Local man’s design could help in Haiti

08/12/2010 12:00 AM |

Jack Hunter’s prototype emergency shelter. He’s hoping to sell 1,000 units for earthquake victims in Haiti. Once the parts are shipped to the island nation, it would take between two and three hours to assemble each shelter.

A Riverhead business owner is hoping the prototype of a home he’s designed and built will be mass produced to house earthquake victims in Haiti.

Jack Hunter of Hunter Insulation on Elton Street says he’s been in contact with the Clinton Bush Foundation, which is working to help victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake, and that the group has expressed interest in his invention.

“The Clinton Bush Foundation has been looking for various solutions, and has said there’s an immediate need for 125,000 to 150,000 of what they’re calling ‘transitional homes,’â” Mr. Hunter said. “Something that will get them out of the rain, protect them from the environment and something they can add onto later.”

The prototype he’s built is 10×14 feet, sleeps six in bunks that can be turned into chairs and uses a 12-volt car battery charged by a solar panel to provide electricity for use in the home. The homes will sell for $6,000 apiece.

“This is 100 percent better than what they have,” Mr. Hunter said, adding that he’s been working on the project for only about a year.

“We’ve been in the urethane spray foam business for almost 25 years and the military started using some spray foam over in Iraq, so I started on a project to offer them something,” Mr. Hunter said. “In the meantime, the Haiti earthquake happened. So I switched focus, because I saw what junk, really, was being sent down there.”

He said most of the emergency homes being built in Haiti are too hot to inhabit and don’t last long.

“They’re building these little huts out of a couple of two-by-fours and a corrugated tin roof and they wrap it with blue polyester tarps. They rot and blow away in six months,” Mr. Hunter said. “The Haitians can’t even go inside because they’re too hot, with a tin roof and a tarp.”

The prototype home he hopes to sell to the Clinton Bush Foundation has insulated panels that are an inch and a half thick and contain foam insulation on the inside, he said.

The home also is “incredibly strong,” he said. “You can literally knock this over and nothing will happen to it. An earthquake can’t hurt it, hurricanes can’t hurt it.”

The home only weighs about 700 pounds, and can be disassembled and shipped in a carton the size of a refrigerator box.

Mr. Hunter said his prototype will be presented at the Clinton Global Initiative in September, and there’s a chance that about four of the homes might be sent to Haiti on a trial basis through another smaller foundation, although permission is needed from the Haitian government first.

Mr. Hunter believes that if he can get an order for 1,000 homes, it would create about 50 jobs in Riverhead manufacturing the parts and another 50 to 100 jobs in Haiti assembling them.

He said it takes three people two to three hours to make each home.

The homes don’t have running water, but that’s an issue that would have to be addressed in Haiti, since the infrastructure to provide running water was damaged in the earthquake, Mr. Hunter said. The homes can easily be retrofitted to provide water if it’s available, he said.

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