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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Reinventing Post-Natural Disaster Shelter Provision: Evaluating the Potential of Existing Accommodation as Alternative Shelter in Urban Emergency Response

In densely populated cities that are diverse, dynamic, and complex, post-natural disaster emergency shelter provision is taxing. Most urban disaster response plans do not meet adequate quality or quantity levels to best support the wellbeing of those internally displaced. The adverse effects of such plans include the exacerbation of displaced people’s physical and mental health, the lack of opportunity to reintegrate into society, and the delay in affected communities’ ability to resume pre-disaster lifestyles.

Given that the current issue is the quality and quantity of available emergency shelter, a proposed solution is to design a digital platform that offers already-existing accommodation as alternative and additional shelter provision for displaced people who would otherwise take refuge in evacuation centres, damaged homes, or personal vehicles. The platform will serve as the liaison between hosts and displaced persons for arranging hosting relationships and providing better living spaces. The major benefit of this is the ability to move displaced persons from collective accommodations into existing accommodations that offer more suitable environments for dwelling. An Analytical Hierarchy Process in which available emergency shelter types were assessed, compared, and prioritized according to various shelter quality features reveals that regardless of scenario type, existing accommodation performed significantly better than collective accommodation in all shelter aspects. This proves the validity of the concept.

Tokyo is used as a proof of concept to address roadblocks and suggest an implementation methodology. Data analysis and literature review investigating the concept’s feasibility identified that cities with high disaster exposure, political and economic stability, and established infrastructure are best suited for and capable of implementing the concept. Of such cities, Tokyo was identified as the largest potential beneficiary of this concept. The final suggestions of this research focus on the design of the digital platform, including the registration process, match-making delivery, the matching algorithm, and beneficiary selection. An important theme recognized throughout is the need for designs to be local, inclusive, empowering, and sustainable.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.