Six New Emergency Shelters That Will Make Tents Obsolete


Every night our television screens are filled with images of people driven from their homes by earthquakes, floods, fire, war and persecution.

Sadly, even if they are lucky enough to be helped by a relief agency, the best accommodation they can hope for is a tent with no insulation, floor or electricity.

However, things are starting to improve, with a new generation of architects and designers creating emergency shelters that are easy to transport, quick to assemble, and capable of protecting their inhabitants from the elements. In many cases, they are even able to generate electricity and harvest rainwater.

Below, we round up six of the best new emergency shelters that could transform the lives of displaced people in the future.

1.IKEA Emergency Shelter

Emergency shelters are designed to be short-term solutions, and many cannot withstand rain, wind and sun for more than six months. Yet the average stay in refugee camp is over twenty times that duration.

The IKEA Foundation, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has developed a longer-term solution to this problem, turning their experience with flat-pack furniture and language-free instruction manuals toward disaster relief efforts in and around war-torn places like Syria (they are already testing in Lebanon and Iraq).

The problem, in part, is building the most universal unit possible in a world where emergencies happen globally, spanning regions both hot and cold and with vastly different cultural norms. Their solution is much like an ordinary IKEA product: flexible, adaptable, modular and packed into cardboard boxes of components. Naturally, they require no tools that are not included.

 2.Cloth Home

This innovative design uses the unlikeliest materials, but provides electricity, water, and a home to those forced to live on the move.

By Kuwaiti designer Abeer Seikaly, the shelters are made from a strong woven cloth, with multiple uses. On the outside, the skin absorbs solar energy to create its own source of electricity for basic amenities. On the inside, it is covered in storage pockets, maximising floor space for shelter.

There’s even a water tank on the roof, which can be used to turn the tent into an indoor shower, within inbuilt drainage systems to avoid the tent flooding, or the storage pockets from getting damp.

3.The Accordion reCover Shelter

This beautiful and simple shelter was designed by Matthew Malone, Amanda Goldberg, Jennifer Metcalf and Grant Meecham. It can sustain a family of four following a disaster for up to a month. The origami-like structure can be entirely collapsed into not one, but two shapes —horseshoe or flat—depending on which is easier to transport. It takes only a few minutes to set up and it can be done by one person. The ridges in the structure can be used to collect drinking water. Whatever materials that are on hand, or even ground cover can be used to insulate the structure in harsh weather.

4.Mud Printed Shelter

Inspired by the Mud Dauber, a little wasp that builds its home with mud, Italian Massimo Moretti developed a way to create mud houses using 3D printing technology. Traditionally, earthen houses are formed by hand in a laborious, tedious process. But with a 3D mud printer, a house can be made in a couple of weeks. His organization, World’s Advanced Saving Project (WASP), is dedicated to making housing affordable, particularly in places where the most abundant resource may be earth.

For the last two years, WASP has been working towards the goal of creating full-size buildings with their printers. Ultimately, they want to offer a “full-sized, three-armed, 20-foot-tall, portable 3D printer” capable of printing structures as high as 10 feet, which can be hauled to a site by truck and assembled in two hours. Earth is then sifted into a powder, mixed with water and added to the machine where it’s then “extruded layer by layer” into a structure.

5.Pallet Emergency Home

Developed by the creative folks at i-Beam Design, this house plan makes use of commonly available materials, and is designed to be built by anyone, even without construction experience. This pallet house can be built in one day using only basic tools.You can also upgrade it with insulation. It was originally designed to be a transitional shelter for refugees returning to Kosovo. It’s easy to build with found materials, which makes it ideal for housing during times of natural disaster, plagues, famine, political and economic strife or war.

6.Transient Response System

And now for something completely different, we have a mobile skyscraper. Dubbed the Transient Response System (TRS-1), this innovative design by architecture students Adrian Ariosa and Doy Laufer at SCI-Arc in Los Angeles is a deployable architectural base (called the MASTODON) that self-assembles using four giant jacks into a shelter for earthquake, flood and other natural disaster victims. The tower will be equipped with solar panels, wind turbines and a rainwater catchment system to generate power and provide water for its temporary residents.

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