Flat Pack Casket

Read about this project on Core 77: http://www.core77.com/projects/60865/Disaster-Casket-An-Affordable-Flat-Pack-Burial-Solution-for-Deaths-Caused-By-Natural-Disaster

Over 100,000 people die worldwide from natural disasters each year. The human body starts decomposing immediately after death and has limited time to be retrieved, identified, and buried after a disaster. Temporary morgues are set up in nearby buildings to keep the remains out of the public’s eye and begin identification. Disaster Portable Morgue Units can be deployed to disaster sites and have necessary supplies for performing identification, but usually do not have burial supplies, only body bags. These sites also may not have immediate or any refrigeration to prevent decomposition, hindering visual identification.

Once remains have been identified during mass casualty situations, they are usually buried on site due to limited time, resources, or funds. Victims are wrapped in white plastic, burned, or even bulldozed into a pit when coffins aren’t available. If possible, families can transport their loved ones to be buried at home, but caskets can be expensive, averaging more than $2,000 in the US. There are also religious and cultural beliefs to be respected as well as maintaining proper grave standards to avoid contamination of water sources. If it is important for the bodies to be buried quickly or identification cannot be made, some graves are planned to be exhumed later for further investigation.
Our goal for this project was to create a deployable system for mass burials in natural disasters. We considered the affordably, exhumation, lack of caskets, emotional needs, retrieval, sanitation, transportation, investigation, and decomposition. We concluded that a flat pack casket would reduce shipping costs, be easy to assemble, and allow families to pay their respects.


We began by ideating solutions for managing the victims of natural disasters. These included supplies for the morticians, grave digging mechanisms, and keepsakes for families. Ultimately, after research and talking to experts, we concluded that burial was the least addressed problem.

Our final concept was a flat pack coffin that would act as a backboard to transport the body and allow viewing before burial. We found that compared to using a body bag or stretcher, it was much easier to carry a body on a rigid surface. Scale models allowed us to visualize assembly and aesthetics, as well as proportions compared to a 95th percentile male. 


The final design is 3 pieces: a backboard, a bottom closure, and a top closure, all arriving flat. The body is recovered and placed on the backboard for ease of transportation and placement on an examination table. Once the identification is complete, the backboard is slid into the assembled bottom closure. The family can say their goodbyes with the closure hiding any bodily injuries. Finally, the assembled top enclosure is secured, allowing the casket to be buried. The rope handles can have straps attached for lowering into the grave, and they also help protect each layer when the casket is laid flat.

The two enclosures have custom steel brackets pre-attached on one side. On-site, the sides are folded up and bolts secure the other side. For our first prototype, we designed each bracket for the specific angle on the coffin. Then, they were cut on a water jet and bent along the perforations.


Pictorial instructions with limited text allow for the assembly of the coffin to be understood worldwide.

Date – December 2016
Team – Riley Keen
Skills – Flat Pack Design, Prototyping, Design for Manufacture