Tampa Bay Area architect designs house in a box - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa Bay Area architect designs house in a box

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After a disaster strikes, many people need housing, and they need it quickly. The Federal Emergency Management trailers ship into the affected area one at a time.

A Bay Area architect wanted to streamline this procedure to bring homes to people faster. Sean Verdecia created the AbleNook. It is an easy-to-build, easy-to-ship structure that requires no tools.

The idea began while Verdecia was still in college at the University of South Florida. "Right after Hurricane Katrina, we were assigned this project where we had to come up with some disaster-relief kind of dwelling," said Verdecia.

While in graduate school, he put the idea into action in an independent study class when he created a life-sized prototype. "The whole system can plug together without tools, and it can arrive to the site flat-packed," said Verdecia. He adds, "So each truck is not just taking one trailer like you are with the typical FEMA trailers, you're taking multiple units."

The individual parts of the home fit together like an Erector Set, snapping and pinning together.  Verdecia estimates it would take two people about two hours to build a completely insulated house.

Even the electricity snaps together, so once the home is built it can immediately be plugged into a power source, and the lights come on. "You can power the whole thing through extension cords because the lighting is so efficient and the AC is so efficient," said Verdecia.

Despite its quick-built construction, the prototype has an architect's flair. The hardwood floors and curved roof will make the resident feel more at home.  Verdecia says, "You can make things nicer by just a simple move, and people don't have to be in these miserable environments."

The AbleNook still needs funding to get certified for wind resistance and to have a destructive analysis performed. Verdecia says a comparably-sized FEMA trailer costs about $35,000. He wants to price his home less than that.

Recently, Verdecia has received emails from Hurricane Sandy victims asking him when this will be available. "It's not just a nice project. I have a duty to produce these things now."

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