03/07/2012 11:22 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Watch: Recycled Pallet House Self-Assembled for $500 to $3000

Manhattan-based architects Suzan Wines and Azin Valy were trying to come up with the ideal building material for refugee housing in Kosovo. It should be recycled, recyclable, affordable, and plentiful. They thought about bottles and tires. Then Wines tripped over a shipping pallet on the way home from work one night and something clicked.

Using only shipping pallets, or skids, the I-Beam architects created a tiny, modular home design. They also created "IKEA-style assembly instructions" so anyone- even those without building experience- could build their own home, using only hand tools (hammer, nails, "a crowbar is helpful"). "We've also used zip ties to build entire structures," adds Wines, "which is pretty quick, cheap and easy and doesn't require any tools."

With four to five people using power tools, it takes less than a week to build a 250-square-foot home out of 100 pallets. Wines and Valy -- both fairly petite -- have built a couple of pallet homes themselves with the assistance of a few helpers in locations like Prince Charles's Royal Gardens and for the Architecture Triennale in Milan.

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