Circular design of emergency sheltering for Africa: a holistic approach

  Africa is the continent with the highest number of displaced people due to wars, humanitarian crises, resource scarcity, and extreme climate events. Emergency sheltering always sets out with the best intention of being a temporary solution but, in most cases, it actually turns into a (semi-)permanent habitat. Some of the largest 'temporary' refugees' camps now host the third generation, and there are in-camp Universities which testify their long-term nature. The focus to date has been either too technical ("tents-in-a-bag", "plug-and-play-houses") or too social (e.g. by investigating inner and social needs) without however embedding the two in actual and effective solutions.

In July 2017, a joint report by Ramboll and Save the Children for the 'Shelter and Innovation Workshop' concluded that research is needed on the full life-cycle environmental impacts of different shelter solutions and guidance on how to minimise the environmental impact is necessary to support evidence-based decision making. The report also highlighted that shelter is a process with wide and long-term impacts, and shelter and construction should be used as a tool to reduce the sense of passivity of the displaced.

There is therefore a tension between the need for stockpiled, instantly deployable shelters and the view of shelter as a process where local communities become implementing partners in the event of a crisis with the aim of driving long-term development by empowering the community. To this end, this project aims to address these design issues from a circular economy perspective and engineer hybrid solutions that can be instantly deployed but easily adapted or expanded by the residents as a way to achieve their social needs and their long-term empowerment. The proposed solutions will be assessed in terms of their environmental impacts through life cycle assessment and their social components will be evaluated with the support of local partners.

This project is supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering under the Frontiers of Engineering for Development - Seed Funding tranche 5 scheme.

  • Start Date:

    1 July 2018

  • End Date:

    31 July 2019

  • Activity Type:

    Externally Funded Research

  • Funder:

    Royal Academy of Engineering

  • Value:

    £38887

Project Team