Humanihut, a promising startup from South Australia, has come up with an all-in-one emergency shelter that can give refugees new (more dignified) homes in as fast as a few minutes.
Every year, millions of refugees are given temporary shelters that come in the form of cramped, disheartening tents. Humanihut seeks to change the way we give humanitarian relief via their ingenious pop-up housing.
Each shelter – which measures 7.3 metres long by 2.4 metres high – comes with solar power, showers, toilets, water purification, laundry facilities, and a space big enough for a family of six. 16 of these units can be collapsed and fit into a shipping container, making them easily transportable to disaster-struck areas.
More impressive is the speed at which the Humanihuts can be installed. A small group and a forklift can set up one in just five minutes, and an entire village in a few hours!
The company hopes that aid organisations and governments will make the investment of choosing quality Humanihuts over traditional tents. The system is said to have a break-even point after 3.5 years, and by the fifth year, could cut costs by AUS$91M (US$70M) for a camp of 50,000 refugees.
We recently interviewed Neal Sutton, Humanihut’s Managing Director, to know more.
Tell us more about Humanihut. How did you come up with this concept?
“I have a background as a consultant to the UN and served as a UN Military Observer and witnessed over many years the deplorable state of some facilities that were accommodating displaced people. This was not a reflection of those running the camps, as they were doing their best with the resources available.
“However, living on the ground, mostly under canvas for extended periods, was not appropriate – although, for an initial response, plastic and canvas shelters are great for removing people for the elements. With the average period a displaced person spends in a camp is 12 years, I felt there needed to be a better way.
“I designed the Humanihut Shelter System to get as close to the tents and plastic from a deployable standpoint combined with the relative comfort of a rigid, enclosed building. The Humanihut’s initial design evolved from a conversation with my partner around foldable, rigid huts that could be rapidly deployed and bring with it the services needed to offer a level of comfort and dignity so often missing in crisis accommodation.
“From that initial discussion, and with the support of many clever individuals, the Humanihut Shelter System evolved into the System it is today where we can deploy a fully serviced Village for 2,500 people in three days.”
What were the challenges of creating mobile housing that has all the basic living necessities but also cost-efficient?
“The greatest challenges have been in developing the System and keeping its cost relative to alternative solutions. We have managed to do so and although it is more expensive as a one off cost than tents it is very competitive against other rigid accommodation and when you add its high level of deployability and the inclusion of fresh water, sewerage, and power systems, it is an exceptionally attractive solution.
“The other challenge is moving those who are the buyers of shelter away from what has been their solution for many years, if not decades, into a more innovative solution. That work is ongoing and beginning to pay dividends.”
What makes Humanihut so impressive is that the shelters could be deployed in minutes – and an entire village in just hours. How difficult was it to come up with a design that saves so much time and effort?
“The most important characteristic of the Humanihut Shelter System after comfort and dignity for its inhabitants, is its rapid deployability. Nothing comes close to its logistic efficiency whilst delivering all of the basic requirements needed of emergency shelter.
“The process of coming to the final solution took about 18 months from the initial conversation and a further 18 months to prove the concept and build the prototypes. Quite frankly, it was a practical process of addition and elimination to provide those services and characteristics most highly regarded by both displaced people and the large humanitarian aid agencies.
“Once we understood the requirement of both parties it was a process of delivering on their needs.”
Has the concept already been implemented in disaster-struck places?
“We are yet to deploy the System into the field. However, we are well advanced on doing so in the latter part of 2016.”
How does Humanihut hope to change the way we approach disaster preparedness and refugee housing? How do you envision your company a few years from now?
“My hope is that the Humanihut Shelter System will set a new benchmark for the sheltering of displaced people in the future and by 2019 my vision is that our System is recognised by the humanitarian aid industry as an excellent offering and my company as a reputable, respected, and willing partner in delivering appropriate shelter solutions to people at their greatest time of need.”
You can find out more about Humanihut and their amazing work here.