Pallet House by I-Beam



Architects I-Beam Design constructed a house for refugees made from wooden shipping pallets in a New York warehouse last month.


Designed for refugees, the house can be quickly assembled and needs no extra materials transported as pallets are used to deliver supplies of food, clothing and medical supplies to disaster areas.


Houses made from pallets would not only provide temporary shelter but could be adapted using locally available materials into permanent housing.


The following information is from I-Beam:


Refugee Housing comes to 57th Street

The nondescript warehouse on the corner of West 57th street at the entrance to the Henry Hudson Parkway is usually home to the assorted boxes, crates and old furniture you would expect to find in a warehouse. But for the past week it has been home to an entirely different type of inhabitant; a full-scale house built entirely from castaway shipping pallets.


For the past week New York Architect firm I-Beam Design has been building a prototype of their award-winning refugee Pallette House in preparation for its premiere at the Milan Architecture Triennale. The Triennale entitled, ‘A Home For All’ promotes research into emergency housing in order to collect and compare plans for a different constructive, social and economic model of the home and of communities.


I-Beam’s Palette House is made of wooden shipping palettes. Palettes are versatile, recyclable, sustainable, and easily assembled. Their transportation cost is negligible because they are used to carry shipments of clothing, food, and medical supplies to disaster areas.


Although most disaster housing is temporary, the Palette House easily evolves naturally from emergency shelter to permanent house with the addition local materials like rubble, stone, earth, mud, plaster and concrete.


Architects Suzan Wines and Azin Valy built the Pallete House with the generous support of Douglas and Helena Durst and the Chashama Performance group who donated the space for construction. Pallets were donated by Dominick Davi of Pallets Unlimited. Jimmy Di Domenico and Mario Denucci where the contractors that donated their time, tools, skills and generosity to make this project happen.


Additionally, I-Beam Design is looking for a home for their Pallette house. They are looking to donate the house to any worthy organization looking to exhibit it or use it for humanitarian housing.







Posted on Monday May 12th 2008 at 1:19 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • K. Rimane

    poor little red flowers. the house makes them look terribly cheap.
    Rule #01 = “houses” aren’t meant to be build indoors.

    • Antigua Farms

      Do you have anything positive to say K. Rimane? If not, then perhaps you should keep quiet.

  • Olivier

    it’s quite ironic…

  • Bonzo

    I believe that the use of a pallets is a fairly common approach for shanty building

    Nevertheless, it needs more information: what makes it revolutionary? the jointing of the pallets? the type of pallets?
    It also does not address the infrastructural complexities and challenges posed by refugee housing communities which are typically of very high density – a shanty is a shanty, pallets, bin liners, tents — whatever. What is key is the management of a transient population and the drainage and fresh water issues leading to disease, etc.

  • Michael

    Completely unimaginative. The pallets merely act as a surface, as a way to skin a wooden frame built of new lumber. You might as well strip the boards from each pallet and make a slat sided “house”. This is nothing more then a quick art piece. They forgot to orient the roof pallets so the slats would run parallel to the water runoff.

  • chachito

    Is there any problem that most pallet wood is treated with arsenic and copper-chromium as a preservative so that it becomes poisonous when wet? Other than it being a potentially poisonous house, nice idea. Oh, and cute flower boxes too.

    • I build houses and much of the wood in houses is treated with the same chemicals as pallets to prevent rot and insect invasion. As long as it is covered with something like siding and gyp rock like is normally done when building a house there will be no health issue. Some people just have to be negative about everything and tear down when others are making an effort to build up. Also, where are you getting you figures from for "most" pallets? I highly doubt that you have any idea what percentage of pallets are treated.

      • Fitz

        As chachito correctly pointed-out, these pressure-treated wood pallets are soaked in arsenic and sometimes formaldehyde. The arsenic is absorbed and even ingested if the builder then puts his hands in his mouth, eats without washing his hands, etc. – exactly the conditions that exist in disaster situations. What you sell your customers is your own business, but there’s no need to criticize chachito for wanting to prevent refugees from ingesting neurotoxins and injuring their nervous, immune, and respiratory systems.

        • Jane

          Not all shipping pallets are treated.

        • Robin Ann Claudio

          Vaccinations and cigarettes also have these same chemicals.

  • lgg

    @K. Rimane

    I'm not agree. This is not Milan Design Fair, this is a good idea for disaster areas, architecture is more serious than simply aesthetics, it must solve real problems, and this does it.

    I like the project very much, greetings!

    • Mark

      It’s not covered. This does not solve the problem – it’s pourous for one so the weather is a problem. It’s also not safe in so many ways – chemicals in wood, structurally unsound (earthquake zones), should I go on?

    • mark

      Forgot to mention security as another issue.

  • michael.r.h

    could be a very smart idea, but any relief worker will tell you the amount of pallets needed to create one house would yield hundreds of kilos of food/supplies. it's unlikely a 'refugee' will have access to so many boxes. it's a bit ironic.

    • Food, and other supplies are delivered on pallets, the whole point of this is that it is making the best use of avaliable supplies.

  • Alright look, I’m completely for the creative use of mass produced waste and rethinking how and what we build with, but I must agree with Michael and michael here. It’s just not enough anymore to say look I made a house using pallets. Perhaps these projects make important statement’s and draw people to see things differently, however, to make it a real idea, and not just a picture, it must have real solutions and real details that are innovative and fresh. We know about reclaiming materials, now lets see how we can do that most effectively, and to the greatest outcome. This just isn’t there yet and I think the fact that it is within a warehouse is somewhat telling…

  • roadkill

    this is not a serious proposal… guys get real…

  • Michael

    To add to my first post above: Just look at images coming out of Burma, with people using real solutions because they WANT to survive. In a few hours using what was destroyed, they have built simple framed houses again from the rubble. Houses in Southern Asia need to serve two purposes: keep you elevated above the wetness and induce passive cooling while protecting you from rain. Its tropical for pete’s sake, a house with flowers is not necessary, shade and dryness is. It is a shame that we, as designers, spend so much time designing what is ideal for people without listening to them. ie Make it Right for the 9th Ward in New Orleans.
    Just because you draw in a black couple in traditional African clothing doesnt mean they will enjoy your art house. Maybe taking into account someone’s income level before designing a house that will be a nightmare to maintain financially is how to Make it Right.
    That same notion applies to building for a pallet house for refugees. Stop designing for your selfish ideas and start designing for those who need your help. It is like we all up and forgot Pruitt-Igoe.

  • Arch

    this is cuteness!
    disaster housing doesn’t have to look ‘disaster-ish’

  • FBot

    In da ghetto, wo wo

  • danubians dreams……

  • cp

    …there’s no toilet or clean running water for you poor refugees – but its all good – you get red flowers!!!!

    what a joke

  • leandro locsin

    pigeon house

  • SamuelC

    In a disaster situation people act to serve their basic needs and living requirements because they have to – I think such a situation will naturally yield pure and unrefined vernacular solutions. It might be more useful to study what is born from this type situation rather than design for it.

  • Danubians Dreams at Bratislava

    matali crasset,medusagroup,peter cook …..

  • edward

    OK, you’re marooned on this desert island, see. And all you have for building materials is this huge pile of wooden pallets…

  • raven sati

    well – not very elegant eventhough quite resourceful

    since very little of what appears in this magazine is free of being driven by greed and selfishness, these guys have to be give a lot of credit for being compassionate

    keep it up guys – there are so many disasters and refugees these days – and mostly designers and architechs care not even a little bit

  • Morgan

    I imagine a bum’s rush at the loading dock of every warehouse superstore.

  • cretton

    I like recieve more details about this house..
    possibile ?

  • sharon hayes

    this is ingenous!I’d like to see them all over the U.S. instead of cardboard boxes and shopping carts

  • Vickie V.B.

    I would really seriously like some more info on forming these buildings. I used to be homeless, and would like to try to get corporations, and orginizations to build these for the homeless. Thanking You In Advance, For Any Help.

  • Dennis Martin

    In most cases, a group of people would sit down and think of ways to make something out of usless nothings………. when time is spent in a design mode, ideas are thought of, in build mode implamented, and then the time of the reserch produces the pros and cons……… I am sure this is the “best case” for the “worst case” situation. Things are different in a real time situation and what they have learned from this proto-type will be better than if only in concept. Nothing is perfect untill tested and re-tested and tested again. Great idea, but is it the final or are there ways to make it better?? I would try it if it was the best way to protect my family without a hesitation !!

  • i think its way tight and cant wate to build one this summer and try it out winter camping if you have more info i would love it thanx

  • william

    Good for a tent frame and a small garage for an ATV or snowmachine. And a startup first storage for building materials before building a real house later on. The wood on many pallets are very hard and can bend soft nails. Need to use hardened nails for these, and use only the best pallets you can find, unbroken, straight ones.

  • frank

    i am going to build one in the back yard and cover it with grape vines,

  • Michelle

    I think this is a terrific design. It seems better than a tent. I can’t wait to show my 15 year old son. This may be something we do as a family project, just to see if we can do it!

  • I think this is great! More people should think outside of the box for items such as used pallets to keep them out of our landfills. If one used a little imagination, pallets could be used in our backyards for all sorts of things such as homes for pets and garden items.

  • deb

    First off, pallets are hard to find now as there are companies that pick them up from businesses and refurbish them for the pallet companies.

    Second, this is NOT sustainable. It is made of wood from trees which take years to grow to a decent size for lumber.

    Third, How is this considered “liveable”? Is something supposed to be put over the openings in the slats?

    This was a waste of time in my opinion. People have been making things out of pallets ever since they invented them. It’s nothing new. Homesteaders have always made outbuidings with things like pallets with an old 12′ satellite dish for the roof as just one example of recycling.

  • Glenn

    The article states that material was donated by Pallets Unlimited, the contractors donated their time, the space was donated. Did the architectural firm get paid, i hope that they donated their time too.

  • Jamie

    ya know.. Im reading all of this negative cometary here but I dot see you all listing any sites where you have helped out anyone… These guys donated this house for a good cause, built it for a good cause. They should be given a pat on the back not mud in the eye. Personally I think this house is absolutely perfect for many things. I think they have done a wonderful job on the pallet house and the design is remarkable also. Shame on all of you nay sayers.

  • Karol

    I don't even ask why this sort of house for refugees? To make them butt of a cruel joke, it is abvious. But the whole idea with palletes!!! Are they of no use for industry? Are they of no use for transport companies? If they are not, they are of no use at all because of their decaying state.

    How does it come these highly paid think-thank rich western teams are so solemnly convinced the more wood use for, the more ecological the masterpiece is. The more paper they use for a chair, the more ecological it is.

    Why do they think they conceive ecological thingonly because the used a whole lot of ecological material processed in unknown way a proned to wear away instead of acquiescing to a bit of rubber or plastic.

    How dull some of these praised comcepts are!

  • Palletlover

    PALLETS ARE SO AWESOME! Good job guys!

  • I come from a third world country. Here most rural areas are subsitant farmers. They don’t have power and water supply in their homes however timber is abundant they would be happy 2 incorperate this design.



  • jill doyle
    these are a great alternative. sacking, i suspect are lighter than pallets for transporting. or use the bags that brought the emergency rations into a disaster area.

  • tom

    Anyone wanting plans for this, contact

  • Lugnut

    Most pallets are not treated BTW – they are not meant to last more than a couple of trips. Old pressure treatment did use an arsenic bath, but new treatments (like YellaWood) use a salt bath. This was done to specifically address the hazardous aspects of treating wood – not so much the chemical seepage (nobody is dying from walking on there backyard deck LOL), but because of runoff and overflow from the actual treatment facility. There is a pressure treatment facility near my home. A few years ago they had a runoff that caused a fish-kill and polluted a lake basically forever. They are now converting from the arsenic to salt treatment – just FYI.

    As for the design, cute for Pinterest and a backyard project, but not really viable in a disaster situation. Nobody will take the time to go online, find pallet plans, order new wood (like its available) and build these units. The “refugees” will scavenge what they have, throw together a lean-to and start to reclaim there lives. As someone stated, these “houses” take a huge number of pallets and quite a lot of new lumber. You could not shelter a large population.

    Maybe someone should figure out how to make a large gymnasium out of these for mass shelter from the elements in a time of need. No central walls will greatly increase the number of people sheltered using a limited supply of pallets.

  • Francis Washburn

    Has anyone ever tried to build a two-storey house out of pallets? Plus, would the structural integrity be compromised by using pallets?

  • Jay

    It would make a fun beach hut. You could take a nap in it, LOL