Photo: Design Guidelines

Design Guidelines

2018 Shelter Design Parameters

  1. The 2018 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 2018 for the Transitional (or Core) Shelter is a combination Shelter Design and Basic Temporary Camp Plan to respond to an earthquake in Nepal, providing shelter for individuals who have lost their homes.   Shelters should address local climate in Nepal, with some locations being in mountainous terrain up to 11,000 feet above sea level.   They should meet Sphere standards in as many areas as possible including cultural accommodation, security, packing, durability, upgradability, etc. (see scoring matrix). Consider that the terrain makes it so that shelters may have to be transported by hand, helo, or donkey, and that warmth is important at high elevations. Teams should also develop a basic camp plan assuming they will have sufficient land area to accommodate a 5000 person camp (1250 shelters) with space as required by Sphere Handbook. Camp plan should be based on Sphere Handbook and should include a proposed layout with shelters, support facilities, walkways/roads, consideration of water and sewer requirements (potable water, toilets, showers, cooking), i.e. how would these be handled (e.g. outhouses, porta-johns, wells, elevated tanks, etc.).   The Camp Plan will be judged on thoroughness of planning and compliance with Sphere. Teams should also include a cost per shelter and a cost estimate to construct the camp. Assume that the site 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, 2017.

1) Shelter dimensions must still fit on 16’x20’ shake table with a height of no more than 10 feet to fit in the thermal booth.
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 earthquake in Nepal. The Emergency Shelter will need to withstand potential aftershocks, 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:   Shelter footprint must not exceed competition earthquake shake table sized at 16’ x 20’.
  • 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 environmental conditions at the high altitudes of the competition scenario.
  • Ability for floor covering to prevent conductive heat loss and exposure to dusty ground
  • 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
  • Versatility in design to allow adequate airflow for natural ventilation in varied temperatures
  • Ability to retain heat due to significant changes in temperatures during day/night and summer/winter.
  • Can be erected in a variety of topographical and geological conditions – from sandy to rocky landscapes, flat or sloping
  • Must be able to protect occupants from significant rainfall (4 inches per hour (2.5 gal/SF/hr))
  • 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’).
  • Packable for most efficient use of 8’ x 40’ shipping containers (i.e. packages should be designed to fit in shipping container with minimal wasted space).
  • Transportable by hand, beast of burden, or helicopter.
  • 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.



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