Exploring Sustainable Strategies for Shelter Design at Refugee Camps: The Case of Domiz 1 Refugee Camp in Iraq

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
The recent refugee crisis is considered the most pressing humanitarian crisis the world is witnessing today. With 4.9 million Syrian refugees around the world, the Syrian refugee crisis has a major impact, not only on the Syrian refugees, but also on the host communities. Iraq is one of the main host countries of Syrian refugees, besides the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) inside the country caused by the internal conflict, resulting in an over exhaustion of its resources, infrastructure, and services. The need to conduct an investigation on sustainable strategies of shelter design in Domiz refugee camp in Iraq emerged as a result of direct communication with the UNHCR office in Iraq, aiming to improve the living conditions of the refugee population and reduce the pressure on host community and environment. This study initially reviewed literature already existing on shelter design in refugee camps. Moreover, relevant case studies were presented. Data obtained through direct communication with the UNHCR office in Iraq was utilized to assess the current situation in Domiz refugee camp. Based on that, a shelter upgrade strategy, referred to as The Incremental Home, is proposed. The Incremental Home is a phased upgrade strategy in which the involvement of the UNHCR and other NGOs is maximized in the beginning, gradually being overtaken by the involvement of the refugee population. Due to the multi-disciplinary nature of the research, a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies is utilized. The first two phases of the Incremental Home strategy focus on the planning aspect of the shelters and the base structural frame. These phases are assessed by referring to the literature review and successful case studies. In the third phase, a wall panel composed of layers of steel mesh, tarpaulin, and sand is proposed in two different configurations as a cost-effective sustainable replacement of the standard tent and the corrugated steel shelters. In the last phase, a sunspace and a roof canopy are proposed as passive heating and cooling strategies to enhance the thermal performance of the shelter. The last two phases are evaluated by conducting thermal simulations using IES-VE software and comparing the results of the proposed strategies to those of the present shelter typologies in Domiz camp. Results of the study illustrate applying The Incremental Home strategy helps empower the refugee population by providing them with the knowledge and training needed to participate in the construction process and allowing for gradual implementation. As a result, the proposed strategy provides an opportunity for personalization and deepens the refugees’ sense of belonging and dignity. Furthermore, a 42% decrease in cooling loads, and 31% decrease in heating loads was achieved by using the proposed wall panel, the sunspace during winter, and the roof canopy during winter, in comparison to the baseline case, the UNHCR tent.
sustainable strategies, shelter design, refugee camps, Iraq