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Students undertake sustainable homeless shelter project

First Year Architecture Students at UWTSD are designing and building sustainable shelters through a studio project which aims to investigate the architect’s role in homelessness, devising solutions for a rapidly growing crisis.

The group, who are reusing low-cost materials including cardboard and plastic to create and build their designs, say they were moved to help after witnessing the problem locally.

Ella Curr said: “As students, we have so many skills to offer that can make a big difference. We know there is no quick fix to homelessness – it requires input from so many different specialist areas. The key question is… how can you help? We hope we can make a difference in this way, even if just to help further highlight the issue. Using recycled materials for this project is low cost and also helps the environment.”

UWTSD’s Ian Standen Senior Lecturer/ Programme Director Architecture at the University’s Faculty of Architecture, Computing and Engineering said:

“It is our belief that architects and designers have an important role to play in addressing many of the most vexing issues of our time, including the shortage of affordable housing and making our cities and towns more inclusive. The Sustainable Homeless Shelter is a studio project for the first year Technology and Environment module. This part of the course is aimed at investigating the architect’s role in homelessness, and devising solutions for a rapidly growing homeless population.

“The proposal was to create a lightweight shelter, allowing a safe haven for the homeless during a night’s rest, whilst sheltered from the harsh and unpredictable weather conditions of Britain. It has involved 3D construction in the Architecture Lab, which could be interpreted initially as sculpture, but will more importantly embody the basic principles for architecture.

“By using sustainable concepts and constructional materials /techniques, this assignment is encouraging students to explore their emotions and abstract ideas and transform them into a shelter, a construction in space, with the inner forces of forms and objects. Introductory lectures were provided to start the project exploring the ideas of Buckminster Fuller and Shiguru Ban Architects. Student feedback and comments have been very encouraging.”

Ella said the group had learnt key new skills during the project. She said: “I have also learned how to keep a group of people organised easily without stresses. These and many other things contributed to our success as a group together. In the construction of our final product we discovered that the materials were not going to be able to be sourced by ourselves on such short notice and at a low cost and so we had to improvise with materials that we could obtain ourselves and create a much more simple structure that shows the concept and our idea but without the flair and elegance of our proposed design.”

Student Lee Harries added: ‘I feel that we followed our sustainability goals well by reusing old materials that people had no intent on using and we made the most out of what was on hand in the studio. Also by creating the shelter I have definitely learnt some lessons about structure and how to build with wood.”

Student Samassi Henderson-Crowther said: “Another aspects of this process has been learning about my responsibilities as an architect and the importance of being focused and understanding of the requirements of fulfilling a design brief, but also having a better understanding of the principles of design, sustainable concepts and the properties of materials used for constructing buildings.”