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Instant Shelter

Architecture professor Larry Sass, SM 94, PhD 00, is creating computer software that could allow architects to quickly design inexpensive emergency shelters using standard-size sheets of plywood. The shelters, which could be easily weatherproofed, would be useful for disaster relief in cold climates where tents provide insufficient protection from the elements, says Sass.

The software allows architects to choose from a series of three-dimensional shapes. An architect pieces together a building from the shapes, and the program calculates the most efficient way to assemble it out of plywood. This summer, Sass and MIT undergraduate Victoria Lee 06 tested the software, which successfully calculated the best way to build a prototype cube three meters on a side. An added bonus is that the buildings require few materials. No nails, glue, or cement are necessary; instead, the plywood parts will have interlocking pieces that snap together. If you can limit the number of materials, you can limit the cost, says Sass. The resulting structures could last for years. The software, which Sass plans on completing over the next few years, would go so far as to calculate the cost of each shelter.

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Tagged: Biomedicine

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