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Natural disasters, political disturbances, warfare, among other emergencies sadly occur all too often, leaving hundreds and thousands of people homeless and in danger. Thanks to a combination of innovative engineering, careful design, and a passion for humanitarian care, some incredible creations come to life to alleviate these situations.
One such creation is built by Humanihut, an Australian company that has put together a one-of-a-kind, bespoke solution for refugees and emergency service workers alike: a rapidly portable emergency shelter system.
The company's Humanihut Field Infrastructure System (HFIS) is environmentally friendly, operationally easy, and cost-effective.
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What is a Humanihut?
Humanihut creates quickly-deployable accommodation solutions that provide shelter, safety, and comfort to exhausted emergency services workers, and refugees, among others. There are approximately 67 million people worldwide directly affected by the refugee crisis alone.
Unlike temporary pre-fabricated shelters, the HFIS is completely bespoke, durable and provides an actual roof and walls for those sleeping within it — something that's invaluable when living in harsh conditions and extreme weather. Furthermore, these huts come equipped with showers, toilets, and electricity.
When buying a new car, for instance, you have the base price for the vehicle, then you can choose a specific color, interior design, specific tires, and lighting and stereo systems, making it bespoke to your needs.
Humanihut's HFIS operates similarly, you can choose the simple hut structure, and then you can select the exact layout you prefer, if you wish to have common areas, bathrooms, dining areas, and many extra add ons based entirely on your needs.
Humanihut's main point of difference, however, is its portability. To provide shelter for one hundred people it takes under ten minutes and only five people to put its HFIS together once on site.
Brought on site via 20-foot shipping containers for ease of transport, which can each carry up to eight huts (each of which can house up to eight people), the "buildings" themselves are easy to put up. A company representative does not even need to be on site unless the huts are being strapped into power and sewerage systems.
The accommodation systems essentially "click", or pop up, into place, much like Lego pieces or pop-up tents, providing a vast range of structures.
These mini-cities can house up to 2,500 people with power, water, and sewage thanks to their partner Global Water, and are built in just three days. Truly utilizing every bit of space, Humanihut then uses the shipping containers as part of their shelter systems, using the empty containers as a bathroom with two toilets, two basins, and two showers.
The huts can then be redeployed in the same amount of time after. If no direct local resources are available to link the huts to electricity or water, the company also offers portable systems.
Another fascinating aspect of these shelters is their lifespan: they last up to 20 years— value for money comes to mind here.
Some of their current uses include accommodating 128 firefighters who have been battling against the ravaging bushfires in Australia, and in the past they've sheltered refugees from East Timor.
Toby Harden, Vice President EMEA of Humanihut, told Interesting Engineering that there's huge interest from around the world for the huts:
- The French, Greek, and Italian governments
- The U.S., who are looking to use the huts as accommodation for people left stranded after the many hurricanes and tornadoes that hit the nation yearly
- The United Nations Disaster Immediate Response Team, Global Dirt, among others
Humanihut is proud to provide state-of-the-art accommodation to our dedicated and exceptionally hard-working emergency services personnel currently fighting fires on Kangaroo Island. https://t.co/tcfllPqxFh#humanihut#AustralianFires#emergencyservicespic.twitter.com/qIVH0EGFlA— Humanihut (@humanihut) December 28, 2019
What are they made of?
"Just because we look like a steel box, does not mean that we are just a steel box," stated Harden.
Each foldable hut is 6 meters (19.6 feet) long, 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) high and 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) tall, with solar panels on the roofs and wiring for electricity outlets. The steel walls and roof, which are 33mm thick, and 50mm thick respectively, are insulated to keep the temperature controlled in either hot or cold weather, and include fire retardant.
Clearly, not just a steel box.
The panel frame is powder-coated extruded aluminum, the floor frame is fully welded with a steel-painted sub-frame, and the flooring is 18mm grain marine-grade plywood. Each hut comes with a built-in table, bench, and sink.
Environmentally-speaking they're fantastic. As they're only placed above ground, once they're removed there is no left-over damage. As Harden mentioned, "we work with nature, for nature."
Merging intelligent engineering, humanitarianism, and innovation can truly bring about incredible designs.
It's easy to see how Humanihut won the Engineering category of Australian Good Design Award in 2018, and the Design Strategy at South Australian Business Council Design for Export Arward in 2019.
Here are some of the different designs the Humanihuts can be formed into: