Conference Agenda

D: Paper Session_O2: Humanitarian Design, Public Health and Comparative Evaluation
Friday, 09/Apr/2021:
8:00am - 9:30am

Panel Moderator: Christina Bollo


Imaginaries of Humanitarian Design: Material Versus Social Innovation in the Emergency Shelter

Natalie Florence Severy1, Philip D. Plowright2

1ASU, United States of America; 2Lawrence Technological University

The emergency shelter is an architectural response to humanitarian crises. The metrics of success and failure of emergency shelters, which have influenced much of the research on the architecture of displacement, has focused on the potential of emergency shelters to improve quality of life for refugees. A successful product promises to liberate people and decrease human suffering, an outcome aligned with the goals of the humanitarian development sector. However, to date there is limited critique of how emergency shelters engage with the narratives and imaginaries of humanitarian design. There is a gap in the knowledge when it comes to both understanding the intentions behind the design of shelters (design knowledge ecosystem) as well as the situated outcomes once shelters have been deployed into the field (post-occupancy evaluation).

This paper addresses the first of these concerns, namely it investigates the knowledge ecosystems involved in the creation of one type of commercial emergency shelter design. In this study, we address the Better Shelter housing product as a case study. The Better Shelter is an inexpensive housing unit designed for massive deployment for refugee camps worldwide. These shelters were conceived by a private group, Better Shelter of Sweden, and distributed by the IKEA foundation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The interest in this shelter is how it was conceived to address humanitarian crisis through a technological and material approach with designers leveraging production and delivery advances as well as the underlying ideology of IKEA. However, on deployment in the field, the shelter has had limited success and, in some locations, total failure.

The study uses a Grounded Theory approach supported by knowledge structures of feminist studies, neoliberalism, modernism, and post-colonial studies to investigate the relationship between assemblages of the UNHCR, host country governments, the IKEA foundation, and independent design teams who are a part of this phenomena which we understand as humanitarian design. With a multi-modal approach, this paper argues how the designers, who are negotiating between roles as social entrepreneurs and humanitarianism, make decisions that ultimately have influence over the success or failure of emergency shelters in disputed areas such as refugee camps. The intention of the paper is to advance the understanding of the assemblages of relationships and embedded value systems which affect decisions in the humanitarian design sector and the greater framework of the develop sector of humanitarianism.

Evidence-based Health Centre Design Recommendations for the Malawi Ministry of Health

Anthony Elia, Christopher John Harnish, Joshua Harmony

Thomas Jefferson University, United States of America

In Malawi, burgeoning demand for public health infrastructure raises significant planning, design, implementation, and resilience challenges for the Republic of Malawi Ministry of Health (MOH). As the MOH plans a new health centre prototype, it is essential to consider evidence-based performance goals addressing user-focused programming, infection control, and energy and water infrastructure in a context of limited resources, global pandemics, and climate change. Malawi’s health centers are the initial point of care for 90% of the population. By 2050 the population will nearly double from 18 to 36 million. Despite this tremendous growth, 68% of Malawians will continue to live in rural areas, far from centralized and higher levels of health infrastructure in urban contexts. Concurrently, the national demand for electricity will more than double projected supply, and water resources will become more scarce. This architectural research examines the existing MOH health centre prototype, identifies evidence-based design gaps relative to medical literature and architectural performance analysis, and makes recommendations for a new Health Centre model for the MOH and related stakeholders to consider.

In collaboration with the MOH, Department of Buildings, University of Malawi The Polytechnic and the College of Medicine we define the most pressing problems that will inform evidence-based architectural guidelines. The research methodology examines four main criteria for design assessment: user-focused programming for patients and staff, infection control, and infrastructure resilience. The research begins with a systematic literature review, followed by user interviews, and architectural evaluation of the existing MOH prototype. Analysis of recently built health centres in similar contexts highlight alternative design options. Findings inform human-resource strategic, environmentally resilient, user-focused design recommendations for health centres in Malawi and similar low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Design recommendations are shared with key stakeholders for input and are currently under evaluation and incorporation into a new health centre model for the MOH as it plans to build the next 100 centres.

Design Evaluation and Public Health: Comparing Frameworks For Increased Health

Traci Rider, Pegah Mathur, Margaret van Bakergem

College of Design, North Carolina State University, United States of America

There is increasing interest and urgency around the topic of population health. Despite the crucial impact of the built environment on human health, the built environment is effectively an overlooked strategy in healthcare system structures and policy (Lofgren, Karpf, Perman, & Higdon, 2006). While research in the public health fields often illustrates causal and correlational impacts of interventions on health outcomes, the connection between design and health is generally perceived to be more narrative. Though new frameworks such as the WELL Building Standard and Fitwel attempt to bring structure and validity to this juncture, understanding health considerations in the context of design evaluation has historically been fragmented: operations and health are different lenses for building assessment. Post-occupancy evaluations (POE) have become the evaluation standard for the built environment since its inception in the 1980s, but has never significantly considered health and are cross-sectional by nature. As such, this paper outlines the development of a new framework building on two established evaluation processes: Post-Occupancy Evaluations and Health Impact Assessments (HIA). Post-Occupancy Evaluations seek to measure how well buildings operate after design and construction; Health Impact Assessments are popular in the field of public health, addressing health behavior’s and outcomes both before and after potential or actual interventions. By merging elements of these two established frameworks, it may be possible to better understand true impacts of both the operations and the design of built environments. This paper conceptualizes a framework to establish a holistic baseline for building evaluation. The intersection between POE (design) and HIA (health) formally merges two perspectives on evaluation that have not mingled before. The majority of any cross-disciplinary work in this realm has focused on interventions. This paper overlays these two systems, outlining both the challenges and opportunities for a more holistic type of assessment and analysis for the built environment.