August 22, 2013

Architects, students refine emergency shelter design

Joel Condon is a professor in the Community & Technical College's Construction & Design Technology Division. He is a recipient of a Faculty Leadership in Expanding Undergraduate Research (FLEUR) grant.

Student's 3-D drawing of a prefabricated building exterior.
How do you best provide relief and on-the-ground resources in the wake of a disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, that wipes out a city’s infrastructure? The answers to that question are still evolving, but architects Kramer Woodard (University of New Mexico) and Joel Condon (University of Alaska Anchorage) know that speed is key. Prefabricated, rapidly deployable buildings—durable, self-powering “pop-up” structures—could be set in place just days after an event and serve as emergency shelters and medical clinics.

The futuristic-looking design of the structures serves a purpose. “The window exteriors have a series of photovoltaic panels in an almost horizontal position allowing for visual access to the outside, while collecting solar radiation to power the structure,” Condon says. “The ‘butterfly’ roof is configured to collect rainwater for storage in cisterns.”

UAA students spent last semester refining one of these building designs with Professor Condon in his undergraduate Advanced CADD Techniques class. And there may be plans for Woodard’s and Condon’s undergraduate and graduate architecture students to work together in upcoming semesters to further develop and adapt Slider Structure System (S3) designs for use in all climates.

Turns out the smart designs—S3 is Woodard’s brainchild—might be just what Alaska’s rural and Arctic regions need. The stilted structures require minimal dirt work—important for building on permafrost—and could be adapted with thicker, insulated wall panels to withstand cold climates. 

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