Edinbiurgh academic awarded grant to develop sustainable home for refugees

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A PROJECT led by an Edinburgh Napier academic to provide homes for refugees has been awarded major research funding.

A grant worth up to £300,000 over three years will help Dr Francesco Pomponi and his team pursue their ambition of creating comfortable environmentally-friendly shelters in Jordan, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The cash will fund collaborative research to develop an earlier award-winning prototype called Makazi, into permanent housing.

The Makazi, which means ‘home’ in Swahili, will then be customisable with features like adobe plastering and thatched roofs in line with local traditions.

Dr Pomponi, Associate Professor of Sustainability Research at Edinburgh Napier, said: “More than 70 million people have been displaced as they flee persecution, conflicts and natural disasters, and half of all refugees are children.

Dr Pomponi and partners (image supplied)

“Existing emergency shelters become their semi-permanent homes despite being soulless, wholly inadequate, impacting negatively on the environment, and in disregard of the social habits and traditional values of the people they host.

“Our project SHELTERs – Sustainable Homes Enabling Long Term Empowerment of Refugees – follows on from earlier funding and will allow us to build full-scale prototypes in different countries.”

Two-thirds of the world’s refugees come from just Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Somalia, but they are generally not hosted by wealthy nations but poor and middle-income countries next to their own.

Francesco’s project team – which includes Edinburgh Napier colleagues Professor Mark Huxham and Dr Bernardino D’Amico among to its international members – want to develop a model for permanent housing that can be adapted to different settings.

The project will collect data on life cycle costs and environmental impacts whilst assessing users’ comfort and the social suitability of the regional variants.

Makazi (image supplied)

Dr Pomponi said: “As a privileged, white male born and bred in the Western world, I always had a desire to know more of the life of others and their cultures and grew up with a sense of moral duty of ‘giving back’.

“This project is part of a life-long ambition of leaving a positive impact with what I do and I am grateful that so many international partners from developing countries have supported this idea and committed to working together for the next three years.

“I can’t wait to see what we will achieve together, and how our diverse backgrounds will offer novel insights to tackle old problems.”

Professor Mark Huxham said: “Across the world the numbers of displaced people and refugees are growing, and the difficulties these vulnerable people face are getting worse.

“Many attempts to house refugees that are intended as temporary solutions become long term settlements, and these can have major environmental impacts.

This unique project brings together engineers, development experts and environmental scientists such as myself to help find solutions that are better for people and for the environment.”

Dr Bernardino D’Amico, a structural engineering lecturer whose role focuses on construction aspects of the project, added: “I feel very excited about the opportunity this represents to help the displaced.

“Too often temporary camps, deployed as a result of an emergency, become a permanent place of life for many people.”

 
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