Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the benefits of building a prototype in New York City?

Currently, there is no way for the federal government to provide post-disaster housing in cities. New York City needs to prove that multi-family, multi-story housing can be constructed quickly in the city. Constructing a prototype within the complex urban constraints of NYC has helped create resources that have potential for national - and even global - application.

What does "interim" mean in terms of this project?

Interim housing is post-disaster housing. It is used after emergency sheltering, and before those affected by a disaster can move into housing they can sustain without post-disaster aid. As interim housing is often in place much longer than FEMA’s intended period of two years, the prototype is constructed to be as safe and durable as any permanent construction.  It has a lifespan of 50 years or more, but can be relocated easily.

How big is the building?

  • The prototype is 2,106 sq. ft. in total.
  • There are three units:
    • A 480 sq. ft. one-bedroom unit on the third floor
    • An 813 sq. ft. three-bedroom unit on the second floor
    • A model on the ground floor that serves as a public gallery

How long does it take to build?

Delivery time could be as short as 2 - 1/2 months after disaster, or sooner if manufacturers had contracts to stock materials in advance.  This prototype was transported in two days (by truck) from Indiana, and took 13.5 hours to be set on site. Once on site, there were about two weeks of work before occupancy.

Can it work for residents?

  • The building has undergone all performance tests required by New York City, FEMA and HUD and the USACE.
  • Over 50 NYC agency employees lived in the prototype for a week at a time. An environmental psychology study with the NYU Tandon School of Engineering evaluated how it suits the needs of inhabitants, and improvements are recorded in Close to Home: An Urban Model for Post-Disaster Housing.
  • It meets NYC Building Codes and can be used as a temporary or permanent structure and has a sprinkler system like any apartment building its size.

Can it work for communities?

What are the sustainable features?

  • Energy efficient mechanical systems
  • Large windows for natural light and air circulation in summer
  • Up-to-code insulation for winter
  • Green interior materials
  • Off-grid options for water and electricity are possible

What are the accessible features?

  • 100% of the units meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements
    • FEMA requires only 20%, HUD requires 5%
    • All bathrooms, kitchens and doorways are accessible for those with disabilities and access and functional needs
    • The first floor unit is accessible by ramp
      • People with limited mobility would have preference for the ground floor units, but an elevator can be installed for upper floors if necessary.

Who designed and constructed the prototype?

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the project manager, as they could be after a disaster.
    • The General Contractor is AMSS (American Manufactured Structures and Services). They have experience building modular structures all over the world.
    • The design is by Garrison Architects, who have designed and built several modular structures in NYC.
    • The manufacturer is Mark Line, a modular building manufacturer with several factories in the US.

Will all post-disaster housing look like this?

  • No. In order for as many manufacturers as possible to supply housing to the City, we created a design and performance specification for urban interim housing . It does not say what housing should look like; it gives parameters for how the building would have to perform. Any manufacturer could build housing if their design meets the specification.

How much does this type of post-disaster housing cost?

  • Cost for post-disaster production (over 100 units) is estimated to be $185 - $200 per sq. ft. (not including site work).  While the cost is comparable with affordable housing in NYC, there is significant savings in time for completion. 
  • Cost for the prototype building would be approx. $389,000 - $ 410,000. Each three-bedroom unit would be between $148,000 - $160,000, and the single unit between $89,000 and $96,000.
  • New York City code requires steel construction; where other materials are permitted, costs may be lower.

How many units could be delivered after a disaster?

  • This depends on the capacity of the modular building industry at the time of event.
  • It is estimated that the U.S. Industry could supply approximately 20,000 units per year

How can I learn more?

Group tours are available on weekdays from 9 AM to 5 PM by appointment only.

Request a tour

The full set of studies created through the Prototype program are on the Resources page.