Tampa architect builds 'Lego-like' homes for hurricane victims

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One week after Hurricane Harvey, roof tops are still all that's visible in some southeast Texas neighborhoods.

Once the flood waters recede, finding housing for the tens of thousands of people still in shelters will be a challenge. Some residents will return to homes that are a total loss.

It's a sad situation a Tampa-based start up company has been preparing for since 2011. University of South Florida graduate and architect Sean Verdecia was inspired to create the AbleNook after Hurricane Katrina.

The AbleNook is a Lego-like home that does not require fancy tools to build. Two people can connect the aircraft grade aluminum panels, creating a hurricane-resistant home in a matter of hours, according to the company.

"The main idea is that it's very easy to build. It only takes three to six hours to build an entire home," said Giorgio Bazzigaluppi, the head of purchasing for AbleNook.

The structures can be customized. They range in size from a tiny house to a larger scale home, by adding more panels. The homes are equipped with air conditioning, heat, power, and plumbing. A 3-room home with a front porch and 10-foot ceilings currently costs $45,000.

"It's essentially Ikea, but for houses. The idea is that it's very cheap to buy, and two laymen can build it," explained Bazzigaluppi.

The start up company did not expect to roll out their homes so soon, but they've gotten hundreds of recent orders. Customers have shown interest in buying AbleNooks for Texas flood victims.

"[Hurricane Harvey] happened really recently, and we're getting orders as we speak. We're in the lower hundreds right now, 100-200 orders, but this is increasing," said Bazzigaluppi.

Due to the urgent need, the company is working quickly to try to mass produce the homes by March of 2018.

They said the AbleNook would be an easy solution for victims of natural disasters to get back into a more permanent home, and transporting the homes simply requires taking the panels a part and putting them back together at a new site.

"Six families can be housed with only one box truck. The idea is that we can go there and put them up in half a day," said Bazzigaluppi. "They'll be able to continue their lives and go to work."

For more information on the AbleNook, visit https://ablenook.com/