Emergency Housing

The Emergency Housing Project

Product development of shelters for displaced people,
based on field studies in Haiti and Kenya


This master thesis was carried out by Fredrik Axelsson, master student in Industrial Design Engineering, at the department of Product and Production Development at Chalmers University of Technology. The project was performed in collaboration with Formens Hus Foundation, who acts in partnership with the Ikea Foundation and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The aim was to develop an emergency shelter, based on a metal frame made by Formens Hus, that copes with the everyday needs of displaced people. At the same time the product must be inexpensive, of low weight and volume and quickly manufactured to be realistic for UNHCR to produce.

The needs and demands from displaced people and aid organizations were carefully investigated. During the spring of 2011 extensive literature studies were concluded to understand previous work, standards and different approaches of the well-known problem. To secure, complement and unravel the gathered information, several interviews with experts within the field were made. However, to truly understand
the identified needs in detail the author managed to perform field studies in Haiti and Kenya. Numerous interviews and observations were carried out in camps, which gave a pragmatic understanding of the situation, very hard to find by only reading reports. After analyzing the identified issues, ten main problem areas were concluded: Hindering water to enter, cooking area, storage, privacy, light, ventilation & temperature, security, fire safety, diseases and appearance.

Several concepts were developed for each problem area. All of them were evaluated by an analytical method and through discussions with Formens Hus, examiner and supervisor. In the end, seven part solutions were presented: A durable package functioning as flooring, sandbags, a divided door that improves the cooking conditions, hooks, ventilation opening, folded walls and natural appearance. Hopefully these solutions will, with initiative from Formens Hus, improve and facilitate the dreadful everyday life for displaced people in camps.

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