Design Project – Emergency Shelter


Every year disasters happen globally.  In 2015 alone there were about 150 natural

disasters which affected the lives of millions of people and that most of those

disasters had happened in Asia (World Vision 2016).  Disasters caused by typhoons,

flooding, drought, tsunami, earthquake, heat wave and freezing temperature occur

naturally within our natural environment.  Unfortunately disasters may also be

caused by human within our built environment.  Black (2008) called the Mississippi

flood “Unnatural Disaster”.

No matter what the disaster nature is, local government and humanitarian

organisations need to respond immediately after disaster occurred in order to rescue

lives and to provide immediate aid to those affected.  In a natural disaster, the

number of people being affected can be significant.  Typhoon Komen and its

monsoon rain in 2015 had made nearly 400,000 people displayed from their homes

(World Vision 2016).  Emergency shelters are required by these people.

This paper discusses how we designed an emergency shelter.  We referenced the

general guidelines for emergency shelters from both Sphere Project and UNHCR

Handbook (Sphere 2016; UNHCR 2016).  We also used Whole System Design

(WSD) (Stasinopoulos et al 2009) as our approach for a sustainable design, which

entails us to think laterally during the design process.  Thus we paid extra attention

to material selection to the full life cycle of the shelter, considering that we need to

use eco-friendly material and that the shelters should be able to be reused or

recyclable to minimize the impact to the natural environment.  Users of the shelters

will be from various countries thus our solution had taken social impact such as local

culture into consideration.  Our design has also taken economic impact into

consideration, such as capital investment of production machinery and whether we

should outsource most of the components or building in-house.

We focused our design of this emergency shelter for the Asian region.  There are 4

phases in WSD:  Needs Definition, Conceptual Design, Preliminary Design and

Detail Design.  Our solution has covered the first 3 phases.

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Group Reflection

Blizzard and Klotz (2012) proposed another whole systems design (Fig 1):



Fig 1 Whole Systems Design Framework (Blizzard and Klotz 2012)

This framework stated that during design process the team needs to:


“Establish common vision  –  then align goals and incentives”

“Practice mutual learning”

“Share all information with everyone”

The general guidelines of WSD have not explicitly mentioned team collaboration like

what Blizzard and Klotz (2012) stated.  Our team’s approach perhaps cannot be fully

in-line with theirs.  We find it very hard to work effectively due to the fact that even

organising a conference call can be a challenge for off-campus students.  Through

the group’s blog, we are able to establish what needs to be done and allocate tasks.

It is also a good place for information sharing.  Unfortunately mutual learning is

difficult.  The fact that we are off-campus and geographically dispersed is not our

concern as we can all share ideas, discuss and even “accepting input and criticism

from team members” (Meadows 2008; UNEP & ICLEI 2002 in Blizzard and Klotz

2012)) through online media such as the group’s blog.  We believe the main reason

is our inability to synchronize our progress as some of us can be very busy at work

thus we may not be able to catch up studying thus slowing down the team’s


Having said that, through several rounds of discussions and each of us going

through own’s research, our collective opinion is as follow:

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Benchmarking those designs in “Post-disaster shelter: Ten designs” as published

by IFRC (2013).  Fig 2 shows 5 different terminologies of shelters as defined by

IFRC:  emergency, temporary, transitional, progressive and core.  Emergency

shelter is defined by IFRC as shelters to be deployed “in the aftermath of a

disaster”.  In our project, our team has concluded that those T-shelters rather

than the “tent” like shelters will be more appropriate to meet the User and

Operating Specifications as specified in the project.



Fig 2  –  Overlapping definitions  (IFRC 2013)


Use a style similar to either the B.3 or B.4 design.  For roofing, wall panel and

support bars, we intend to use Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) material which is

eco-friendly and recyclable (APR 2016; Innovation Seeds 2016).

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Impact Assessment


Social Impact


Economic Impact


Environmental Impact

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Design Process

Our design process began with a common goal of providing mass producible

emergency shelters that are in response to natural or man made disasters in the

asian continent. Through this design we envision sturdy, durable and sustainable

shelters that comply with the The Sphere Project and the United Nations High

Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) design standards.The design was directly in

response to the objective we set out to achieve in our common goal. Taking this into

we implemented the three phases of the whole system design into our approach in

design the shelter.

Approach to Needs Definition: Phase 1 of Design Process

Firstly to have a fully functional and well purposed and sustainable design, we as a

group needed to fully understand the extent of the problem we were trying to

address. The asian continent historically has suffered from a variety of natural and

man made disasters. These range from earthquakes, floods, drought, tsunami,

cyclones and war torn places.  All three of us did research on the proportion of

people affected by the disaster and what were the circumstances around the

disasters. This resulted in drought being the cause for the most amounts of deaths

related to war torn regions of the continent. (Centre of Research on Epidemiology of


Approach to Conceptual Design: Phase 2 of Design Process

Drawing from the common goal and information gathered from what we were trying

to achieve Mohammad took on the responsibility of choosing three conceptual

designs along with Raymond and my collaborated efforts. Using references from

post disaster shelter designs published by the International Federation of Red Cross

and Red Crescent Societies and A framework for sustainable whole systems design

the three conceptual designs were chosen. Design attributes like materials used,

rigidity of the wall structure, rook framework, ventilation, geographical deployment,

cultural and ethical backgrounds, sustainability had to be taken into account before

making our final choices.

Approach to Preliminary Design: Phase 3 of Design Process

The preliminary design was personally undertaken and drafted by myself taking into

account the information gathered from research during the needs definition phase

and the three conceptual designs chosen. This whole system design system

approach played a vital role in the determination of the preliminary design.(A

framework for sustainable whole systems design). Referring back to the elements

taken into consideration in the needs definition phase of the design process and also

the attributes that arose in the conceptual phase of the design process I came up

with a design that has a combination of rigidity and sturdiness along with versatility.

The building materials used in the manufacturing, options to customise internally, the

molecular building segments that make up the structure are some of the attributes of

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the design that are sustainable for the environment that it would come in contact



Needs Definition



Asia is the most disaster prone area/ region in the world. Evidence of physical and

economic effects can be seen across the whole region.  These have risen as a result

of natural and man-made disasters. Information published by the Centre for

Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) show that in the last 100 years

the death toll arising from these disasters have been staggering. The majority of

people requiring shelters point towards the drought affected regions of Asia. The

main reason for correlation is that fact that the drought in these regions have arose

from political instability, lack of infrastructure and war (The guardian).  The shelter is

significant to all post disaster regions especially the war torn areas. It will seek to

provide decent and dignified accommodation that could weather the natural


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