These “Just Add Water” Homes Can Be Built in Less Than 24 Hours
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These “Just Add Water” Homes Can Be Built in Less Than 24 Hours

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By Duncan Nielsen
Paris-based architecture and design firm Cutwork plans to use roll-out cement paneling to build low-cost, durable housing units for refugee camps.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are an estimated 25,900,000 refugees worldwide, and that number is growing. As a new housing solution, Cutwork has developed a "just add water" building technology that can be used to construct a tiny home in a day’s time—no building experience or tools required.

The technology has myriad advantages over the flimsy, disposable tents found in many refugee camps. They’re fireproof, waterproof, insulated for harsh climates, and can be washed and cleaned easily. The structures also use 90% less raw material than traditional concrete shelters—and they're three times stronger. Though they’re designed to provide temporary housing, they’ll endure for at least 30 years.

The shelters are made from an advanced concrete composite that is lightweight, durable, and three times as as strong as traditional concrete. Sheets of the material can be draped over snap-together metal framing, and then hardened in place when water is added.

The Cortex shelters can last for at least 30 years, providing an eco-friendly and resilient new means of housing.

The 250-square-foot structures are insulated for comfort in harsh climates, and they have windows for light and ventilation. The interiors can be outfitted with toilets, electric stoves, and living rooms. 

The Cortex shelters can be prefabricated in pieces near refugee camps and then flat packed and shipped to the build site. Upon arrival, the concrete paneling is rolled out and formed around metallic frames. Once the paneling is in place, water is added in situ to harden the concrete composite.

Each home comes with the basics: a strong locking door, a toilet, a shower, and windows for light and air circulation. Solar panels provide electricity for interior lighting, charging electronics, and cooking atop an electric stove. Additional features can be added depending on the specific needs of a home or an encampment.

With a digital manufacturing method, parts can be created near refugee camps and then trucked to the site for assembly. The materials can be flat packed and pieced together by two people in under 24 hours.

The modular construction process doesn’t require any tools or building expertise.

Cutwork CEO and co-founder Kelsea Crawford says, "Our mission is to create stability and security for people who have lost the most—essential safety, a place to call home, and the simple foundations to rebuild communities and hope."

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