Most disaster issues can affect people all over the world and depending on where you live, you probably have some inkling of how difficult it is to be forced from home–or to watch others experience it–as many different circumstances and terrible, seemingly insurmountable challenges can cause the need for housing or camps.
We view these situations most often from afar, comfortably watching the news, as people are in dire straits after tsunamis, earthquakes, and wars as they flee enemy nations; and if you are from the US–specifically the southern corridor–you know how important any type of post-disaster housing was after multiple hurricanes from Homestead’s Andrew to New Orleans’ devastating Katrina.
Refugee camps are one of the biggest challenges as floods of populations may enter another area due to numerous issues causing loss of home and even country. While the Red Cross is first to come to mind in helping with these situations as well as those caused by weather, governments and other entities often chip in a major helping hand as well. As masses of homeless people–some sick and many hungry and affected by temperature– convene in one small area, issues with hygiene and contagious illnesses can easily occur.
One graduate student in the UK has taken on attempting to help solve this problem through the use of 3D printing technology in improving the stereotypical ‘tent city.’ As 3D printing is so amenable to designs where sustainability is desired, Antoine Proust decided to explore it as an option in his ‘master final year project’ at the University of Hertfordshire, where he is earning his Master’s in Interior Architecture and Design.
“The aim of the research is to design a modular and efficient construction system for habitat by using sustainable materials combined with rapid manufacturing, contributing in raising the living standard for emergency situations,” states Proust. “The result will be the creation of a habitat which minimum unit is a shelter, with the possibility to evolve into compounds of several houses.”
With the added necessity to create affordable shelter that does not have an effect on the ecosystem, Proust wanted a new construction option that is temporary but can evolve with the user and be transported as situation changes or the inhabitant is doing better and ready to upgrade.
Again, sometimes the most genius ideas are the ones that seem so obvious and simple. Proust designed an austere but still aesthetically pleasing modular design, the ‘Modushelter,’ which features a comfortable, streamlined, and inviting interior that would certainly feel like a wonderful home for most anyone, especially those just coming out of a terrible situation and left in limbo.
Materials to be used are always a major part of the planning process when employing 3D printing, but of far more concern in this situation as the people staying in the homes would need them to be very lightweight in case they moved, or if a refugee camp was dismantled. The pieces would also be easily transported due to their modular 3D printed design, as well as their lightweight qualities.
Proust anticipates that when setting up camps or dismantling, the pieces could be shipped in or out in trucks easily, or even flown by large drones where they could drop them into needed areas. The boxes are intended to be opened and assembled by the refugees themselves who would have a set of simple instructions something akin to what comes with furniture from IKEA, and there would also be space inside for them to receive food and first-aid kits as well.
Because of these requirements as well as those needed also for efficiency and extreme durability for weather and daily use, Proust suggests that fiber-based bioplastics would be suitable.
Both digital design and 3D printing will be used for producing a large scale prototype for the modular system that requires absolutely no tools–only minimal effort from two people who will need to lock pieces into place as well as tightening them. Due to the easy manipulating of the architecture with 3D design, refugees or those inhabiting the homes can have input into their exact needs as well as upgrading later. The design can be versatile and even give those who will be living in the homes a chance to be creative and regain some dignity even in a very tough situation.
Discuss your thoughts on Proust’s idea to use 3D printed modular housing in refugee camps in the 3D Printed Post-Disaster ‘Modushelter’ forum thread over at 3DPB.com.