Hurricane Disaster - Art & Design To The Rescue

For the second installment of the TWG blog, I want to bring attention to the use of science and arts in the process of solving a MAJOR problem created by a natural disaster - Hurricane.

After the unforgettable destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assisted affected families by allocating mobile trailers for temporary living accommodations. These mobile living units have been notoriously titled FEMA trailers.  After serving the affected communities throughout the southern states in the U.S., there were over 94,000 FEMA trailers remaining in excess. With this surplus of trailers not being used, the U.S. government was faced with the problem of finding alternative uses for the surplus trailers.

To further compound the problem, each trailer was constructed out of toxic particle board material that gave off carcinogenic fumes of formaldehyde. This problem was extremely dangerous because formaldehyde poses a significant risk to human health because it ultimately causes cancer. Mindful of this, the problem spawned from a localized issue of administering emergency relief to a major federal problem that had the potential of impacting the health of residents on a mass scale. WOW! What a major problem!

3 years after hurricane Katrina, a profound solution was derived using Science & Arts.

In 2008, a smart scientist and artist Jae Rhim Lee from MIT’s Media Lab came up with a great idea. Lee created an initiative called the FEMA Trailer Challenge. With a team of problem solvers from the Art and Technology community at MIT, Lee derived the concept of transforming the FEMA trailer into a healthy living space coupled with a sustainable vertical garden, compost station and rainwater catchment. Not only was the threat of formaldehyde removed, but the trailer was transformed into a modern and innovative living space that is perfect for the millennial age. Check out Lee’s amazing transformation video below which serves as a guide for out-of-the-box thinkers who wish to combine science & arts to solve major problems affecting society.