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Retired Denver architect develops new emergency shelter

By Joe Vaccarelli

Note: This article was printed in the Denver Post on October 30, 2013. The original article is located here.

At age 81 and five years retired, Stuart Ohlson is still dreaming big.

Three years ago, Ohlson was inspired by the thousands who were displaced when an earthquake rocked Haiti. His intention was to design a emergency shelter that could be converted into a long-term home as a way to help.

"These people were in tough shape. There was no provision I could see that could help them," Ohlson said,

Now Ohlson and his new venture, Humanitarian House, have three prototypes and a board of directors. The prototypes are housed at Sustainability Park at 25th Avenue and Lawrence Street.

Ohlson's shelters are constructed out of PVC pipe and are covered with Tyvek, a plastic covering typically used at construction sites. The shelters are designed to comfortably house six people.

One thing Ohlson said that sets his shelters apart is the raised floors, keeping mud and water out of the shelters. He added that construction of a shelter should take a team of two about a day.

Even though he started with the people of Haiti in mind, he said there are billions of people who live under the poverty line around the world who can benefit. He has drawn interest from India, Ecuador and Argentina.

"What I think they need is something that represents a dignified enclosure, and the whole idea was to build the framework out of PVC," he said.

Humanitarian House has a board of eight people and is ready to begin raising money. Board member Robert Melich said he plans to launch a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in January for plastic floor boards.

"This is a huge goal that we're trying to chase. It's a whole lot more fun to chase big stuff than little stuff," Melich said.

Ohlson said those displaced by disasters in suffering countries could be out of a home for six to 12 years.

Contractor Wayne Tittes said the shelters are designed to fit 70 units per acre.

Joe Vaccarelli: 303-954-2396, jvaccarelli@denverpost.com or twitter.com/joe_vacc

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