Centre for Development Studies

Healthy Housing for the Displaced

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University of Bath research feature (02.05.17)

01 May 2017 - 30 April 2020

Principle Investigator:  David Coley (University of Bath)

Research Team:  Jason Hart, (University of Bath), Dr Kemi Adeyeye, Dr Omaimah Ali (German Jordanian University, Jordan), Dr Richard Ball, Dr Juliana Calabria-Holley, Dr Alexander Copping, Dr Omar Hasan (Princess Sumaya University for Technology, Jordan), Dr Sukumar Natarajan, Dr John Orr, Dr Esra Sahin Burat (Mersin University, Turkey)

Funding Body: EPSRC

Value of Award: £1.5 million

Partners: Allies and Morrison Architects, Earth Systems, Wintech Group, Interface, Century Facades, Project Entity Ltd, Buro Happold Limited, Orient Policy Centre, Protomax, Singleton Birch Limited, Structure Mode, DiFD, LABOX, UNHCR, The Architecture Centre, Claytec, MIB

Project Rationale and Aims:

This three-year project will conduct the largest ever global study investigating thermal, air quality and social conditions in camps housing displaced people. The 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 views of camp occupants and aid agencies such as UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) on the enhancement of housing and key social issues will be sought as a core element of this study.

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.

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. 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
  3. the production of a multi-language, extreme climate building physics-based, culturally sensitive, shelter design tool for agency field staff.

Project Outputs and Impact:

  1. First in class survey of this depth completed covering temperatures, social attitude, air quality and lighting in refugee camps.
  2. International Repository of Shelter Data created for all those in the field to deposit their raw and processed data, time series etc., both new and historic.
  3. Comfort theory expanded into a new, and until now understudied, population.
  4. Validated thermal, air quality, and lighting models of common shelter types. Science of shelter design initiated
  5. Twenty possible shelter designs will be created, all developed to construction detail. All developed with input from aid agencies
    and refugees, and made freely available via the web portal.
  6. Six designs constructed in UK to test construction times; then in climate chamber to validate modelling; then on site in
  7. Validated, easy to use shelter design tool, tested in use, distributed worldwide.
  8. Finalisation of a new transformative approach to transitional shelter design based on robust thermal and social measurement, computer modelling, input from camp occupants, test data from our climate chamber, and test construction trials all of which will be subsequently monitored and measured by testing in real camps.

In addition, the project will produce a series of short films gathered during fieldwork and with the support of the User Engagement Group. These will be shared via the website and through dedicated social media channels.  A number of academic and practitioner publications will be produced.

A series of meetings (physical and virtual) and symposiums will inform the work at all stages. A number of roadshows will take place across the UK to further engage with industry in year 3 of the project.

A national design competition for Jordanian students to design transnational shelters using the project data will be held half way through the project. An award ceremony will take place 3 months later to announce the winners.


For more information about this project please contact:

Jason Hart