8 Designs for Refugee Shelters


PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — Around the world, 45.2 million people are refugees due to conflict and persecution. An additional number are refugees due to natural disasters or other environmental factors, and this number could reach 50 million by 2020.

Many refugee camps struggle to provide shelter, health and normalcy for their residents. Disease often spreads rapidly in the crowded, unsanitary conditions, and there is frequently a lack of medical supplies to stem illness. Violence can also occur as people are forced into small spaces with strangers and impermanent shelter.

These struggles arise from the lack of homes. Commonly used designs for refugee shelters are for five-person families, and this is often not enough. The shelters also do not last as long as they need to and there are rarely enough for the people who need them.

Architects around the world are working to address the issues of cost, mobility, durability and size. Many are working to get their designs to people who have lost their homes, or who are at risk of losing their homes. The following are 8 designs for refugee shelters created by architects around the world.

1. Ex-Container

The Ex-Container is a product of Shigeru Ban, an architect for Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects in Japan. The design is a response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that displaced many Japanese citizens. The Ex-Container is made from shipping containers, which can be stacked to allow for families of various sizes to live in the same space.

While it is more durable, it is also a more expensive option than the typical tents provided to refugee camps. Coastal countries would also see the most benefit from these shelters.

2. Bio-Waste Bricks

Bio-waste bricks are grown using a fungus called hyphae. The design won the Young Architects Program contest after a structure made out of the material, called the “Hy-Fi,” was erected near the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The hyphae can bind together many agricultural byproducts and other local materials to form the bricks in around five days. It takes no energy and there are almost no carbon emissions, according to architect David Benjamin.

The bricks can be used to provide sturdy, cheap shelter after a disaster using whatever debris is available. They can also be easily dismantled when these homes are no longer needed.

3. Socially-Conscious Refugee Shelter

Felix Stark designed a shelter that he intends would provide a community feel for refugees. The design features 19 rooms for three people each, all surrounding a central courtyard. The material is waterproof, but also permeable to allow for ventilation.

The shelter won the Red Dot Award for its socially-conscious design. It could also probably be manufactured for less than the standard refugee camp shelters.

4. Woven Tent Shelter

This tent home was designed by Abeer Seikaly, and it won the Lexus Design Award. The whole shelter is made from fabric, which allows for air flow. This also makes it possible to expand or shrink the space as necessary, and it makes it portable.

It is also built with piping throughout the structure to deliver heat or cooling.

5. Zip-Shelter

Another portable structure, the Zip-Shelter is  designed to be easily moved. The structure has insulation for sub-zero temperatures, and it can be modified to fit between two and 10 people. When it is no longer needed as a portable structure, the material can be repurposed for use in new, more permanent structures.

6. Life Box

Another recipient of the Red Dot Award, the Life Box was designed by Adem Onalan. These structures are also designed as temporary shelters, but they are adaptable depending on where a crisis occurred.

There are three types of Life Boxes: air, water and land. The air shelter also serves as a parachute, so it can be air-dropped into places inaccessible by other means. The water shelter is for flooded areas, and it can be inflated for use as a raft. The land shelter is designed to be transported by land.

7. Floating Homes

Kunle Adeyemi is working to design floating homes for residents of Nigerian slums. The government is threatening displacement for up to 480,000 people as they try to develop the area. He and his team have produced a prototype for these homes which is both cheap and easy to assemble.

The government is reluctant to grant approval despite the awards Adeyemi has received for his design.

8. Bamboo Shelter

Similar to the bio-waste bricks, this bamboo shelter is designed to be easily assembled with local materials. The design comes from Pakistan’s first female architect, Yasmeen Lari. Her design uses a bamboo framework holding together adobe and mud. The design is cheap and results in few carbon emissions.

Lari has been focusing her designs on the world’s displaced in much of her work. She is also responsible for building over 36,000 waterproof homes for regions that are susceptible to flooding.

Monica Roth

Sources: The Guardian, Archinet, The Huffington Post, Al Jazeera 1, Al Jazeera 2, Nature World News, Rising Kashmir, Inhabitat, Mail & Guardian
Photo: The Dark Room


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