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Minimum Design Requirements

December 21, 2020

Following Pallet’s minimum design requirements, cities can provide safe and dignified shelter to the maximum number of people, and best use their limited resources to save as many lives as possible.

The human race is facing a homelessness crisis — hundreds of thousands of people in America live without access to basic shelter in any form. New permanent housing is being built, but it can’t come fast enough for those who will sleep on the streets tonight, and every night until this new housing is available. At Pallet, we’re realists. We know that permanent housing is the ultimate goal, but we also know that it can’t be built overnight.

In any emergency scenario where human lives are at stake, leaders must aid the greatest number of people possible with limited resources. By adhering to Pallet’s minimum design requirements, cities can provide safe and dignified shelter to the maximum number of people, and best use their limited resources to save as many lives as possible.


By adhering to Pallet’s minimum design requirements, cities can shelter the maximum number of people, affordably.


Pallet’s minimum design requirements provide guidance on how to minimize site-related expenses. This is important not only because of the emergency nature of homelessness, but because site-related expenses can quickly increase the cost of building a shelter community (reducing the number of people who can be safely sheltered with a city’s limited resources).

For example, Pallet’s personal 64 square foot shelter starts at $5,495. Including all basic accessories (heat, air conditioning, electricity, one folding bunk bed, one mattress, and standard shipping/assembly), our average price per shelter is less than $10,000. Compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs in some cities to build one “affordable housing unit,” less than $10,000 is an affordable and rapid way to shelter someone in emergency (while permanent housing is still in process).

Above and beyond the cost to acquire Pallet’s shelters, the infrastructure built around these shelters can vary and add additional costs, but should always be minimized to the safest level that still provides dignity for shelter residents. Safety should always be the highest priority when designing a shelter site. After safety requirements have been met, the following minimum design requirements offer guidance on how to help reduce site-related expenses.

Minimum Design Requirements:

SITE: Pallet shelters can be placed on nearly any surface that is relatively level. Shelter communities have been built on parking lots, grassy lawns, sports fields, dirt lots, vacant property awaiting development, and other locations. Based on experience building on a variety of sites, Pallet can advise on how to best choose a site that minimizes shelter community expenses (such as choosing a location with power and water access on-site).

WATER AND SEWER ACCESS: Sites that have established connections to municipal water and sewer access will reduce costs associated with building a shelter community, as building this infrastructure adds substantial cost. For sites without water and sewer access, “off grid” options are available.

ELECTRICITY: Sites that have established connections to municipal electricity will reduce costs associated with building a shelter community, and building this infrastructure adds substantial cost. For sites without electricity access, “off grid” options are available.

FOUNDATION: No foundation is required. Pallet’s shelters feature a structural aluminum floor, which serves as a built-in foundation for the walls, roof, and all interior contents.

SECURING TO GROUND: Shelters can be secured to a variety of ground types, from sand bags to staking. Actual securing process will vary by site and municipal requirements, and is always done by Pallet’s customers who purchase shelters.

BATHROOMS: Pallet’s personal shelters do not contain in-unit water or sewer for bathrooms, and thus must be built in a community setting with communal bathrooms on-site. Pallet can recommend ways to cost-effectively provide bathrooms for shelter villages.

SHOWER AND HYGIENE FACILITIES: Pallet’s personal shelters do not contain in-unit water or sewer for showers or other hygiene requirements, and thus must be built in a community setting with communal showers and hygiene facilities on-site. Pallet can recommend ways to cost-effectively provide shower and hygiene facilities for shelter villages.

SPACING: Pallet recommends a minimum of 10 feet between each shelter. Access driveways for emergency services vehicles, such as fire trucks and ambulances, should also be planned into shelter spacing and arrangement.

OTHER AS REQUIRED: Because building and safety requirements can vary from one region to the next, Pallet works with its customers to help meet these requirements as cost-effectively as possible.


Photo Courtesy: Multnomah County

Photo Courtesy: Multnomah County


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