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In Response to Recent Devastating Natural Disasters, BRE & CRS Exhibit Emergency Relief Humanitarian Shelter

BRE Group

Note: This press release is over six months old and the details may have been superseded. Please contact the Press Office for the latest information.

The increasing number and scale of natural disasters throughout the world, highlighted by the recent Hurricane Irma, has given rise to a collaborative exhibit by BRE and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) that will be unveiled at BRE’s Innovation Park in Watford on 17 November. The 17.5m² Humanitarian Shelter demonstrates construction types and dynamic approaches that can be used to assist communities when disaster strikes. ‘Transitional’ shelters such as these are one of the first critical components of emergency relief.

Projects such as the Humanitarian Shelter have huge scalability potential, and would be coordinated on the ground with NGO’s, local governments, authorities and communities. These organisations will then work with local communities to educate and support in the building of the shelters themselves, so they become equipped with the knowledge needed to deal with any potential future disasters.

The Humanitarian Shelter is designed to be occupied by a family of five; with 3.5m² per person the minimum humanitarian space standard (according to international humanitarian SPHERE standards). 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.

BRE Group

The type of transitional shelter used in emergency situations will vary depending on the type of disaster, the local climate, community and resources available. Naturally available or locally made materials could include; stone, timber, bamboo, earth (including burnt bricks) and grass thatch, with common materials for roofing including concrete and metal sheets.

The shelter at BRE could represent a permanent house in some countries; while in other contexts would be a temporary or transitional solution; or could be a ‘core’ dwelling, where the shelter is built on to create the other rooms of the house. A transitional shelter needs to last long enough for households to recover their livelihoods to raise the funds they need to build their permanent dwelling, which takes on average between 5 to 15 years.

Jamie Richardson, Shelter and Settlements Technical Advisor for CRS, comments; “Recovery after extreme weather events such as Hurricane Irma may take many years, which often requires some kind of transitional shelter. 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.”

Visitors to BRE’s Innovation Park 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.

“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.

Yetunde Abdul, QSAND Programme Manager at BRE, comments; “Installing this 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. 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.”

The 21st UK Shelter Forum is taking place at BRE Innovation Park on 17th November. Find more information on the event and the shelter.


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