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Modular Dwelling Startup by USF Architecture Graduates Provides Hope for Future Disaster Relief

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

As canned food, water and first-aid kits made their way to Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico, two USF School of Architecture and Community Design alumni were working hard to send a different type of supply to areas hit by devastating hurricanes: homes.

Graduate Sean Verdecia's startup company - AbleNook - offers modular, easy-to-construct dwellings that can be assembled in just a few hours. Verdecia conceived of AbleNook after witnessing the massive displacement of residents in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the ensuing demand for semi-permanent relief housing.

Verdecia partnered with fellow Architecture student Jason Ross in 2009, and they founded Able Nook in 2011. The company has been working on making their product a reality ever since. Following Hurricane Harvey, the company received an influx of orders for the product. AbleNook's goal is to offer a product that costs less and does more than the standard FEMA trailer.

"We get six AbleNooks on one truck, whereas FEMA gets one trailer per truck and their structures need level terrain," Verdecia told Forbes in August.

The AbleNook structure comes flat-packed, and two people can assemble it without tools in about four hours. The framing snaps together and is customizable, so units can be combined easily to create larger spaces as necessary. The homes are fully insulated, and they can be equipped for electricity and adjust to sit level on any terrain.

overhead view of ablenook module

View of the solar panels on the roof of an AbleNook module.

For individuals and families seeking temporary shelter in the aftermath of a devastating storm, AbleNook offers a simple and comfortable solution. "The insulated panels of aircraft-grade aluminum panels go together like Legos. There are no pieces to lose," Verdecia told Forbes.

"The ingenuity behind the design is how it clips together and connects and its flexibility. It has to be de-mountable and re-constructed indefinitely," he said. According to the company website, "Every component of AbleNook has been designed for complete simplicity of assembly, expandability, and flexibility of use."

As the record-breaking hurricane season continues, AbleNook expects a steady flow of new orders. They hope to ship the units by early spring. To read more about Verdecia and Ross's award-winning design, see the following stories: