Photo taken from Rappler.com

Emergency shelters in the Philippines do not meet international standards.

The required size in inadequate and the shelter itself is uncomfortably hot, according to observations made by those who matter most – those who dwell in these shelters.

Their complaints were aired in a study by the University of the Philippines Building Research Service (UP BRS). Almost all of the shelters are also constructed on site, which makes them inappropriate for re-deployment to other relocation sites.

The study was conducted in Tacloban and Palo, Leyte to check if international standards for emergency shelters are followed in local settings.

Humanitarian organizations set requirements for temporary shelters. These guidelines consist of architectural, social, environmental, and resiliency measures.

In a survey of sites where shelters are constructed, the study gathered information on the living status of shelter residents. It identified the shelter specifications and average comfort ratings based on local experiences. Dwellers were asked, for example, whether living quarters are acceptable in terms of shelter size, materials used, and installed features.

The Philippines is very vulnerable to hazards that cause homelessness and helplessness after disaster strikes and uproots people from their homes.

Conventional disaster recovery in the country is a process where displaced families stay in emergency tent shelters before they transfer to relocation sites. Due to recent events such as Super Typhoon Yolanda, socialized housing projects take more than a year to be completed. Government agencies and humanitarian organizations address this issue by providing shelters in temporary relocation sites.

Said study on emerging shelters was made to bridge the gap between the time immediately after a disaster occurs and the time it takes to quickly build an engineered temporary shelter.

Vulnerable families cannot wait for a long turn-around time to have families living in these shelters and they must also be guaranteed safety when disaster strikes again, for example, when a strong typhoon is followed by another strong typhoon or when aftershocks follow a major earthquake.

A group of engineers and housing experts at the UP BRS has developed a temporary shelter system that is lightweight, readily-deployable, reusable, affordable and durable. It is designed to be the future template for housing in the country’s disaster recovery measures.

Research and development of the temporary shelter system – “Easy-to-Install, Engineered Temporary Shelter for Disaster-Stricken Areas” – started in 2014 and ended in 2016.

To provide a post-disaster shelter design where people can live in comfort, R&D considered the properties of construction materials as they relate to the layout of the shelter. Durability of the shelter against natural disasters was factored in. Using engineering analysis, the shelter system was checked against nature’s forces.

Meeting the target of a livable and stable shelter may probably cost higher, according to UP BRS researchers. Though the design may be more expensive that what were already constructed in Leyte and other provinces, the reusability and durability of the shelter developed at UP BRS make the cost reasonable.

Still on-going, R&D aims to ensure that the materials used are cost-effective as much as possible. Analysis will also be done to balance the cost, at the end of the day, with the benefits.


Written by:
Dr. Fernando J. Germar
University of the Philippines Diliman

Published by:
The Department of Science and Technology-Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII