Low-Cost Modular Emergency Floor Could Help Improve The Lives Of Millions

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Federico Guerrini, Contributor

July 6, 2015

Humanitarian innovation is something of a hot topic, in philanthropic circles. NGOs, governments, and other private and public institutions are trying to find new solutions to the growing number of emergencies taking place in our troubled world: in the last 10 years, the number of people affected by humanitarian crisis has almost doubled.

Large corporations, like IKEA, Deloitte and Ericsson are often working side by side with State actors to improve the refugees’ conditions. But in this fast changing landscape, there’s also room for smaller projects, that try to address specific needs, like the Emergency Floor.

The brainchild of two graduates of Houston’s Rice University School of Architecture, Scott Austin Key and Sam Brisendine, the Emergency Floor re-purposes shipping pallets, one of the most common materials to be found in temporary camps for refugees, to solve one aspect often overlooked by other shelter solutions: how to ensure people do not have to sleep directly on the ground, exposed not only to the coldness of the soil (in harsh climates), but also to parasitic infections and other diseases that can easily spread if there’s no insulation.

Last year, 38 million refugees fleeing conflict and natural disasters were forced from their homes and hosted in temporary camps where tent-like shelters provide little to no barrier between their families and the soil below.

“No one should have to sleep in the dirt. We believe in the power of design to innovate, we believe we should be actively working to make the world a better place,” Key says.

The raised flooring system designed by Good Works Studio, the social enterprise he founded with Brisendine, is composed of two main elements: a pallet tile and a plastic cap, which can be interlocked and combined in different ways to fit ideally any kind of shelter. The modularity of the solution is, indeed, one of its main assets.

Another, is the fact that using material already available on site, like the shipping pallets, the Emergency Floor also helps to reduce camps waste, improving the environmental sustainability of the sites, while at the same time keeping costs low.

The goal is to produce the flooring for as little as $2 per square foot, making it affordable for most humanitarian organizations.

Recently, the Emergency Floor project has been selected as a finalist for USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV). In order to qualify for the $150,000 grant, Key and Brisendine must raise $50,000 independently. To achieve this, they launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, which took off last month and will run until July 15. So far, they raised a little more than half of their goal, and there are only nine days left.

The USAID grant would allow the team to finalize the latest prototype and produce tiles for field testing in Iraq and Nepal. “Our goal is to have our floors in 10 shelters in two different camps this fall,” Key said in a recent interview with Rice News.

This article was written by Federico Guerrini from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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