How to Design Semi-Permanent Structures

Proyecto Chacras / Natura Futura Arquitectura + Colectivo Cronopios. Image Cortesía de Eduardo Cruz y Natura Futura Proyecto Chacras / Natura Futura Arquitectura + Colectivo Cronopios. Image Cortesía de Eduardo Cruz y Natura Futura

Natural disasters continue to leave thousands of people homeless every year, forcing them to seek refuge without any alternatives. On many occasions, cities cannot cope with refugees, limiting their resources. In addition to this, the difficulties to sustain refugees in a dignified way, becomes increasingly complex, leading to the collapse of conventional strategies.

It is at this moment when innovation and creativity play an important role in construction practices, ultimately creating a quicker and more efficient construction model that can be replicated after natural disasters.

Undoubtedly, there are some principles that should be taken into account when designing a semi-permanent structure. Thus, we have gathered some tips and examples that you may find useful. 

Select Easily Accessible Materials for Faster Construction

Arquitectura de Transición. Un refugio para Piura, Perú. Image Cortesía de Carlos Pastor santa Maria / Soledad Maldonado Ayus Arquitectura de Transición. Un refugio para Piura, Perú. Image Cortesía de Carlos Pastor santa Maria / Soledad Maldonado Ayus

Easily accessible and economic materials are vital when constructing semi-permanent structures. It is important to analyze the context in where you will design the emergent construction. With this, you can implement materials local in the area and define appropriate construction techniques for the design. 

It is important to use materials with low impact on the environment: we often forget what happens at the end of the life cycle of a construction. This will help us reduce the ecological footprint of our construction.

Easy to Assemble and Disassemble Without Technical Requirements

Proyecto Chacras / Natura Futura Arquitectura + Colectivo Cronopios. Image Cortesía de Natura Futura Arquitectura + Colectivo Cronopios Proyecto Chacras / Natura Futura Arquitectura + Colectivo Cronopios. Image Cortesía de Natura Futura Arquitectura + Colectivo Cronopios

Understanding the importance of self-built structures can make it easier for communities to shape their physical environment. By using design and construction strategies with participatory schemes, it can be easier and quicker to assemble and disassemble prototypes in emergency situations. 

A Structure that can Provide a Long Life of Service 

Although it is a semi-permanent construction, you must foresee that the structure has the potential to become permanent. The time in which construction is estimated can be prolonged, so it is important to understand the typologies and various climatic conditions of the context. Shigeru Ban, 2014 Pritzker Prize Winner, designed a temporary shelter system for Japanese flooding victims, however, considered the constant evolution of the design as a model for growth and longevity.

Maximize Comfort Within the Structure with the Lowest Energy Consumption

B House / i.House Architecture and Construction. Image Cortesía de i.House Architecture and Construction B House / i.House Architecture and Construction. Image Cortesía de i.House Architecture and Construction

The implementation of bioclimatic and sustainable strategies will help improve conditions of habitability within the space. Undoubtedly, the orientation of the construction should take advantage of solar gains to improve the conditioning within the space. If we use a thermal mass - such as walls with mechanized adobe - this will maximize heat gain with longer duration. On the other hand, the implementation of inclined roofs can help collect rainwater to be used for other needs.

If you are looking for reference works of semi-permanent structures, we've selected four projects that might be of interest to you. 

Transition Architecture / A Refuge for Piura, Peru

Arquitectura de Transición. Un refugio para Piura, Perú. Image Cortesía de Carlos Pastor santa Maria / Soledad Maldonado Ayus Arquitectura de Transición. Un refugio para Piura, Perú. Image Cortesía de Carlos Pastor santa Maria / Soledad Maldonado Ayus

Bio-Rebuild Mexico

Bio-Reconstruye México . Image Cortesía de Osiris Luciano Bio-Reconstruye México . Image Cortesía de Osiris Luciano

Chacras Project / Natura Futura Arquitectura + Colectivo Cronopios

Proyecto Chacras / Natura Futura Arquitectura + Colectivo Cronopios. Image Cortesía de Eduardo Cruz y Natura Futura Proyecto Chacras / Natura Futura Arquitectura + Colectivo Cronopios. Image Cortesía de Eduardo Cruz y Natura Futura

Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Project in Guangming Village / The Chinese University of Hong Kong & Kunming University of Science and Technology

Proyecto de reconstrucción post-sismo en Guangming . Image Cortesía de World Architecture Festival Proyecto de reconstrucción post-sismo en Guangming . Image Cortesía de World Architecture Festival