Healthy housing for the Displaced

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Architecture and Civil Engineering

Abstract

Our vision is to transform the lives of displaced people encamped in extreme conditions through an engineered solution to housing that promotes a new science of shelter design. The project will entail research in five of the world's largest refugee camps. Zaatari and Azraq (Jordan), Kilis (Turkey), Mae La (Thailand), Nyarugusu (Tanzania). These have populations of up to 250,000 and hence are in many ways cities. They have summer temperatures >35degC and occasionally >40degC; in these conditions un-insulated dwellings are unable to provide safe conditions. In addition, such locations can have 1600W/m2 of solar radiation, further raising the temperature inside a dwelling, and in the case of Jordan winter temperatures of -10degC. In Thailand the high humidity is likely to be of equal importance in placing thermal stress on occupants. In addition, displacement shelters can use polymeric materials which contain a high proportion of VOCs such as plasticisers and release agents, and have poorly ventilated cooking facilities using fuels such as wood, thereby generating particulates.

Camps were once expected to be a short term solution, and this is still true in some settings. However, as witnessed in numerous locations around the globe, encampment often continues for years or decades (for example, the 340,000 strong Dadaab camp in Kenya opened in 1992). Even in natural disasters delays in rebuilding can lead to displacement camps taking on aspects of semi-permanent settlement. The challenges of survival in the immediate onset of an emergency quickly give way to concerns about the suitability of shelter over a longer timeframe. Such basic dwellings inhibit domestic life, educational delivery to the young, and development of the social relations needed for community cohesion. Often the need of traumatised people for a sense of security and privacy also goes unmet. Unfortunately, even the state of the art in current shelter provision does not adequately consider building physics, thermal comfort and air quality. There is also a general lack of attention to socio-cultural issues. Thus, for example, our pilot study in Jordan has revealed through social surveys a consistent concern amongst the displaced population with the issues of safety and privacy.

Given the diversity of potentially available building materials, climates and cultures, there will be no single shelter solution, but rather a need for a systematic process of design that is cognisant of the climate, landscape, culture, length of time the accommodation might be needed, flexibility as family size changes and portability. This project will develop such a design process by creating a new science of shelter design through engagement with aid agency staff in four countries with diverse weather, cultural conditions and political sensitivities. This will involve 1) wide scale social and indoor environment surveys in five camps; 2) the construction of a series of potential designs in the UK, in a climate chamber and in Jordan; and 3) the production of a multi-language, extreme climate building physics-based, culturally sensitive, shelter design tool for agency field staff.

Planned Impact

Healthy Housing for the Displaced: Impact Summary

There are three key elements to the work proposed in this project: (i) the collection of empirical data from existing shelters around the world; (ii) the development of carefully engineered solutions which will be prototyped and tested in the lab and in the field; and (iii) the development of a language-localised shelter design tool. Each of these elements are expected to have a range of non-academic impacts, falling into the themes of Knowledge, Economy, Society and People.
In the Knowledge domain, we expect bi-directional engagement with the refugee / displaced community who are at the very core of this proposal. This includes, but is not limited to, the refugees in Jordan, Thailand, Turkey and Tanzania who form part of the work in WP1. We expect to inform the development of new shelters that will directly impact this community whilst simultaneously, through a participatory design process, enabling them to work with us in the development of these shelters. Linked to this will be engagement with organisations involved in the design, manufacture and delivery of emergency shelters (e.g. International Red Cross, Red Crescent) around the world. This will ensure that our designs reflect the reality of deployment in crisis situations. Our work will also complement the work of existing groups such as Shelter Cluster and the pan-organisational Humanitarian Library. We expect these organisations to benefit, in particular, from our language-localised shelter design tool. Leverage will arise from the creation of a International Repository of Shelter Data for the world community to access.
Our efforts in the Economy domain will concentrate on helping UK industry accelerate business opportunities in the mass production of high quality transitional shelters. This is motivated by the fact that, given the scale of the current crises, any viable solution will need to be produced at large scales with quality controlled processes designed to ensure lowest cost and maximal efficiency. This will be based both on our extensive collection of empirical data from existing sites as well as our prototyped and tested solutions. We will leverage the University of Bath's outstanding links with industry to enable this (e.g. product companies such as The Dyson group; global engineering consultancies such as Arup and BuroHappold; and pre-fabricated panel suppliers such as Mod-Cell). Project partners will also be leveraged to help disseminate our new guidance on the science of shelter design. Practitioner journals such as the CIBSE Journal and Architects Journal will also be a natural outlet for our work.
The refugee crisis is not only the most significant humanitarian challenge of our age, it is also a deeply divisive political, economic and social problem. Therefore we aim to create societal impact by enabling a more positive discourse around the refugee crisis. This will be achieved by a demonstration of the positive impacts that UK academia, industry and third sector organisations can have on this widespread humanitarian crisis. We will leverage our media experience to raise the project profile locally in SW England, nationally in the UK and internationally in Jordan, Thailand, Turkey and Tanzania. Our prototype designs and documentation of the refugee representatives engaging and reacting to these designs will form a major part of this outreach work.
A major effort in this respect will be made in Jordan, which has faced the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis. We also aim to engage university students all over Jordan in a design competition to design new transitional shelters using our data and guidance. This will have the double benefit of teaching sound building science principles to Jordanian architecture and engineering students whilst raising the profile of our own work.

Publications

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Coley D (2017) Probabilistic adaptive thermal comfort for resilient design in Building and Environment

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Fosas D (2019) The importance of thermal modelling and prototyping in shelter design in Building Research & Information

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Fosas D (2018) Refugee housing through cyclic design in Architectural Science Review

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Natarajan S (2020) Practice before theory? An approach for testing sequencing effects in pedagogical design in International Journal of Technology and Design Education

 
Description Thermal mass is as beneficial as insulation; we can set a comfort temperature for such a population; we can have a large impact in the sector
Exploitation Route In the design of new shelters
Sectors Construction,Other

 
Description We have helped UNHCR design new set of shelter for a camp in Jordan. One design element is now fitted to all their shelters in the camp. We have also produced software for UNHCR and recently made a short film - to be released next month
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Construction,Other
Impact Types Societal

 
Title Dataset for "The Potential for Computational IT Tools in Disaster Relief and Shelter Design" 
Description The expanding use of IT has brought an increase in productivity to the world of business, industry and commerce. However, this is not mirrored by an equivalent growth in the use of IT by aid agencies in post-disaster situations. This data contains results from a pioneering two-stage study which tested the appetite for the increased use of computational IT tools in this sector, their level of usefulness and whether they can be practically implemented. The data contains the results of two separate online surveys (pre-use survey and post-use survey). The first survey was conducted with thirty aid workers across nineteen countries on their use of IT and computational tools in shelter design and provision. The data contains information about the knowledge of the aid workers in relation to building performance situation software package and tools. The key finding was that none of the participants used any building simulation tools or software packages in any of the design stages of shelter construction and the great majority of the participants identified a need for a comprehensive, easy to use and freely available shelter design tool. The data also contains information for the second survey which involved 48 aid-workers to record their experience of using the new tools and their feedback about the shelter design tools provided to them during the study. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
URL https://researchdata.bath.ac.uk/id/eprint/712
 
Title Dataset for "The importance of thermal modelling and prototyping in transitional shelter design" 
Description The dataset describes monitored environmental conditions of unoccupied shelter prototypes in the refugee camp of Azraq (Jordan). The monitored environmental conditions are temperature and relative humidity every hour both outdoors and indoors. The 7 shelter prototypes include a control shelter without modifications and 6 variants implementing a range of passive measures (increased ventilation, insulation, thermal mass and/or roof shades). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
URL https://researchdata.bath.ac.uk/id/eprint/668
 
Title Dataset for 'Measurement and analysis of air quality in temporary shelters on three continents' 
Description This dataset includes air quality data collected from field studies in refugee and displacement camps in ten locations within Peru, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Jordan, Turkey and Bangladesh. These include samples of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Particulate Matter (PM), and CO2. The data Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) sampled over 25 minutes using Tenax A tubes, Particulate Matter (PM) sampled over 30 minutes using TSI DustTrack monitor, CO2 spot measurements in Jordan and Ethiopia only using Extech CO2 meter (model CO250), and 24hrs CO2 monitoring in two shelters in Djibouti unsing TinyTag (model TGE-0011). Results revealed very harmful levels of pollutants that are often linked to excess mortality - with total VOC concentrations as high as 102400µg·m^-3 and PM over 3000µg·m^-3. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
URL https://researchdata.bath.ac.uk/id/eprint/894
 
Title Embodied energy and embodied carbon of 81 shelters globally 
Description This excel file contains information and calculations used to estimate the embodied energy and the embodied carbon of emergency, transitional and durable shelters used to house displaced persons. The study considers a sample of 81 shelters drawn from 34 countries in South and Central America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Shelter Assessment Matrix video 
Description Millions of people are forcibly displaced around the world and are encamped in temporary shelters, often for more than a decade. Unfortunately, many of these shelters provide poor conditions in which to live and raise a family. Some of the problems are physical, for example temperatures above 40 degrees centigrade in shelters in summer and below freezing in winter, or dangerous air quality from cooking on open fires with no chimney, or insects attacking the structure. Some are cultural, such as the use of low-level windows allowing men to see into female areas, or the lack of separate male and female entrances. Others security based, for example the use of materials that are not knife resistant. The Healthy Housing for the Displaced project led by University of Bath has studied the conditions provided by shelters around world, and asked the displaced how their accommodation might be improved. The results have been enlightening. The constraints of cost, time and materials make creating ideal living conditions challenging, but we have found that by applying some basic building science and attending to the local culture, lives can be transformed. By discussing the problem with our aid agency and architectural partners it became clear that much of the issue was due to there being no structured processes for developing shelter designs that considered these physical and societal concerns. The guidance that existed was scattered, and lessons learnt were often lost before the next project. However, we also discovered that agency staff and architects would welcome a process if it were supported by the tools needed to analyze the situation and any proposed design. In response, we designed the Shelter Assessment Matrix (or SAM). SAM is a simple spreadsheet supported by a series of computer tools that predict the performance of a shelter, for example the likely temperature within the shelter in winter and summer in a specific location. SAM also contains a set of short information sheets that discuss the various issues for those new to shelter design, on topics such as ventilation, cost and security. SAM can be used by aid workers, designers or architects to: (i) inform design, (ii) upskill staff, (iii) help write tender documents, (iv) score tender responses, (v) identify issues, & (vi) improve designs. SAM operates using 34 key issues that our research has shown to be critical. A central discovery by the team is just how important location and climate is, and just how much of a difference it makes to speak to the occupants, or those from a similar setting or group before designing. This might seem obvious; however, our work has shown that architects can have a tendency to think that it is possible to design a shelter that will work in the majority of settings, without fully considering the impact of climate, or that different displacement settings have very different budgets, or that the displaced are not an homogeneous group, or that certain materials might not be allowed in some settings. In addition, aid workers can sometimes overly rely on knowledge from previous projects in very different settings, or are simply too rushed or too poorly funded to bring those with other skills into the project. Key to SAM is that it first asks the user to think about the requirements, i.e. the setting, the occupants, the costs and the thoughts of the host government, etc. then to input the details of the shelter. The shelter is then scored against the requirements. So, it is the match between the setting or context and the shelter that is analyzed. As each of the 34 issues is considered separately, the user can quickly identify weaknesses or potential improvements. SAM can be downloaded from our website (www.hhftd.net) and is free, we hope you find it useful. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
URL https://researchdata.bath.ac.uk/id/eprint/903