Company Says Emergency Housing Product Can Expand to Other Uses

A new type of emergency housing, introduced this month in Galveston, Texas, can be expanded to other uses, such as hotel and office, said maker Smart Holdings L.L.C.The unit, called Amerihome, is 200 square feet, but can be expanded. Amerihomes can be stacked and connected to one another (pictured), to a height of three stories, according to Smart Holdings. The Amerihome was first developed by Dutch engineers, who wanted to build structures that would be able to withstand below-sea-level flood risk. The first Amerihome units in the U.S. will be installed on Texas’ Galveston Island in the Spring of 2009, and Smart Holdings says Amerihome should be available in time for next year’s hurricane season. The manufacturer says that Amerihome is able to withstand winds of 170 miles per hour. Amerihome’s flexibility will make it a preferable housing choice to the FEMA trailers that attracted so much controversy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, said Andrei Cerda, co-owner of Smart Holdings. He said an Amerihome emergency housing development could include retail on the ground floor and housing on the upper floors. One of the challenges that Katrina victims faced was the long distances they had to travel to shop for necessities, he said. Cerda declined to cite exactly how much Amerihome units will cost, but said it will be significantly less than conventionally constructed units. Amerihome has applications beyond emergency housing. The units can be adapted to office, student dormitory and hotel uses, the manufacturer said. Amerihome’s flexibility again is a plus with these uses, Cerda said. “A hotel owner is not tied to the land,” he noted. “If the hotel is not working in a certain location, it is easy to pick up and move the structure to another location.” Cerda said Amerihome units could also work as condominiums in major cities. “You could put them in a city, such as New York, where compact living spaces already exist,” he said.