely to replace other temporary housing, such as tents, but it does provide a further housing option.

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