Disaster relief: humanitarian architecture for post-disaster shelter ~Louise Murray, Engineering & Technology Magazine

Posted on January 20, 2015 By

Many FEMA trailers were installed on the private property of homeowners, usually on lawns and sometimes in driveways next to the house. However, there are also numerous FEMA operated trailer parks where many storm victims have been living. Although several types and sizes of manufactured structures have been installed throughout the Gulf Coast region, most are mass-produced, one-bedroom travel trailers. These typical FEMA trailers are designed to accommodate two adults and two children. There are larger trailers and other manufactured structures that can accommodate larger families.

FEMA trailers in Hope, Arkansas, circa 2005 -06. Many FEMA trailers were installed on the private property of homeowners, usually on lawns and sometimes in driveways next to the house. However, there were also numerous FEMA operated trailer parks where many storm victims have been living. Although several types and sizes of manufactured structures have been installed throughout the Gulf Coast region, most are mass-produced, one-bedroom travel trailers. These typical FEMA trailers are designed to accommodate two adults and two children. There are larger trailers and other manufactured structures that can accommodate larger families.

In the field of humanitarian architecture, post-disaster provision is more than just supplying shelter. It’s about involving communities in places of uncertainty and rapid change, delivering the best rebuilds that incorporate future risk mitigation in the design.

“I’ve seen igloo-style shelters, or funky shipping container emergency housing in Sri Lanka, New Orleans and Port-au-Prince, where interior temperatures hit 42°C. Such universal or prototype solutions are also often prohibitively expensive. The concept is intellectually appealing, but almost never works.” ~Esther Charlesworth, founding director of Architects without Frontiers

Safe and dignified shelter is a basic human right, and in a post-disaster scenario provision is more than just putting a new roof over people’s heads and providing emergency shelter; it is about fit-for-purpose rebuilds that address the local culture, environment and economy. It is a complex task of rebuilding a community, or even a city, that may have had little in the way of adequate planning or building regulations before the disaster struck. The best housing will improve on what went before and incorporate future risk mitigation in the design. Read more.

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