Transitional shelters provide disaster affected persons with basic shelter in the transitional period between the emergency phase and the time when permanent housing is completed. In the current humanitarian environment, where aid for permanent housing is inadequate except in the case of highly visible mega disasters, the transitional period can be pretty long even longer up to five years. In this context it is important that transitional shelters need to be sustainable, so that they can last throughout the transitional period and the shelters can be either upgraded or materials reused in the construction of permanent housing. In this article we will be looking at how to make transitional shelters more sustainable.
- Construct transitional shelters which can be upgraded to permanent housing if resources permit – This takes a bit of prior planning, as the basic 200 sq. ft. transitional shelter space should be designed as part of the permanent house. The the foundations should be designed to take future loads if the structure needs to be modified (most commonly to take the load of permanent roofing materials such as tiles or other roofing sheets). The superstructure should be constructed of permanent material and in keeping with the construction quality requirements for permanent housing
- Build using vernacular techniques and locally harvested material – This is more sustainable than traditional ways of constructing contractor driven transitional shelters, as the local communities can participate in the construction. It also leaves a lighter environmental footprint, as there is little transport required and most materials are bio-degradable.The biggest advantage of this type of intervention is that local communities are able to repair and maintain their shelters in good condition as they have the skills and the resources for doing so.
- Ensure that material used in transitional shelters can be reused for the construction of permanent housing -In order to reduce the environmental footprint of the transitional shelters it is important that waste is minimized and the reuse of material is maximized. Therefore it is important to plan the intervention in a manner that material used for the shelters can be reused. However this requires some planning so that materials which meet specifications for the construction of permanent houses is used. The shelters could use bricks or blocks which meet the proper specifications for construction.It is also important to use timber sizes required for proposed roofs and door and window frames and roof coverings, which could be re-used in permanent housing.
- Make the shelters disaster resistant – It is important to introduce disaster risk reduction factors into the construction of transitional shelters, so that the already affected community is not put to further distress by the next natural disaster. These disasters could be common occurrences such as annual flooding or hurricanes and gales. It is important to plan the siting and construction detailing for the shelters so that at least the threat of common disasters are mitigated.
It is true that some of these interventions would require more resources than the conventionally used methods.However there is no doubt that these resources are well utilized as they would reduce the cost of permanent housing considerably.In addition it would also be more environmentally friendly as It reduces the waste of resources. Further it would be contributing to good stewardship of donor funds by making every dollar go as further as it possibly could.
In this article you have found some information on how to make transitional shelters more sustainable and some benefits of doing so. I do hope that this information will help you in increasing the sustainability of your next transitional shelter intervention.