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Global Portable converts shipping containers; also, Codding developing units

SONOMA COUNTY -- Two Sonoma County companies are responding to the international call to quickly shelter hundreds of thousands of Haitians left homeless by a large mid-January quake that shattered the island nation.

[caption id="attachment_18108" align="alignright" width="288" caption=" These remaining custom-built container homes are part of 101 units Global Portable Buildings is shipping to contractors working in Haiti. (Jeff Quackenbush photo)"][/caption]

Santa Rosa-based Global Portable Buildings Inc., which produces housing, shower and laundry units in custom-built 20- and 40-foot oceangoing shipping containers, is moving out the last of 101 units bound for disaster-recovery work in Haiti, according to Sean Taylor, vice president of sales and marketing. The containers can be stacked three high with catwalks.

"We were preparing for the upcoming hurricane season with inventory, and this will deplete our inventory," he said. The company has 500 to 600 four-person units set to roll out of production in Asia in 45 to 60 days and can produce up to 500 dwellings a month.

[caption id="attachment_18109" align="alignleft" width="360" caption="Codding Steel Frame Solutions' new rapid-deployment structures can be installed as single-family units or linked together to form larger structures. (Courtesy of the company)"][/caption]

Meanwhile, Codding Steel Frame Solutions in Rohnert Park has developed a 144-square-foot steel-framed dwelling designed to be assembled quickly on site without special tools or skills, be linked together to make larger structures, withstand natural disasters and potentially be converted into permanent homes, according to President J.R. Gunter.

"We don't want to provide something that will be there for a couple of months and then be blown down," he said.

Santa Rosa-based ZFA Structural Engineering helped design the units to be strong enough to withstand quakes and hurricanes but light enough for overseas shipment, according to senior principal Dennis Fagent. Wall, roof and floor panels for up to five units can be loaded into one 40-foot shipping container.

"We had to keep things extremely simple to keep cost and weight down," Mr. Fagent said.

Further design work is being undertaken to lower the per-unit cost, according to Mr. Gunter. The Rohnert Park factory, which makes light-steel-stud panels for commercial and residential construction, can make 15 to 20 of the disaster dwellings daily.

Mr. Gunter's previous company, GV Custom Modular Construction, built similar wood-framed units to quickly house victims of the Kobe, Japan, quake in 1994. Those Spartan units were converted to permanent housing with the addition of plumbing and electrical wiring.

Codding Steel is in talks with United Way of the Wine Country about connecting the company with the state and national levels of the organization, according to Walter Collins, the group's top local officer.

United Way's focus for Haiti is long-term rebuilding of education, income and health opportunities, according to Mr. Collins. The New York-based group has been considering a joint effort with Habitat for Humanity, which has been building 215-square-foot "core homes" or fixing houses in Haiti for nearly three decades, particularly after four large storms in 2008 destroyed thousands of homes.

Then came the magnitude 7.0 quake on Jan. 12, which has killed more than 150,000 and left at least 1 million homeless, according to United Nations estimates.

Haitian and U.S. officials project that reconstruction will cost billions of dollars. The U.S. Agency for International Development is coordinating Haiti reconstruction efforts and has been making inquiries with previous disaster-relief builders about supplying tens of thousands of homes to replace tent cities.

The units Global Portable Buildings shipped early this year are for a 400-person base camp near that country's capital for operation of heavy equipment.

That shipment left only about 100 units on hand at its Santa Rosa headquarters and strategically located staging areas in Dallas, New Orleans and Norfolk, Va., according to Mr. Taylor. The Federal Emergency Management Agency requires contractors to supply materials to its staging areas near disaster areas within 48 hours.

The company usually sells 300 to 350 of the housing and hygiene units each storm season, which begins in June, and has sold units for relief efforts after hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Gustav in 2008. Chuck Bradley started Global Portable Buildings in 1999 as an offshoot of shipping container storage company American Storage.

The company has received inquiries about units from World Vision, Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organization.

Global Portable Buildings and Codding Steel said their units could be used for farmworker housing.