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Humanitarian Shelter Comes to BRE Innovation Park

When humanitarian disaster strikes, providing shelter for displaced people and families is one of the first critical components of emergency response.

A collaborative exhibit by Catholic Relief Services and BRE demonstrates dynamic shelter techniques and materials used to meet current needs in disaster relief

WATFORD, UK – When humanitarian disaster strikes, providing shelter for displaced people and families is one of the first critical components of emergency response.

BRE Group

In a new 17.5m2 exhibition at BRE Innovation Park at Watford, BRE and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) have created a life-size, walk-through exhibit of emergency shelters for different contexts.

Opening early November, the exhibit demonstrates how emergency shelters need to be designed for resilience, rapid construction and deployment, but also crucially make use of local skills, labour and materials.

“Recovery after extreme weather events such as Hurricane Irma may take many years, which often requires some kind of transitional shelter” says Jamie Richardson, Shelter and Settlements Technical Advisor for CRS. “This exhibition shows how organisations can collaborate to build safer, stronger shelters and better to meet the challenges of a changing climate and environment.  The shelter design addresses the physical environment but also the processes that need to accompany this, allowing people to live normal lives in safety, good health and with dignity.”

About the Shelter and Exhibit

The shelter is designed to be occupied by a family of five. This is a size typical of the usual minimum space allocation of shelters around the world with 3.5m2/person as the minimum humanitarian space standard (according to international humanitarian SPHERE standards).

Visitors will see the variety of recommended materials and construction techniques, and the exhibit will be a focal point for a research and demonstrations on process and non-technical issues. Demonstrations will range on relevant topics, for example, the integration of toilets into shelter structures to ensure adequate sanitation, and to highlight the link of shelter with health and sanitation programmes.

The model shelter will meet the gender, social, cultural and psychological needs of people after disasters and is especially focused on the most vulnerable – women, children, elderly, sick and disabled.

“Our aims are to share information with stakeholders and the wider public and media on these issues. It will be part of our outreach to building professionals and materials experts, and act as a stimulus for wider research and understanding on issues such as climate change resilience and sustainability,” says Richardson.

About BRE Innovation Park at Watford

The home of the demonstration unit is the BRE Innovation Park at Watford, which features full-scale demonstration buildings that have been developed by industry partners across the built environment.  These buildings display innovative design, materials and technologies which combine to address the development challenges facing regions across the world. Activities under at the Park include technology demonstration, research, testing, training and dissemination.

“Installing CRS’ demonstration shelter on our Park gives us an opportunity to further collaborate and share our knowledge with the humanitarian sector as well as showcasing the benefits of QSAND, our tool for the sustainable reconstruction of disaster affected areas” says Yetunde Abdul, QSAND Programme Manager at BRE. “We also can bring in our wider research and demonstration activities that take place on the Park, for example we have recently opened a flood resilient demonstration building and have extensive programmes of research covering climate change and resilient buildings.”


Press enquiries:  BRE – Ana Paun [email protected]; CRS – Caroline Brennan [email protected] +1.917.545.9299, Skype carolinebren.

Notes for Editors

The BRE Innovation Park at Watford was opened in 2005. It now comprises 15 full-scale buildings from leading developers, attracting 20,000 visitors a year.  It is part of a global network of Innovation Parks with buildings that display innovative design, materials and technologies addressing the development challenges facing regions across the world. The BRE Trust is the UK’s largest charity dedicated to advancing knowledge on the built environment. The profits made by the BRE Group of companies are used by the Trust to fund built environment research and education that benefits society. More at

QSAND is a tool for promoting the sustainable recovery of disaster affected areas, developed by BRE with support from IFRC. It promotes local building skills, adaptability and flexibility of structures to allow for ongoing use as a community grows in its recovery. More at

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, and a U.S. member of the global Caritas network. CAFOD (Catholic Aid for Overseas Development) is the UK Caritas member. CRS alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. In its emergency programming, CRS provides urgent lifesaving assistance to help survivors get back on their feet, while building on local systems for people to have the tools and skills they need to manage their own recovery. CRS’ Shelter and Settlement team provides technical support in the context of humanitarian emergencies, where immediate, transitional and/or permanent shelter are in need. Because shelter is part of a comprehensive emergency response and recovery plan, CRS is working with BRE to identify the best use of QSAND to ensure the utmost sustainability of program design and evaluation. More at