That the solar-powered collapsible shelters potentially provide some sense of security and ownership to the person who owns them, or the fact that it could make a great tent for festivals, is perhaps what makes Abeer Seikaly’s design so compelling.
But sometimes in emergency situations, aid workers find themselves faced with hundreds or thousands of people who were very suddenly displaced from their homes – either by natural disaster or a sudden eruption of violence.
In this case, volume takes priority over aesthetics, which is why tents have always been the go-to solution for disaster relief organizations. It is very challenging to transport a large volume of decent, insulated structures that not only provide shelter against the elements, but also protection from opportunistic criminals.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), two million Syrians have fled from their country, while an additional four million have been displaced inside the country’s borders. That’s six million people who are desperately in need of something more humane than a shredded tarp above their heads.
Michael McDaniel was initially inspired to build the stackable Exo shelters after watching the appalling conditions people faced following Hurricane Katrina in the United States. After eight years of finessing his design, which was inspired by the styrofoam cup, McDaniel has launched an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to put them to good use.
And he’s starting in Syria. By teaming up with the Maram Foundation, which is helping Syrian refugees in several ways, McDaniel hopes to help bridge a daunting gap in low-cost, secure housing while also gathering the necessary data to improve his design.
Made with aircraft-grade aluminum and insulated for climate control, each Exo shelter provides temporary housing for up to four people. The bunk style beds look far more comfortable than a cold hard floor, and a digitally-coded door provides security. This is particularly important for women and children.
Easily connected to electricity, the shelters are also well-lit thanks to skylights, which is essential to quality of life. And to make it easer for relief workers to keep track of whether the units are on or offline, each is wired for networking capabilities.
Since they are stackable, the shelters can be transported on a trailer, and when longer term housing is secured for refugees, the units can be reused for the next disaster. Obviously, we wish they wouldn’t be necessary at all, but this is definitely one of the better short term solutions we’ve seen in a while.
Check out Reaction Housing’s Indiegogo campaign and consider supporting them so that a few Syrian families might sleep a bit better at night.