New shelters aid refugees with recycled plastics

New shelters aid refugees with recycled plastics

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As we have seen with this years devastating hurricane season, there is a continuing need for new innovations in emergency shelters. We have recently seen yurts made from plastic cloth and lockers for the homeless, but these can be too expensive and complex for use in emergencies. Now, researchers at the University of Bath are working with plastic engineering specialist Protomax to design and test reusable shelters. The shelters are made from recycled waste plastic, called Storm Board, which can be reprocessed and reused.

The plastic construction allows the shelters to be stored for decades until needed. They are designed to be similar to flat pack furniture: easy to construct, cheap and available in a variety of colors. Each shelter measures 3.6 by 4.8 meters, enough space to house a single family. Several shelters can also be linked together to form a larger structure. The Storm Board not only helps to reduce the impact of waste plastic, the weather-proof material also provide a greater level of insulation and security than a tent.

Storm Board is part of an international research project, funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, in which a variety of shelters are being constructed out of sustainable materials for refugees living in extreme climates. The three-year project aims to improve the living conditions in refugee camps by designing low cost and easy to construct housing that will mediate the extremes of temperature and ensure the privacy, security and dignity of residents. It is the largest ever global study investigating thermal, air quality and social conditions in camps housing displaced people. After testing at the University’s Building Research Park, the most promising designs will be transported to Jordan to test in local conditions and to gain the feedback of camp occupants and aid agencies. What other types of shelters might be used to create not just housing, but also better living conditions for refugees?


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