Tempering the Temporary: Improving Thermal Comfort and Human Well-being in Relief Shelters

Tempering the Temporary: Improving Thermal Comfort and Human Well-being in Relief Shelters

By Joëlle Jahn (MDes ’17), Shreejay Tuladhar (MDes ’17); advised by Holly Samuelson, Martin Bechthold

In a world rapidly moving towards urbanization, an immense strain is being put on resource consumption of food, water, energy and land. So far over 65.3 million people have been become displaced worldwide in the struggle over resources (UNHCR, 2016). This figure is predicted to rise exponentially in the future, exacerbated by environmental degradation, anthropogenic climate change, disasters and conflicts especially in the developing countries. Despite variance in climate, most temporary shelter responses by humanitarian organizations and local governments follow a similar rectangular typology with single layer assemblies. While these shelters are meant to protect and sustain life, they often produce extreme interior thermal conditions that fall into temperature ranges categorized as life threatening to vulnerable populations by the World Health Organization standard.
How can one form fit all? This proposal aims to evaluate fourteen existing shelter types for thermal performance and potential health risks. Using thermal simulations and physical tests, passive techniques coupled with different insulation strategies are analyzed to improve interior thermal conditions. The primary goal of this proposal is to produce a series of guidelines for shelter assemblies with 1) offsite and 2) onsite sourcing that will ensure thermal conditions sustain human health. Additional guidelines will guide designers, builders, and humanitarian workers towards adding onto shelter assemblies in a three-phased approach to achieve thermal conditions that sustain human well-being.

Figure 1: A shelter matrix was produced by running simulation for Annual Adaptive Comfort percentage not only on the original location of the shelter but on other climate zones as well. This was done to assess the thermal performance of the material assembly of the shelter in different climate zones.

Figure 2: On-site Redesign - The re-designed shelter has a raised floor for flood risk areas. The attic acts as a buffer space between the solar heat gained by the corrugated metal roof and the occupied space below. The attic also allows storage of goods. The walls can be made out of low lightweight thermal mass materials. For this design small woven timber planks used to make walls known as “clissage” technique. This is a traditional Haitian material technology.

Published in:
“Tempering the Temporary: Improving Thermal Safety & Comfort in Relief Shelters,” Tuladhar, S., Jahn, J., Samuelson, H., Proceedings of Building Simulation the International Building Performance Simulation Association (IBPSA) International Conference, Rome, Italy, September 2019