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Collaborative effort builds disaster-relief housing for Haiti

The first prototype of an energy-efficient disaster relief home is due to arrive in Saint Marc, Haiti at the end of this month.

The project has been designed and led by Initiative reCOVER with collaborative efforts between the University of Virginia, the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, SIPS of America, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, the Riverstone Energy Center, the American Wood Finishing Institute (AWFI), the Building Goodness Foundation, Cardinal Homes and Grandview Technologies, according to Dr. Doug Corrigan, director of the Riverstone Energy Center.

Initiative reCOVER, an effort that was conceived in the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture, provides modular, pre-fabricated, energy-efficient emergency shelters to those who have been affected by disasters. 
Anselmo Canfora, the director and founder of Initiative reCOVER, said the project has been recently accelerated, thanks to a grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission. 

 “The reason such a visionary project is capable of being developed in Southern Virginia,” according to Corrigan, “is because it leverages strategically positioned advanced manufacturing technology and workforce development assets that are available in our region made directly possible by major investments of the Virginia Tobacco Commission.” 

Jimmy Farlow, president of SIPS of America, commented on the project saying, “We’re creating something that brings jobs to Virginia.”

This disaster relief house, called the Breathe House, is constructed entirely from structurally insulated panels (SIPS) manufactured by SIPS of America. These SIPS panels are made completely out of Southern Virginia products and utilize expanded polystyrene laminated between OSB boards purchased from Huber in Halifax County, which results in a 70 percent savings in energy costs. 

Because the Breathe House is a modular design, it is able to be constructed in Blairs, then deconstructed and packed on two tractor trailers and shipped to the final destination.

Upon arrival, the Breathe House can be reconstructed and functional in a matter of days.

The new C-CARE facility at the Riverstone Energy Center, which is operated by the American Wood Finishing Institute, has also played an integral role in the development of the house by providing products and processes for applying specialized, durable coatings to the interior and exterior of the home - eliminating the need for sheetrock.

“We are excited to be participating in this project and even more excited to be using our advanced manufacturing assets at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center to answer the needs of businesses and projects not only throughout the region, but across the world,” said David Kenealy, director of R&D at the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Efficiency. 

The intent of the Breathe House is to revolutionize disaster relief housing, while providing a healthy, timely and safe alternative for disaster relief housing with the assets of Southern Virginia playing a major role in this revolution.