Architecture

Disaster by design: Innovative emergency relief shelters

Gizmag looks at some innovative emergency shelters
Gizmag looks at some innovative emergency shelters
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Scandinavian furniture giant Ikea turned its considerable design expertise toward making a refugee shelter
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Scandinavian furniture giant Ikea turned its considerable design expertise toward making a refugee shelter
The Better Shelter can be easily delivered to those who need it most
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The Better Shelter can be easily delivered to those who need it most
Better Shelter ships in flatpack and assembly takes four people roughly four hours to complete
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Better Shelter ships in flatpack and assembly takes four people roughly four hours to complete
Better shelter is built from a pipe metal frame, while its walls and roof are made of plastic panels – which sounds a little flimsy but is sure to be tougher than a tent
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Better shelter is built from a pipe metal frame, while its walls and roof are made of plastic panels – which sounds a little flimsy but is sure to be tougher than a tent
Inside, Better Shelter comprises a total floorspace of 17.5 sq m (188 sq ft) and just one large space
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Inside, Better Shelter comprises a total floorspace of 17.5 sq m (188 sq ft) and just one large space
Turkish design practice Designnobis conceived a concept shelter dubbed Tentative
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Turkish design practice Designnobis conceived a concept shelter dubbed Tentative
Tentative could be delivered flat and pop-up once in place, needing hardly any assembly in the field
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Tentative could be delivered flat and pop-up once in place, needing hardly any assembly in the field
Tentative would feature a fiberglass roof and floor, and weather-resistant tough fabric walls
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Tentative would feature a fiberglass roof and floor, and weather-resistant tough fabric walls
This design would mean that Tentative's height is reduced from 2.5 m (8 ft) to just 30 cm (1 ft) when ready for transport, thus allowing up to 24 units to fit into a single semi-trailer truck
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This design would mean that Tentative's height is reduced from 2.5 m (8 ft) to just 30 cm (1 ft) when ready for transport, thus allowing up to 24 units to fit into a single semi-trailer truck
This design would mean that Tentative's height is reduced from 2.5 m (8 ft) to just 30 cm (1 ft) when ready for transport, thus allowing up to 24 units to fit into a single semi-trailer truck
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This design would mean that Tentative's height is reduced from 2.5 m (8 ft) to just 30 cm (1 ft) when ready for transport, thus allowing up to 24 units to fit into a single semi-trailer truck
Massachusetts-based firm Visible Good has developed an emergency shelter called Rapid Deployment Module (RDM)
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Massachusetts-based firm Visible Good has developed an emergency shelter called Rapid Deployment Module (RDM)
U.S. Army has also invested money into RDM to develop a more extreme version suitable for harsh climates
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U.S. Army has also invested money into RDM to develop a more extreme version suitable for harsh climates
The RDM can serve as clinic, shelter, office
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The RDM can serve as clinic, shelter, office
Cleverly, RDM actually makes use of the box it ships in as a base for its structure, while its roof is made from fabric
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Cleverly, RDM actually makes use of the box it ships in as a base for its structure, while its roof is made from fabric
RDM was put through its paces during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
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RDM was put through its paces during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
The aptly-named Temporary Shelter in Nepal is a lot more basic than the above shelters, but this offers some benefits
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The aptly-named Temporary Shelter in Nepal is a lot more basic than the above shelters, but this offers some benefits
Designed by Charles Lai and Takehiko Suzuki of Architecture for the Mass, Temporary Shelter in Nepal can be constructed by local unskilled workers in three days
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Designed by Charles Lai and Takehiko Suzuki of Architecture for the Mass, Temporary Shelter in Nepal can be constructed by local unskilled workers in three days
The current prototype Temporary Shelter in Nepal cost just US$500 to build and makes use of locally-sourced bamboo and other locally salvaged materials
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The current prototype Temporary Shelter in Nepal cost just US$500 to build and makes use of locally-sourced bamboo and other locally salvaged materials
Along with the actual Temporary Shelter in Nepal units, Lai and Suzuki created a simple manual to aid locals in building their own shelter
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Along with the actual Temporary Shelter in Nepal units, Lai and Suzuki created a simple manual to aid locals in building their own shelter
The Temporary Shelter in Nepal
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The Temporary Shelter in Nepal
The Hush2, by Extremis Technology, is a disaster shelter designed to withstand hurricane-level winds up to 200 mph (322 km/h), or Category 5
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The Hush2, by Extremis Technology, is a disaster shelter designed to withstand hurricane-level winds up to 200 mph (322 km/h), or Category 5
Hush2 can be assembled within a couple of hours and is built from marine plywood
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Hush2 can be assembled within a couple of hours and is built from marine plywood
Carter Williamson's Shelter measures 37.5 sq m (404 sq ft) and can house eight to 10 people
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Carter Williamson's Shelter measures 37.5 sq m (404 sq ft) and can house eight to 10 people
A couple of people can assemble Shelter within a day
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A couple of people can assemble Shelter within a day
Shelter sports adjustable scaffolding props which serve as stilts to support it off the ground, thus making it suitable for uneven ground
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Shelter sports adjustable scaffolding props which serve as stilts to support it off the ground, thus making it suitable for uneven ground
Shelter perates off-grid and sports a 1.5 kW roof-mounted photovoltaic solar array, in addition to a solar hot water system and a rainwater water collection tank
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Shelter perates off-grid and sports a 1.5 kW roof-mounted photovoltaic solar array, in addition to a solar hot water system and a rainwater water collection tank
Shelter also boasts an optional outdoor decking area that includes composting toilet, a shower, and gas-cooking facilities
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Shelter also boasts an optional outdoor decking area that includes composting toilet, a shower, and gas-cooking facilities
In the wake of the severe earthquake that hit Nepal earlier this year, Italian firm Barberio Colella ARC has designed a disaster shelter dubbed Just a Minute for displaced Nepalese people
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In the wake of the severe earthquake that hit Nepal earlier this year, Italian firm Barberio Colella ARC has designed a disaster shelter dubbed Just a Minute for displaced Nepalese people
Just a Minute features an interesting design comprising a concertina-like expandable structure
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Just a Minute features an interesting design comprising a concertina-like expandable structure
Just a Minute would measure just 2.5 x 4 m (8.2 x 13 ft) while in transportation, but once in the area it's needed, could be expanded by volunteers to 4 x 11.7 m (13 x 38 ft)
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Just a Minute would measure just 2.5 x 4 m (8.2 x 13 ft) while in transportation, but once in the area it's needed, could be expanded by volunteers to 4 x 11.7 m (13 x 38 ft)
Barberio Colella ARC says that once expanded in this way, Just a Minute would be suitable for up to 10 people
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Barberio Colella ARC says that once expanded in this way, Just a Minute would be suitable for up to 10 people
Less a shelter and more a shelter building system, Re:Build is the work of Pilosio Building Peace, architect Pouya Khazaeland, and emergency shelter expert and Architecture for Humanity boss Cameron Sinclair
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Less a shelter and more a shelter building system, Re:Build is the work of Pilosio Building Peace, architect Pouya Khazaeland, and emergency shelter expert and Architecture for Humanity boss Cameron Sinclair
Re:Build comprises scaffolding tubes joined together in order to build a simple frame for whatever structure is required, then fencing is added to create walls
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Re:Build comprises scaffolding tubes joined together in order to build a simple frame for whatever structure is required, then fencing is added to create walls
Re:Build has so far been used to build two schools in the Jordan-based Za’atari and Queen Rania Park refugee camps, both costing €30,000 (roughly US$32,900)
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Re:Build has so far been used to build two schools in the Jordan-based Za’atari and Queen Rania Park refugee camps, both costing €30,000 (roughly US$32,900)
More is planned too, and the team aims to roll out Re:Build to other areas, with Somalia next in line
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More is planned too, and the team aims to roll out Re:Build to other areas, with Somalia next in line
Re:Build's floor is made from plywood panels, and the buildings also have a basic rainwater catchment system
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Re:Build's floor is made from plywood panels, and the buildings also have a basic rainwater catchment system
Gizmag looks at some innovative emergency shelters
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Gizmag looks at some innovative emergency shelters

When people find themselves in dire straits due to natural disaster or displacement through conflict, a well designed and rapidly delivered emergency relief shelter can make the difference between life and death. Gizmag highlights some of the more innovative emergency shelters we've come across.

Emergency shelters pose a particularly tricky challenge for designers and architects, as a successful model needs to take into consideration such concerns as delivery, speed of construction, durability, and cost.

The following disaster shelters range from concept renders to real units that people are living in right now. They also vary between a very simple and basic hut, to more sophisticated designs that boast solar power and rainwater collection. Each one has the same aim though; to save lives with good design.

Better Shelter

The Better Shelter can be easily delivered to those who need it most
The Better Shelter can be easily delivered to those who need it most

Scandinavian furniture giant Ikea turned its considerable design and delivery expertise toward making a refugee shelter that can be easily delivered to those who need it most. Better Shelter ships in flatpack form and assembly takes four people a like number of hours to complete.

It's built from a metal frame, while the walls and roof are made of plastic panels, which sounds a little flimsy but is sure to be tougher than a tent. Ikea rates Better Shelter's lifespan at around three years and its interior comprises a total floorspace of 17.5 sq m (188 sq ft), made up of one large space.

The shelter sports a small roof-based solar panel. This powers an interior lamp that automatically switches on come nightfall. The solar power also feeds a USB port for charging small devices like smartphones. Ikea recently committed to delivering 10,000 Better Shelters to UNHCR (the UN's refugee agency).

Tentative concept

Turkish design practice Designnobis conceived a concept shelter dubbed Tentative
Turkish design practice Designnobis conceived a concept shelter dubbed Tentative

Turkish design practice Designnobis conceived a concept shelter dubbed Tentative that could be delivered flat, and simply pop-up once in place, requiring very little assembly in the field.

Tentative features a fiberglass roof and floor, and weather-resistant tough fabric walls. This design would mean that Tentative's height is reduced from 2.5 m (8 ft) to just 30 cm (1 ft) when ready for transport, thus allowing up to 24 units to fit into a single semi-trailer truck.

When in use, Tentative would measure 4 x 2 x 2.5 m (13 x 6.5 x 8 ft), and its interior could fit two adults and two children. The shelter would be raised off the ground with small stilts, natural light would come in via a small skylight and window. Designnobis told Gizmag that it's hoping to commercialize Tentative.

Rapid Deployment Module

RDM was put through its paces during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
RDM was put through its paces during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Massachusetts-based firm Visible Good has developed an emergency shelter that it says can be assembled in approximately 25 minutes by a couple of people without any tools.

Cleverly, Rapid Deployment Module (RDM) makes use of the box it ships in as a base for its structure. Its roof, meanwhile, is made from fabric, and the windows and doors are lockable. Each RDM is rated as suitable for 10 years.

Inside, RDM's walls can serve as whiteboards and the 30 sq-ft (12 sq-m) of available floorspace can be fitted with bunk beds and desks, or even medical equipment to serve as a clinic. RDM was put through its paces in the real world during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the U.S. Army was so impressed that it invested R&D money into the firm in a bid to create a more hardy version suitable for extreme climates.

Temporary Shelter in Nepal

The Temporary Shelter in Nepal
The Temporary Shelter in Nepal

The aptly-named Temporary Shelter in Nepal is a lot more basic than the above shelters, but paradoxically this can, in the right circumstances, be seen as a positive. Designed by Charles Lai and Takehiko Suzuki of Architecture for the Mass, the shelter can be constructed by local unskilled workers in three days.

The current prototype shelter cost just US$500 to build and was constructed using locally-sourced bamboo and locally-salvaged materials, including timber and metal sheets taken from damaged or demolished houses.

Along with the actual shelters, Lai and Suzuki also created a manual to aid locals in building their own shelter. The pair report that following their instructions, which can be downloaded or distributed on paper, unskilled workers should be able to erect a shelter within three days using local bamboo and whatever suitable cladding can be salvaged.

Hush2

Hush2 can be assembled within a couple of hours and is built from marine plywood
Hush2 can be assembled within a couple of hours and is built from marine plywood

The Hush2, by Extremis Technology, is a disaster shelter designed to withstand hurricane-level winds up to 200 mph (322 km/h), or Category 5. It can be assembled within a couple of hours and is built from marine plywood. To stop it flying away, Hush2 is held in place with a simple ground fixing system that also enables it to be moved with relative ease.

The shelter measures 4.3 x 4.4 x 2.4 m (14.1 x 14.4 x 7.9 ft) and comprises two sections, which can be used as living and sleeping quarters. Roughly rectangular shaped, it can be quickly reconfigured into a more aerodynamic "storm-safe position" should heavy winds strike. Four sections of the shelter are folded diagonally inwards and the shelter's sides are also folded inwards to create a roughly triangular shape.

Shelter

Shelter also boasts an optional outdoor decking area that includes composting toilet, a shower, and gas-cooking facilities
Shelter also boasts an optional outdoor decking area that includes composting toilet, a shower, and gas-cooking facilities

Carter Williamson's Shelter measures 37.5 sq m (404 sq ft) and can house eight to 10 people. The prefabricated structure can also be flat-packed and at least some scrap and salvaged materials can be used in its construction. A couple of people can assemble it within a day.

Shelter sports adjustable scaffolding props, which serve as stilts to raise it off the ground, thus making it suitable for uneven ground and safe from minor flooding. It operates off-grid and sports a 1.5 kW roof-mounted photovoltaic solar array, in addition to a solar hot water system and a rainwater collection tank. Finally, Shelter also boasts an optional outdoor decking area that includes composting toilet, a shower, and gas-cooking facilities.

Just a Minute

In the wake of the severe earthquake that hit Nepal earlier this year, Italian firm Barberio Colella ARC has designed a disaster shelter dubbed Just a Minute for displaced Nepalese people
In the wake of the severe earthquake that hit Nepal earlier this year, Italian firm Barberio Colella ARC has designed a disaster shelter dubbed Just a Minute for displaced Nepalese people

In the wake of the severe earthquake that hit Nepal earlier this year, Italian firm Barberio Colella ARC has designed a disaster shelter dubbed Just a Minute for displaced Nepalese people. The concept features an interesting design comprising a concertina-like expandable structure.

Just a Minute would measure just 2.5 x 4 m (8.2 x 13 ft) while in transportation, but once in the area it's needed, could be expanded by volunteers to 4 x 11.7 m (13 x 38 ft). Barberio Colella ARC says that once expanded in this way, it would be suitable for up to 10 people.

The concept calls for an solid oriented strand board center section that comprises a bathroom and kitchen, while the lounge and sleeping areas are off to each side. Insulation would come in the form of burlap stuffed with donated woolen clothing, and the firm also imagines roof-based solar panels and a rainwater catchment system.

Re:Build

Re:Build has so far been used to build two schools in the Jordan-based Za’atari and Queen Rania Park refugee camps, both costing €30,000 (roughly US$32,900)
Re:Build has so far been used to build two schools in the Jordan-based Za’atari and Queen Rania Park refugee camps, both costing €30,000 (roughly US$32,900)

Less a shelter and more a shelter building system, Re:Build is the work of Pilosio Building Peace, architect Pouya Khazaeland, and emergency shelter expert and former Architecture for Humanity boss Cameron Sinclair.

It comprises scaffolding tubes joined together in order to build a simple frame, then fencing is added to create walls. The empty space between is filled by pouring in whatever's available on-site, such as sand or gravel, and scaffolding platforms are then used as a roof, over which earth is piled. The floor is made from plywood panels, and the buildings also have a basic rainwater catchment system.

The system has so far been used to build two schools in the Jordan-based Za'atari and Queen Rania Park refugee camps, both costing €30,000 (roughly US$32,900). More is planned too, and the team aims to roll out Re:Build to other areas, with Somalia next in line.

3 comments
Toffe Carling
Only problem is that the Red Cross or Un or any other orgenasation that will help refugees in a crisis will not buy shelters that are too good. This is to prevent the refugees to stay put after the crisis is over. The sheelters are meant to keep people alive but cant be comfy. Sad but the truth.
Daishi
Saudi Arabia uses 100,000+ air conditioned tents a few days a year to house the influx of people making the pilgrimage to mecca each year. The tent city supports 3.3 million people so I believe it's the largest type of housing of this nature. The design is more suited to warmer climates than colder ones but it seems suitable enough for this purpose in warm climates. The army solves essentially the same problem with canvas tents. One off "emergency response" solutions always seem to end up costing a fortune and going getting built through no bid contracts rather than using commercially viable products or products that have appeal outside that specific use-case. A 512 square army GP medium would do in a lot of situations and has a stove hookup. It's easy enough to add a liner or open flaps based on temperature and climate. For a lot of things just regular camping trailers might be a cheaper route since they would still have resale value after the disaster ends and you are lefts with thousands of units to sell to someone that wants them. Resale value is part of total cost too. For that reason producing something useful only temporarily for a really limited niche is probably not the best option overall. I also sort of like the idea of using shipping containers and being able to pick and choose which modules are needed. You could have 1 kitchen module for every 9 housing modules for instance to avoid the cost/space of needing to add a full kitchen to every module. You could then do things like fill some of the shipping containers with rows of bunk beds so you could house a large number of people with relatively few containers due to economy of scale much like...Army barracks :) Some of the shipping container housing being made for refugees is pretty nice but they are set up more like apartments http://i.imgur.com/rs2pzBQ.jpg
HalBellerud
Has anyone asked people in potential danger areas what they think and need? Have the designers actually lived in their prototypes for any time? We already have a huge "homeless" population in the USA to try these things out in, also to implement potential strategies for dealing with the inevitable physical and psychological implications for living in the resultant "temporary" communities. Why haven't we seen this necessary experimentation locally? Food and water distribution as well as crime control need to be addressed as an integral part of the solution, however well-intention-ed the provider may be. Good to know some one is thinking about this but would like to see something in action with good follow-up and inter-service/agency interaction and planning.