Grandiosely titled The Universal World House, a new temporary home is being touted as a solution to homelessness and displaced persons in disaster areas around the world. And amazingly it's made of paper.
Well, cellulose from recycled paper, and cardboard that's been specially soaked in resin and pressure-treated into a honeycomb-pattern board to make it structurally stronger and rain-proof. But you get the point. It's been designed in Germany by Gerd Niemoeller, and it weighs around 1,700 pounds and has an area of about 390 square feet—enough to house a family. It's got all mod-cons built right in: Eight built-in beds (single and double), veranda, sealed-unit shower area and toilet, shelves, tables, benches and a hinged wall in the kitchen area that swivels out to let fresh air and light in during the day.
Niemoeller sees it as an alternative to shanty-town style construction for people who are driven to leaving their real homes, and since it's a pre-built unit it is both better than a temporary structure and cheaper for aid agencies to use than aluminum or steel-structured homes. It's also earthquake-proof, making it useful for natural disaster areas too.
Retailing for around $5,000 it's actually fairly affordable, and there's been interest from Nigeria, Angola and South American countries—aid agencies are also considering whether the houses would be useful for people fleeing the Zimbabwean cholera outbreak.
Best of all the idea is to build the fabricating machines in Germany, and ship them with the raw materials to the affected areas—that way costs and transportation are simplified, and local jobs are created at the receiving end. And because the houses are recycled and paper-based, they're even more eco-friendly than many alternatives. Sounds like a win-win idea for the developing world... and possibly an option for people without homes in the developed world too.