Small solutions for big problems
May 2, 2006 6:54 PM   Subscribe

The Katrina Cottage is economical, rather charming, and can serve as a "grow" house. At $35,000 for 308 sq ft, it compares favorably to the $75k FEMA trailer. Not a totally new idea - some of the 1906 earthquake refuge shacks are still in existence in San Francisco. Might tiny houses be the future for disaster relief? (via The Blues and Then Some)
posted by madamjujujive (39 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A grow house. So, katrina victims can get back on their feet by growing and selling pot.
posted by stavrogin at 7:00 PM on May 2, 2006

Since my aesthetic tends to be small house and a big yard, if code permitted here, I'd buy a lot and put one on it for myself. Unfortunately, I believe the minimum square footage for a house to be up to code is 800.

I've often wondered why "grow homes" aren't more prevalent. Most first-time buyers can't afford even the modest-sized home of their dreams. Why not provide something small to start, with room to build on (or, if not, plant trees on)?

My guess: it's not quite as profitable for developers and contractors, nor does it respond well to the real pressure civil planners feel in non-rural areas to pack more into less available space.
posted by weston at 7:17 PM on May 2, 2006

It looks like they designed a nice cottage and then reduced the width by 25% in the computer.
posted by smackfu at 7:26 PM on May 2, 2006

posted by mischief at 7:29 PM on May 2, 2006

It's nice to see some positive ideas bubble to the surface, instead of the endless parade of disaster, finger-pointing, and futility.
posted by JWright at 7:30 PM on May 2, 2006

It looks like they designed a nice cottage and then reduced the width by 25% in the computer.

Hey, if so, maybe I could get a hold of the larger plans and almost meet the 800 sq ft requirement.
posted by weston at 7:34 PM on May 2, 2006

Studio houses, pretty cool. I can't imagine they'd work worth a damn for more than one person (or two very intimate people) butI'm glad to see people starting to offer solutions rather than excuses. In my single days I would have liked one of these, minus the life-wrecking disaster hat necessitated them.
posted by lekvar at 7:37 PM on May 2, 2006

These are more innovative, cheaper and better.
posted by wilful at 7:40 PM on May 2, 2006

Neat idea, I wonder how well they're built compared to the old earthquake refugee shacks (hmm, wonder if anyone got their hackles up over referring to the survivors as refugees back then)?
posted by porpoise at 7:42 PM on May 2, 2006

This is really interesting. The Katrina Cottage site is well designed, but I wish it had more information on materials used, and photos of a built home including interiors; I can imagine it would help prospective buyers a lot. At any rate, they are far, far more appealing than trailers (I particularly like the inclusion of porches), and the designers have clearly met their stated goal of respecting the local architectural vernacular. I would hope that local governments would have the good sense and foresight to suspend minimum square footage requirements, but it's hard to have faith in the sensibility of beauracracy. (I find myself hoping that James Kunstler will write about it. I'm guessing he'd approve.)

Also, I'd no idea about the disaster home history of SF, or that there were examples still standing -- what a cool way to round out the post. Thanks, madamjujujive!
posted by melissa may at 7:45 PM on May 2, 2006

I do not get why people have hard-ons for living in a shipping container. It's not that hard to build a 2x4 wall.
posted by smackfu at 7:49 PM on May 2, 2006

Those links are pretty cool, wilful. Innovative and cheap, yes. But have you ever been in a cargo container in the summer? They get murderously hot, which is undoubtedly why housing structures utilizing them are still in development.
posted by lekvar at 7:49 PM on May 2, 2006

I think this is awesome, and I just sent the link to my dad. He was a draftsman for a really long time, and worked on most of the major buildings in the downtown core of Toronto in the 60s. Before I was born he got a degree in sociology because his end goal had always been to work on socially conscious architecture projects. To build truly livable and compassionate spaces. But by the time he finished the degree he came to the realization that the point of sociology was the learn how people behave so that you can manipulate them into giving up their money, not to help improve their lives. He lost the faith.

As he's now approaching retirement (he teaches drafting, wood and metal shop at a high school), I see things like this and think that maybe this is the kind of work he should have been doing, and maybe this is the kind of project he can take up now. Helping to build houses like this for people who need them.

Of course, in order to see the thing he'll have to a) check his email, and b) have flash on his 7 year old computer (somehow I doubt it). Still! Thanks for the link!
posted by Hildegarde at 8:04 PM on May 2, 2006

Define better, wilful. Part of the brief for the katrina cottages seems to have been to create something that looked like a real house, fit in with the local style and could be built upon. The shipping container houses do none of those things. They're very much worse than the comparable FEMA trailers in those respects, as well.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:09 PM on May 2, 2006

metafilter: minus the life-wrecking disaster hat

Thanks, lekvar, for the best typo EVAR.
posted by koeselitz at 8:09 PM on May 2, 2006

Here are a few stories that give more detail - I actually mean to include this recent story from Slate that spurred my digging further (and where I learned about the SF shacks, melissa may). The article reports on a slightly larger version (770 sq ft - weston take note!) that is on display in Louisiana. And here's an article with more photos from Mississippi Renewal.

Thanks for the links, wilful - those are pretty neat. But I like the way the architect tried to make these houses sympathetic and familiar to the traditional area housing. Also, I like that they are not intended to be temporary, but permanent. This commentary suggests they could later convert to guest houses or studios. However, permanence is a feature that is posing some problems since FEMA only funds temporary shelter.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:18 PM on May 2, 2006

$113.63 per square foot for an 17.5' x 17.5' one-room house sounds right expensive.
posted by mischief at 8:22 PM on May 2, 2006

Personally, I see this as a testament to the U.S. citizen's obsession with the individual.

I'd really much rather sleep in a bedroom that's longer than I am and share a bathroom and/or kitchen than this. And by God, it'd be a hell of a lot cheaper to build shelters that way.

As a point of reference, my dad bought a 2-story, 3-bedroom, 2-bath house about 5 years ago for $20,000, including the property it was built on. It was pretty run-down, and obviously it's in the middle of nowhere, but certainly far from being condemned or hazardous to your health. But you could find room to put your socks away.
posted by zekinskia at 9:12 PM on May 2, 2006

I'd rather live in a yurt.
posted by homunculus at 9:29 PM on May 2, 2006

posted by russilwvong at 9:30 PM on May 2, 2006

I was just looking at the grow house PDF earlier this evening. Odd bit of kismet.
posted by shoepal at 10:08 PM on May 2, 2006

Thanks for posting this. Great design and I'd love to put one up on my unused land in the ozarks.
posted by pandaharma at 10:15 PM on May 2, 2006

It looks like they're just re-packaging hunting cabins.

Not a half bad idea. But make the residents build them, and immediately evict anyone caught dealing/using/selling drugs.
posted by drstein at 10:23 PM on May 2, 2006

I don't get the thrill of some of the pre-fab housing that costs more than a traditional home. If I ever find myself broke and single again, I'm totally going to buy a shipping container and then stack straw bales around it for soundproofing and insulation, then stucco them.

/not having a midlife crisis, honest.
posted by craniac at 11:00 PM on May 2, 2006

Those 1906 San Fran shacks remind me of early Antarctic huts. Makes sense. From the same era and easy to transport and build all in one hit.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:37 AM on May 3, 2006

I didn't really understand how they were going to fit a family of four into the house, until I got a chance to look at the floor plans. They are very tight, but not much tighter than a small trailer, and wouldn't be so bad if you didn't have much stuff.

I'd like to see floor plans and more detailed drawing for how you can build onto them and expand.

That said, would it have really increased the cost so much to make them 750-800 sqft? That's much more livable for a family of four, and would be a better permanent solution. They could have followed the same design principles (the porch, the nice details, the compact kitchen), and kept it prefab, and narrow enough to transport, but large enough to be livable for the long term. (Fema may only officially provide temporary shelter, but people are still living in trailers after Hurricane Andrew).
posted by jb at 4:49 AM on May 3, 2006

Very neat, neat post, and thanks for the link back to the earlier post, which I missed. The Tumbleweed houses are awesome!!
posted by OmieWise at 6:52 AM on May 3, 2006

Here's another take on the Katrina relief idea, the H.E.L.P. (Housing Every Last Person) house.
posted by OmieWise at 7:16 AM on May 3, 2006

jb, in the later versions for Louisiana, the designer, Marianne Cusato, was making plans in a larger size. I think her original intent was to try to make them in the same size as the FEMA trailers - just better, cheaper, and more sustainable. I think the design was part of a competition or a challenge that Mississippi issued. Cusato was quite surprised that they met with such an immediate and broad-based acceptance.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:43 AM on May 3, 2006

Cool, OmieWise - but now that's small! Yikes!

I was digging last night, and found a few other interesting housing designs in response to disasters. These soccer football homes are also interesting - they float. And this story about the post-slum payatas in Manilla is both horrifying (the original disaster) and heartwarming in terms of the creative housing that is emerging.

I think it's great that architects are coming up with such creative alternatives to tents and trailers. (Not that some trailers don't have appeal to me.)
posted by madamjujujive at 7:54 AM on May 3, 2006

i don't understand why no one gives any press to the relief cottages zoe outdoors has been trying to get off the ground since last october. they're a third of the cost of the katrina cottages, and look to be just as roomy. it's possible to customize them (to an extent), too. instead, all anyone talks about is fema trailers and (now) katrina cottages.

if i had room in my backyard, i'd have one of the zoe models.
posted by msconduct at 8:15 AM on May 3, 2006

COMING SOON- Our Cottage on Wheels. Imagine A cozy cottage or guest house completely portable on wheels, delivered and set up in one day for instant use in your garage, parking lot or backyard! Comes with heavy duty commercial electrical cord for instant power. From the "ZOE OUTDOORS" site

This is awesome.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 8:25 AM on May 3, 2006

How very cool! I just fear the banks and all wouldn't go along with this. When I went to get a mortgage for my 600 sq. foot house, I was told by bank after bank that my house was too small (and that I wasn't borrowing enough money). I finally got a loan at nearly 2% more than it would have cost me for a larger house.

But, I love the concepts behind the Katrina Cottages, and other small housing.
posted by QIbHom at 9:38 AM on May 3, 2006

Also, here's a post I did about macro-scale planning with renewable and sustainable goals in mind soon after the hurricane. The US Govt program is called Fresh Start.
posted by OmieWise at 10:32 AM on May 3, 2006

I was thinking along similar lines this morning, QIbHom, that landowners with existing mortgages probably have clauses that dictate what kind of house can be rebuilt. Of course, those with mortgages also probably have adequate insurance.

So, for whom are these mini-houses meant?

Certainly not renters, that's fershur.
posted by mischief at 11:44 AM on May 3, 2006

$8,000 for a 10' x 16' cottage? Good lord. It'd be half that, at most, to build it yourself.
posted by rusty at 11:48 AM on May 3, 2006

10' x 16' = 5 pieces of plywood for the decking.
posted by mischief at 1:33 PM on May 3, 2006

I'm glad she is making a slightly larger design (and I had no idea that FEMA trailers were that small - I was picturing a family sized trailer). I think if these are picked up, they will end up being long term housing for many people, because there won't be anything else they can afford. It is a very well designed small house.
posted by jb at 2:35 PM on May 3, 2006

NYTimes article on Andres Duany and New Urbanism's plans for the Gulf Coast.
posted by OmieWise at 7:32 AM on May 24, 2006

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