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Refugee shelters to be improved with help from Bondy's digital solution

September 17, 2020

A Bond University student has come up with a modern solution to an age-old problem – how to improve the living conditions of refugees in camps.

Moh’d Al-Saadi is designing Shelter Houses, a digital platform to help refugees improve their shelters while accommodating environmental and cultural requirements.

Mr Al-Saadi, a second-year student completing a Master of Architecture/Master of Project Management, said he became aware of refugee camps at a young age.

“I grew up in Jordan and the idea of having a refugee camp next to me was totally normal, until 2012 when the Syrian civil war happened, and the Zaatari refugee camp was established.

The humanitarian crisis was a wake-up call to me.”

Years later, while looking for ways to contact refugees in the Zaatari camp as part of his thesis research, Mr Al-Saadi discovered a Facebook community dedicated to the camp.

He began thinking of ways to use his newfound capacity to contact the refugees, and decided to work on a project to help them with their efforts to improve their living conditions, through using fabrics, timber and whatever other materials they could find in the camp.

“Usually they start with a tent, then the next step would be a prefabricated container, and then they start building additions to their shelter, they start building bathrooms, kitchens and so on.

“They build those spaces based on their needs, so if they need a bathroom, they build a bathroom, but the location of the bathroom or the design of the bathroom is not utilised in a good way.

“If they need a bathroom, they build it towards the north, but towards the north is where the wind comes from, so the wind would transport bacteria or sewage.”

Mr Al-Saadi is undecided on whether Shelter Houses will be an app, or some other digital platform.

He plans for it to allow refugees to outline the materials they have available to them, their location, and details of what they want to build.

Plans for simple structures like bathrooms or kitchens would be pre-loaded on the platform, and instructions sent to the refugee immediately.

More complex requests would be forwarded to volunteer experts such as architects or social workers to help provide a solution, before a set of instructions was sent back to the refugee.

Shelter Houses would also meet five of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr Al-Saadi’s efforts were recently rewarded when he was named a co-winner of Bond University’s Transformer Launch Pad pitching competition, receiving $1500 to go towards development of Shelter Houses.

The other co-winner was business student Sebastian Fergusson, who is designing a more efficient surf rescue paddle board.

In the meantime, Mr Al-Saadi is looking forward to making a difference for those displaced through no fault of their own. 

“I’m not trying to solve all the problems of the world, I’m trying to solve one specific problem, because refugees will keep on increasing.

Right now, we’re dealing with political refugees, but in Australia at the beginning of the year we had bushfire refugees, so refugees are not only political, they can be climate, economic, anything.

I think the number of refugees will keep on increasing, so the problem needs to be solved.”