Innovation That Matters

Balbek has developed a modular design for refugee shelters serving those fleeing the war in Ukraine | Photo source Balbek

An architecture firm in Kyiv creates comfort-first, modular shelters for Ukrainian refugees

Architecture & Design

The firm has made the design open source so others can also build the shelters for the benefit of refugees

Spotted: The need for emergency shelters in Ukraine has increased exponentially as a result of the country’s invasion by Russia. In response, architect Slava Balbek began designing new housing for people forced to flee their homes. He knew this would not be easy, but wanted his design solution to help refugees regain some sense of stability.

When half of Balbek’s 75-person company was forced to relocate, he realised that others would need new housing too. After convening a team of 10 architects at his company, he began to work on designs for refugee shelters that could be built quickly. The team analysed 20 existing models from around Europe before deciding on its final product – which is tailored to suit Ukraine’s cold climate.

The shelter’s design is modular, with small units that can be arranged in configurations that cater for different numbers of people – from as few as 50 to hundreds. Some configurations feature communal bathrooms, kitchens, and green space, while others have room underneath them dedicated solely towards playgrounds and sports fields.

The design is open-source, so others are also free to make use of it. However, the firm is asking everyone to maintain the sense of spaciousness and ensure that everyone stays within comfort boundaries to provide ‘dignity life’. “You can change designs, models and produce your own for a more personalised space,” explains Balbek. 

Other innovations, spotted by Springwise, that cater for the needs of refugees in emergency situations include, refugee shelters that pop-up at the touch of a button, shelters made from recycled plastic, and a language learning app that helps migrant children navigate cultural differences.

Written By: Katrina Lane

Email: hello@balbek.com

Website: balbek.com

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