I-Beam Pallet House
I-Beam Architecture and Design
The Pallet House is a design for a transitional shelter made of wooden shipping pallets, designed to serve as a framework that households can improve upon over time.
I-Beam Architecture and Design design the Pallet House for a transitional shelter made of wooden shipping pallets. It is designed to bridge the gap between temporary tent shelter and permanent home by being the framework onto which other locally available materials can be easily added over time for increased durability.
North America, Latin America & the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Europe/Middle East.
The design can be used anywhere where shipping pallets are commonly used and can be obtained.
The product has not yet been implemented in a refugee camp or post-disaster situation. Prototypes have been built in New York, Milan, and London for various exhibitions.
The cost for the blueprints of the Pallet house is $75 USD and grants a license to build one house within two years of purchase. I-Beam estimates the cost of building can range roughly from 500 – 3,000 USD depending on how many tools and materials can be donated.
Goal 1: No Poverty
Households or implementing organizations.
Architectural drawings generally fall under copyright for architectural works. I-Beam requires buyers to accept their license agreement before purchasing the plans, and they may use them to build one shelter unless they apply for an extension to the license.
Users can obtain the construction plans and details from the I-Beam website. Users must obtain all materials for construction from elsewhere.
766 plans have been sold since 2012, but primarily to North American buyers for use as garages or sheds. I-Beam is looking for opportunities to partner with an NGO to implement the design in a refugee camp situation. Interview with designer
Number of individuals. 1 family = 5 persons.
Number of hours from deployment to completion
Surface area of footprint
Main material used
Intended number of years of occupancy
As calculated by manufacturer
As calculated by manufacturer
Composite estimated R-value
List of suitable climates for use of this components
All of the available information for specifications can be found on I-Beam’s Humanitarian Projects page.
The majority of the walls, floor, stairs, mezzanines, interior partitions, ceiling, and furnishings are made of standard flush 2-way hardwood shipping pallets measuring 48″ x 40″ x 5″. European and Asian pallets are similar (approximately 1200mm X 800mm) and come in various standardized sizes. The pallets are connected and braced by a minimal number of 2×4, 2×6, and 2×8 wood members.
A 250 square foot Pallet House requires 100 recycled pallets nailed and lifted into place and takes about a week to assemble with 4-5 people using hand tools. With more basic non-power tools, it would take a little longer to build, but it is still doable.
Tarps draped over the basic structure or plastic corrugated sheets prevent water penetration until enough debris, stone, mud, earth, wood, or any material from the immediate surroundings can be gathered to fill the wall cavities and cover the roof. The makeshift shelter can be transformed into a permanent home within a year or two by incorporating the additional materials.
The construction drawings and details are available for purchase on the I-Beam website.
No technical support is available beyond what is provided in the construction documents.
Because the design uses the pallets in a modular system, it is possible to replace components.
The original design was built to last 5 years, but the designers suggest that the shelter could be made more permanent with cladding and fill to the basic wood frame.
Designer specified performance targets include affordability, ease and speed of construction, and flexibility.
The prototype designs were assessed and had input from a structural engineer; however, since the design does not include a foundation and local conditions vary, I-Beam recommends that anyone building the design consult a local structural engineer. Interview with designer
There are no testing organizations beyond review by a structural engineer. Interview with designer
Fire and security are both factors that the Pallet House does not address. Construction workers are subject to the general dangers of a construction site, such as working from heights and with sharp tools.
I-Beam proposes that the pallets could potentially be preassembled before shipping to include rigid insulation, vapor barrier, and cladding layers.
I-Beam requires that the buyer of the construction drawings engage and consult an appropriately licensed architect or engineer and contractor to review and/or modify these documents as necessary to suit local laws, ordinances, and regulations, and conditions.
The designer does not cite any evaluation criteria.
The design won an award from Architecture for Humanity in 1999.
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