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The University of Alabama

UA Interior Design Students Place 2nd in Global Competition

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. —Temporary emergency housing should not only provide shelter but also a sense of place and comfort for people who may have lost everything, said one University of Alabama senior.

“I’ve never been through a hurricane or tornado and lost everything, so I couldn’t even imagine what would be going through someone’s mind,” said 25-year-old Kristen Lopez, a Birmingham resident majoring in interior design at UA. “But if I knew someone had spent time creating an emergency housing unit that included elements that made it more comfortable, more like a home, then I would feel that maybe people out there really did care about what happened.”

It was this concept that Lopez and fellow interior design students, 22-year-old UA senior Paige Hamlin, of Atlanta, and 22-year-old UA senior Ericha Turner, of Huntsville, incorporated into a public service announcement that placed second in the global Design for Disaster Relief video competition.

Sponsored by the Interior Design Educators Council, competitors were tasked with designing a region-specific temporary housing unit of no more than 400 square feet for a family of four. The unit had to include a sleeping area, a food preparation area and a bathroom; must be assembled and disassembled with ease; and the design must respond to the local community and culture. Competitors had to create a three-minute public service announcement educating the public on how the “design of emergency and temporary shelters can address the psychological and sociological conditions following a natural disaster.”

“It had to be sustainable and easy to transport,” Lopez said. “You have to think about what the conditions might be like. Probably no electricity, hard to get into the area, maybe no water.”

The design incorporated 45-foot shipping containers that utilized solar panels for energy and flotation devices lining the bottom to help keep the unit afloat in case of flooding. In addition to the exterior features, the students also tied in soothing greens throughout the interior and a boardwalk theme of white wood and beadboard trim to represent Atlantic City, N.J.

“We really wanted to make it feel like a home,” Hamlin said. “We used colors that were calming, familiar to their area and created something that they might have actually lived in.”

The video was initially a final class project. Instructor Michelle Lee created the project with the competition in mind, and students had the opportunity to also submit their video project in the competition. While many of the student teams chose their design based on the Tuscaloosa tornado, Lopez, Hamlin and Turner went a different direction.

“The devastation from Hurricane Sandy was unfolding on TV as we worked on this project,” Lopez said. “We thought if we could create a new design, then maybe it would be something that could help someone now. It was a fresh wound that needed to be tackled right away. I was very emotional creating the video, and I figured if I was that emotional making the video, then maybe someone watching it would stop and really pay attention.”

To view the video, visit

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Kim Eaton, UA media relations, 205/348-8325,
  • SOURCE: Kristen Lopez, 205/470-1509; Paige Hamlin, 404/274-1073; Ericha Turner, 256/714-6047