Temporary housing units, Onagawa, Japan

To help the earthquake victims in Japan, architect Shigeru Ban designed emergency houses Onagawa town in the Tohuko-region, which was severely hit by a tsunami in spring 2011. Shigeru Ban’s temporary housing units provide homes for almost 200 families.


Having worked with Shigeru Ban previously, UPM donated its UPM ProFi Deck for the project, in which the building materials are all recycled and recyclable. The multi-storey houses are assembled from old shipping containers piled up on each other, held up by steel poles and linked with corridors and doors. This building method is easy and quick, being an ideal solution for a housing system that has to be constructed quickly, yet with maximum care.

The corridors and outside decking are built from UPM ProFi Deck. In front of each block there are 1.5 x 32 meter decks, combining Snow Blue with Sunny Beige and Stone Grey with Autumn Brown decking boards, installed with T-Clips. The Sunny Beige boards on the inner part of the terrace show the line where the apartment doors open. Snow Blue decking boards mark where it is safe to walk and for children to run and play.

Altogether 188 apartments are divided in nine housing blocks, containing one to three bedroom units in over three storeys. In the middle of the blocks, a library, a market place and an art hall have been created.

UPM’s Timo Varhama and Satoshi Sakasita commented on the project:- “We are proud to join Shigeru Ban and contribute rebuilding the Tohuko destroyed area.”

Onagawa emergency housing construction was finished in early November 2011.

Once the temporary housing units are no longer needed, they can be disassembled and recycled for new purposes in a different location.

The Temporary housing unit project is a successful continuation for UPM’s cooperation with Shigeru Ban. Shigeru Ban has previously used UPM ProFi in Artek pavilion and Artek’s 10-Unit System chair. In 2010 Shigeru Ban used UPM ProFi in the balconies of Metal Shutter Houses in New York City.