Disaster resilient school

The Smart Shelter Foundation’s innovative use of steel has been pivotal in addressing the pressing need for resilient infrastructure in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, and Indonesia.

With natural disasters having the greatest impact on the developing world, building disaster-resilience in the hardest hit areas is crucial to preventing millions of people from falling into severe deprivation.

In fact, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the World Bank estimate that the impact of extreme natural disasters forces some 26 million people into poverty each year and amounts to $520bn in lost value.

One of the major issues facing poorer communities is the outdated or unavailable information on construction techniques that leaves their building stock particularly vulnerable to extreme weather or seismic events.

To tackle this growing issue, a Dutch architect called Martijn Schildkamp left his full-time job to start the Smart Shelter Foundation – a non-profit organisation that deploys his earthquake-resistant building methods ‘on the ground’ in reconstruction projects.

Disaster resilient construction underway
The use of readily available materials and local labour is fundamental to the Smart Shelter Foundation's approach

Accessible disaster resilience

Schildkamp’s methods use only readily available resistant materials, which he combines with local labour to construct cheaper, more robust building methods. A key part of this is the buildings’ high-tech seismic design of concrete and steel that is based on world-class engineering practice.

By leveraging the versatility and strength of steel, the foundation has revolutionised the construction of shelters, schools, and community centres in disaster-prone regions, ensuring safety and sustainability for vulnerable populations.

In Sri Lanka, where coastal communities are susceptible to frequent natural disasters such as tsunamis and cyclones, the Smart Shelter Foundation has implemented steel-framed shelters that can withstand extreme weather conditions.

Similarly, in India, where seismic activity and monsoon floods pose significant risks, the foundation’s use of steel structures has been instrumental in constructing disaster-resilient schools.

These schools not only withstand earthquakes but also offer a safe learning environment for children in flood-prone areas. The flexibility of steel allows for efficient construction, ensuring that educational facilities can be built swiftly to meet the urgent needs of communities.

In Nepal, a country prone to earthquakes due to its location along the Himalayan belt, the Smart Shelter Foundation has played a vital role in post-disaster reconstruction efforts.

By employing steel in the rebuilding process, the foundation has been able to swiftly and efficiently construct earthquake-resistant housing and community centres, fostering resilience and stability in affected regions.

In Indonesia, where volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis are recurring threats, the Smart Shelter Foundation has utilised steel in the construction of evacuation shelters for use during emergencies.

Disaster resilient homes
The use of steel framing allows for much swifter construction in disaster recovery efforts

The disaster-resilient material of choice

Steel’s durability and ductility makes it an ideal choice for structures in disaster-prone areas, offering long-term safety and protection. The lightweight nature of steel also facilitates the construction of large-span structures, optimising space utilisation and accommodating the needs of diverse communities.

Furthermore, the use of steel in Smart Shelter Foundation projects aligns with sustainable development goals by reducing local construction’s carbon footprint and promoting eco-friendly practices. Steel is recyclable and can be repurposed for future construction projects, minimizing waste and conserving precious resources in disaster-prone regions.

The Smart Shelter Foundation’s strategic deployment of steel in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, and Indonesia underscores the transformative impact of innovative construction techniques in enhancing resilience and fostering sustainable development.

By prioritising safety, durability, and sustainability, the foundation continues to empower communities to withstand and recover from natural disasters, ensuring a brighter and more resilient future for generations to come.


Images: Smart Shelter Foundation