Living in Lebanon, the country with the highest ratio of refugees per capita in the world (according to a recent UN study), third year architecture students at the Lebanese American University (LAU) were solicited by studio instructor Richard Douzjian to come up with temporary shelter solutions.
As part of the problematic, and similarly to how refugees build or personalize their own shelters, students had to conceive their designs using common everyday objects easily accessible to consumers all-over the world. The approach was dubbed “consumerist vernacular architecture”.
As one of the successful designs, the emergency plastic crates shelter was assembled as a 1/1 scale prototype on site on LAU’s Byblos campus. The shelter designated as ecs-p1 uses just 2 components as construction materials: plastic crates indispensable to the agriculture sector and common plastic zip ties.
The plastic crates are reusable if undamaged; otherwise they are completely recyclable along with the plastic ties.
Other than the 3 vertical support “columns” per wall and the window “sills”, every single plastic crate is used as a storage unit, whereas the window “shutters” are used as either seats or table “legs”.
An advantage of the crates is that they seamlessly plug into each other when stacked vertically, adding stability of the seats, the table legs, and the window “shutters”. The plugging also assists in the absorption of lateral momentum of the structure in general whereas the roof and floor are strengthened thanks to their alveolar systems. The primary goal of the ecs-p1 was to study the spatial and structural properties of the plastic crates as construction materials.
In hot and dry climates it is an excellent substitute to the conventional tent: it procures natural lighting, ventilation and cooling, all the while being structurally more resistant and offering seamless storage spaces.
The development of appropriate thermal insulation, heating, waterproofing and water collection systems are the goals of the second prototype, the ecs-p2, currently under study.
Location: Lebanese American University, Byblos, Lebanon
Student Designers: Shady Waked, Abdelkader Ghazzawi, Sandra El Hajj
Studio Instructor: Richard Douzjian, Dr.Eng.
Assembly team: Shady Waked, Abdelkader Ghazzawi, Sandra El Hajj, Dalia Choucair, Rola Kaba El Halabi, Louay Soubra, Eliane Azkul, Farouk Zouia, Alaa Kiwane, Pauline Zakarian, Saif Ayad Abdul Sattar, Mohammad Al Shmaitilly, Nadim Hallit, Jose Manuel Pages Madrigal, Richard Douzjian
Built area: 14.4m2
Liveable area: 9m2
Assembly time: 5 to 7 hours
Number of used crates: 416
Structure and materials: plastic crates and zip ties – concrete blocks added to wall bases as weight anchors