7 March 2012

Theme 6: Innovations in steel sheltering

The process of sheltering can be rationalised and presented regardless of any context or material in much the same way as steel products can be developed regardless of sheltering process or disaster. However, for a product to be effective, it needs to fit into the sheltering process as much as a process needs to be sensitive to the products that are used in it. Often also, techniques to be used in combination with different materials, adjustable to the context, are much more relevant than completely finished sheltering products, 'houses'.
Innovation starts perhaps with a leap of imagination. The confrontation of humanitarian practice with production concerns and academic reflection stimulated that in a way to allow for relevant innovations to float on top. But much depended on the participants of the conference; humanitarians with enough experience and interest to question what needs to be questioned on the one hand, academics and producers that can research and develop, though within the logic of their normal job, for the humanitarian sheltering sector.
The discussions that took place during the display session for example shed some light on the relevance of new products for sheltering. The steel slag blocks for example are by-products of the steel industry and are likely to be used locally rather than transported over great distances. This makes this product more suitable to be used in recovery than emergency sheltering and only in those contexts where a steel industry exists.
An emergency construction industry may lead to innovative shelter recovery processes, the value of steel may lead to a more cash based sheltering approach, as much as the need for locally owned reconstruction may lead to more appropriate retro-fitting products, or the urban challenge leads to new pre-fabricated shelter models for both emergency and recovery phases. There are plenty of opportunities for innovation; be it development of new products, applying techniques in a new manner, developing new techniques or new approaches.

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