Architects, students refine emergency shelter design

August 13, 2013

C:Usersjcondon1Desktop282 S13Renderings282 S3 Local JC.pdfHow 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.

FLEUR award facilitates collaboration

In 2012–13 Condon became intrigued by the possibility of integrating Community and Technical College students into the thriving undergraduate research realm at UAA.

A Faculty Leadership in Expanding Undergraduate Research (FLEUR) grant helped Condon connect with Woodard, his former graduate school professor, to develop a meaty, real-world project for students. Woodard has been able to guest lecture in Condon’s classes from New Mexico via video conference, helping to answer students’ questions as they dove deeper into the S3 design in the 2013 spring semester.

A virtual architecture firm

Parts(1)Condon’s goal was to provide students with a real-world experience, so class members took on different elements of the structure’s design—the foundation and floor system, the wall system, the roof system or the mechanical system—and worked toward completion of the project.

“Professor Woodard, Molly Logelin (design professional and invaluable participant from RIM Architects), myself, and the students turned our classroom into an environment that mirrored the dynamics of an architecture office,” says Condon.

Together they worked out the bugs of distance collaboration, something future students will thank them for.

Future collaborations and a presence in Ship Creek?

Although Somalia is set to be the first place where the S3 structures will be deployed, there just might be a home for more S3 structures in Alaska as Woodard looks to Ship Creek as a potential S3 factory site. “Professor Woodard is planning to bring his final-year, University of New Mexico Master of Architecture students here to Anchorage, to work on conceptual designs for an S3 factory in the Ship Creek area,” says Condon.

As the municipality of Anchorage works out plans for redeveloping the Ship Creek area into a potential cruise ship terminal or train depot, Woodard wants to float his vision for an S3 factory past developers. UAA undergrads would work with visiting UNM grad students on plans.

Condon reports that there is some interest in building a full-scale S3 prototype here. And even though Alaskans are a tough crowd to impress—familiar as they are with rapid construction in our state’s short summers—it would be inspiring to see a student-led team erect a building in just a few short days.

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