Photo: Design Guidelines

Design Guidelines

2019 Shelter Design Parameters

The 2019 Disaster Shelter Competition will incorporate consideration of all phases of disaster response – the initial phase which requires “emergency” shelters, the second phase which requires “transitional” shelters (1-3 years), and the final phase which requires permanent shelters.

The Competition design scenario for 2019 for the Transitional (or Core) Shelter is to provide shelter for individuals who have lost their homes on the Caribbean island of Barbuda, due to damage caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017 (the strongest recorded hurricane to hit the Caribbean).  The impact of the hurricane resulted in damage to 95% of properties on the island, total power outage, and no running water or telephone service.  The prime minister of the Antigua and Barbuda described the island as barely habitable, and all of the 2000 inhabitants were evacuated.  Further, a second hurricane (Jose) threatened the islands soon after Irma.  The shelters you design in response to this disaster should meet Sphere standards in as many areas as possible including cultural accommodation, security, packing, durability, upgradability, etc. (see scoring matrix for grading criteria).  Assume the shelters will be set up on or near sites of existing homes or buildings to provide shelter as the homes and buildings are rebuilt.  Shelters should address the local warm and tropical climate of Barbuda (heat, ventilation, humidity). Since tourism is important to the island, the island’s government insists that the aesthetic appearance of the shelters is very important (do not want the island to look like a giant refugee camp).  Shelters should blend with local architecture and practices as much as possible.  Further, water supply and handling of sewage is a significant issue that must be addressed.  Since the local water and sewer systems were damaged or compromised, you will need to provide a proposed system for providing fresh water and for dealing with the island sewage disposal – collection from the individual shelters to some central collection or treatment area/facility.  Logistics to the island is also a challenge.  Access to the island is predominantly by boat or barge, though there is a small airport.  There are no significant docks, piers, or dock equipment, and therefore materials must be offloaded with basic equipment like Sky-Trak telehandlers.  Teams should also include a cost per shelter. Assume that the sites will be cleared and ready, so no costs for site preparation are required.  The prototypes will be brought to JBU for presentation and testing (earthquake, time to assemble, heat retention, weight, habitability, rain, and wind/water) in April, 2019.

1) In order to facilitate shelter testing, shelters must be able to be pre-assembled and moved onto the earthquake shake table (16’ x 20’) and into the testing booth for ventilation testing (15’-7” x 13’-11” x 9’ high).
2) Weightings on the scoring matrix have been adjusted based on the changed scenario. Note that there is a maximum weight that will result in disqualification from the competition.

To incorporate consideration by the teams of the shelter considerations during the early stages of a disaster, there will also be an additional Emergency Shelter Event that will be part of the competition but will be scored separately and will have separate awards.  This event will address consideration of the initial phase after a disaster during which shelter is created from whatever materials are available at the disaster site.  This scenario is the same – the initial phases immediately after the hurricane in Barbuda. The Emergency Shelter will need to withstand potential high winds, and rain. Teams will not need to bring anything for this phase but will each be given a kit at the Competition site with basic materials and tools yet to be determined (e.g. dimension lumber, plastic sheeting, tools, nails, wire, twine, pipe, blocks and/or bricks, tarps, and other materials), some basic standards that must be met (e.g. height, area, wind and water resistance) and will have about 2 hours to construct a usable Emergency Shelter.  These shelters will be tested with wind and water.  Grading will be on ingenuity, habitability, time required to construct, and performance during wind and water tests.  Teams can prepare for this by doing some research beforehand on emergency shelters, but they do not need to bring a design or proto-type.

Standards: Transitional Shelter Prototype designs should meet Sphere Standards and other appropriate internationally accepted standards (located at

Accommodation Requirements: The shelter design must:

  • Accommodate a family of 4 with a minimum allocation of 3.5 square meters of space per person (14 square meters or 151 square feet).
    • Note:   In order to facilitate shelter testing, shelters must be able to be pre-assembled and moved onto the earthquake shake table (16’ x 20’) and into the testing booth for ventilation testing (15’-7” x 13’-11” x 9’ high).
  • Height must allow standing head clearance of 2 meters for at least 70% of the floor space
  • Provide dignified accommodation for a family, with adequate flexibility to respond to social, cultural and religious requirements (e.g. the use of spaces by different genders and ages).
  • Shelter should take into account potential cultural considerations or sensitivities.

Physical Performance:

  • Versatile and responsive to the scenario environmental conditions that may vary geographically, seasonally and diurnally (from day to night) within the scenario area.
  • Provide protection from tropical environmental conditions of the competition scenario.
  • Allow maximum natural airflow/ventilation through the shelter with features that allow protection of occupants from significant rainfall.
  • Protect occupants from significant rainfall (4 inches per hour (2.5 gal/SF/hr))
  • Ability for floor covering to prevent exposure to dusty ground and a potentially high water table.
  • Perform well structurally against:
    • Wind loads (withstand 75 km/hour wind)
    • Seismic loads similar to earthquake of same magnitude that occurred in Nepal and in compliance with US earthquake codes ASCE 7-02
  • Can be erected in a variety of topographical and geological conditions – from sandy to rocky landscapes, flat or sloping
  • Must demonstrate that the structure is reusable (i.e. can be redeployed for another disaster).
  • Must be upgradeable to something more permanent by the shelter users, using local materials, techniques, and skills, as per transitional features mentioned above
  • Allow for grouping of structures for expansion or use for purposes other than habitation

Materiality, Cost-Effectiveness, Packaging and Transport:

  • Minimum lifespan of 1 year – longer is better
  • Cost-effective: $1500 or less to fabricate including labor and materials. Economy of scale during the production phase should be considered as vitally important. Teams must submit documentation to verify the cost of materials and justify their labor cost based on number of hours to produce a shelter and hourly labor costs used in the shelter. Donated materials should be priced at a fair market value. Items not priced will be assigned a cost by the judges.
  • Teams should assume that the shelters will be manufactured in the US or other similar industrialized nation and shipped to the point of use. Additionally, consideration should be given to adding on to the shelters using local materials and methods.  Though the shelters are meant for 1 to 3 years, they are often used for longer periods of time and are modified to meet local desires.
  • Lightweight: Overall weight should be minimized; ideally no more than 200 kg per package to allow handling without equipment. Shelters that are more than 10% over design weight will be disqualified.
  • Easily stored and transported i.e. manufactured so that it can be flat-packed and fits into a standard 8’ x 40’ shipping container (note that the interior of an 8’ x 40’ shipping container is not exactly 8’ x 40’).
  • Packages should be designed to fit in shipping container with minimal wasted space. Goods would need to be shipped to nearest shipping port and then have to be transferred to a barge for transport to Barbuda, consider container size and unloading location restrictions.
  • Since offloading may be by hand or small equipment, package to allow use of shipping containers or for stacking of shelter packages on barge or ship decks.
  • Easy and rapid to assemble without technical experience. Assembly should be straightforward and require minimal manpower, non-electrical tools - that is, simple hand tools that are generally available around the world.
Google™ Translate: