20 January 2012

A flexible and integrated shelter approach, by Caroline Henrotay, VUB

The Free University of Brussels (VUB) presented the development of a flexible and integrated shelter approach. The underlying goal was to develop a system of compatible components, in different materials, that can be matched and re-matched to offer both emergency and transitional shelter. Having such a system, humanitarian agencies could intervene in a number of contexts in a similar manner, while still catering to the specific needs of that context. Also the process from relief to recovery could be done more smoothly, as the same sheltering system would be used for both phases.
VUB used the Open Meccano approach as basis. A lot of effort went into the development of component connections, which have a massive impact on the flexibility of the system and the structural strength that can be obtained with the system, in different designs. The system was prototyped, tested, adjusted and prototyped again – both in bamboo as in steel and aluminium. The system could be pre-fabricated, but equally produced locally.
In a following stage, VUB tested whether the system could be used to replace the current structural elements of the IFRC UNHCR ICRC family tent (research conducted by Heikki Vanderlinden). The design brief was turned upside down. An existing design, and canvas, was the limiting parameter the system tried to work within. This exercise was very useful to see how the family tent design should be changed to allow for a more modular structural system in it. If such a structure could be developed, then the tent could become the first step in a transitioning process. Part of this research was funded by the IFRC SRU, and we hope we can bring it even closer to an applicable system in the future.

and about the tent: http://issuu.com/shelterresearchunit/docs/ifrc-sru-sd-vub-frame-for-family-tent-feasibility-#embed

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