This Refugee Shelter Can be Built in a Day

This house is designed to last far longer than tents

Nov 20, 2019

(Courtesy of Studio Cutwork)

There are times when housing has to be provided very quickly. This is certainly the case when people become refugees after having to leave their homes.

Traditionally, refugees have moved into tents because tents can be set up very quickly and offer immediate shelter. But now, there are new houses called the Cortex Shelter that can be built in a day by two unskilled people with no construction skills or heavy equipment according to the company.The shelter can last for as long as needed, and are far more comfortable than a tent.

Refugee camps have been traditionally thought of as temporary housing. People flee a situation, move to a safer area, and then go back when the danger has passed or move permanently into a new area.

But there are many places in the world where as conflicts rage long-time, camps are far from temporary including Kakuma, a camp in Kenya with more than 185,000 residents that was built in 1992 for Sudanese and Ethiopian refugees. The tents that the refugees live in have to be replaced every frequently adding to the residents feelings of instability.

Since many of these camps end up being long-term homes, Antonin Yuji Maeno, an architect and designer and cofounder of Cutwork – a studio in Paris – responded to the humanitarian crisis and designed the Cortex shelter. Tents, Maeno told Fast Company are not secure and have to be replaced frequently. “If you’re staying 10 or 20 years and you replace a tent every nine months, this is absolutely not a viable solution.”

The new houses are still only prototypes and uses Cutwork's designs for a metal frame that can be shipped flat but is also bendable according to Fast Company. The designers partnered with Cortex Composites to make a roll-able plastic mesh fabric that is filled with cement that can be shipped flat and then later fitted over the frame.

The homes are insulated against heat and cold and are equipped with solar panels to provide power for lighting, phone charging, and cooking. There is a main living area, a space for cooking and a separate room that contains a dry toilet, a shower, and sink. The homes are completely off-the-grid and cost under $4,000 each.

Maeno hope that this type of housing will change the way host countries think of refugee camps by turning them into places that people want to stay in and build communities rather than places to escape from as quickly as possible. When the prototype is finished, the company plans on working with UNHCR (the UN's refugee agency).

There are other companies that offer quickly assembled housing like Better Shelter that was established by the IKEA foundation and is used to house Syrian refugees in Greece and other locations, and are also used as healthcare clinics in Bangladesh.

These quick-build affordable homes can also be used for emergency housing after natural disasters and to provide shelter for the many homeless in urban areas. The Cortex shelter can be a great solution to the problem of providing homes for the people who need them the most.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.