Housing crisis

Written by: Eureka! | Published:

There are 25.9 million refugees in the world today, and the World Bank projects that 143 million people will be forcibly displaced by 2050. To house this tremendous number of vulnerable people is a monumental challenge.

The dilemma is not only related to materials but to points of view: refugee camps are currently regarded as temporary installations. Yet, in certain refugee camps, such as Dadaab in Nigeria, many people have stayed for over 20 years – an entire generation.

Living in exposed makeshift tents that are replaced every six months renders the current situation deeply flawed in terms of cost, sustainability, and living standards. More and more camps are long term residencies and, some suggest, should be considered the foundations for new cities – sites to reintegrate displaced people and to rebuild thriving communities.

The challenge

Along these lines, the challenge this month is to design a permanent or semi-permanent dwelling to house refugees who are spending longer and longer in makeshift camps, with the aim of increasing their quality of life.

The constraints include that the dwelling must be cheap, easy to install and maintain, and able to last for many years in various weather conditions. You may also want to think about what materials to construct it from, innovative supporting structures and fixings as well as security and what amenities you would include.

The idea we have in mind will be revealed in the December issue of Eureka! Until then, see what you can come up with. Submit your ideas by leaving a comment on the Coffee Time Challenge section of the Eureka! website or by emailing the editor: paul.fanning@markallengroup.com


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Coffee Time Challenge is just a bit of fun, but it is based on a real engineering solution. If you send in your ideas by using the comment button below, we can add your solution as an alternative – perhaps something funny, practical, cheap or, of course, innovative.

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