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Providing shelter for the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami is just one of the enormous challenges facing officials throughout Southeast Asia. Lira Luis, a project manager with Deutsch Associates in Phoenix, believes that her Portable Transient Housing Pods could be part of the solution—but it was an earlier call for help that inspired her to create them.

This new concept for temporary housing (exterior, above—interior, below) is portable and able to be used in several environments. Photo Courtesy Lira Luis


The Philippines’s growing shipping industry attracts thousands of rural Filipinos and foreign nationals to the nation’s port cities. While waiting for jobs aboard cargo ships, these so-called seafarers often find themselves homeless. Filipino-born Luis learned of their plight in mid-2003 and was soon commissioned by the Pier One Seaman’s Dorm, a seafarer organization, to design low-cost, easily transportable housing for this transient population.

Luis is currently finishing work on a prototype of the project. Measuring roughly 90 square feet, the “pod” contains a bed, shelves, and a closet. Made of lightweight composite plastic, fabric, and perforated metal, one person can assemble the pod without requiring special tools or fasteners. “It’s like a Lego set that you assemble, a kit of parts,” Luis explains. “There’s no need for screws, because the parts snap into grooves.” For easy storage and transportation, the pod folds into a case the size of a large art portfolio.

Luis’s original thought was that seafarers could rent the pods like hotel rooms, and assemble them inside abandoned buildings or parking garages. The Seaman’s Dorm was unable to generate enough funding for the project, though, so Luis is now seeking other investors. She is also hoping to partner with an organization willing to produce the pods and donate them to people displaced by the tsunami.

By James Murdock


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