Rapidly Assembled Emergency Shelters


Robert Arens, Professor Architecture
Email: rarens@calpoly.edu

Edmond Saliklis, Associate Professor Architectural Engineering
Email: esalikli@calpoly.edu

Summary: The investigators received four WTUs that were split between us resulting in 60.5 hours of support each. Although we originally intended to pursue a second phase of research in the area of disaster relief, upon consultation with Prof. Bill Siembieda, PDCI Director, we decided that the pursuit of funding for additional phase one work (developing a viable prototype for rapidly-­‐deployed disaster relief shelters) should be the focus of the this grant effort. To that end we produced the following during the grant period:

  1. Submitted the proposal “Versioning in an Integrated Setting: New Methodologies for the Design of an Emergency Shelter” to the Engineering Design and Innovation Division of the National Science Foundation (decision pending).
  2. Submitted the proposal “Rapidly Assembled Emergency Shelters, Phase II” to the California Central Coast Research Project (decision pending).
  3. Submitted the proposal “Interdisciplinary Design, Prototyping and Testing of a Flat Pack Emergency Shelter” to the Boston Society of Architects Research Grants in Architecture Program (decision pending).
  4. Submitted the proposal “Interdisciplinary Design, Prototyping and Testing of a Flat Pack Emergency Shelter” to “When Engineering Meets Architecture,” a NSF Workshop on Collaborative Practice sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State University (not funded).
  5. Identified the Excellence and Entrepreneurship Grant Program at the National Collegiate Innovators and Inventors Alliance as a possible source of funding. We will submit an application in December 2010.
  6. Opened discussions with the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship regarding collaboration between the CAED and the COB.
  7. Submitted a peer-­‐reviewed abstract, “A Bilinear Semi-­‐Empirical Constitutive Model for an Orthotropic Material,” to The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society’s 2011 Annual Conference (submitted by Saliklis, accepted).
  8. Submitted a peer-­‐reviewed poster, “Flat Pack Emergency Shelter,” to the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture’s 2011 Annual Meeting (submitted by Arens, pending).

In summary, by December we will have applied for $367,712 in funding and have established opportunities for dissemination of our work at two national conferences. This combination of funding and dissemination, if successful, should propel the project to a point where the shelter design is ready for large-­‐scale production and distribution.

Project Background: In 2009 the co-­‐investigators for this project, an architect and an architectural engineer, secured a grant from the US Office of Naval Research to develop a prototype for an emergency shelter that could be inexpensively mass-­‐produced and rapidly deployed to disaster relief sites. The design team saw this project as an opportunity to help distressed populations by applying our interdisciplinary talents to the design of an efficient, economical, and environmentally responsible emergency shelter. Although the scale of global disaster relief is overwhelming (and trending alarmingly higher), the design of a mass-­‐produced shelter was a challenge well suited to our disciplines of 2 architecture and architectural engineering. On a more immediate level, this project provided an op-­‐ portunity for our team to work collaboratively and employ a methodology—versioning—that uses digital tools to compress design, testing, assembly and production into a single process.

A seeming simple project wrapped in multiple shrouds of complexity, the endeavor demanded that the team not only design an object, but also determine its materials, its fabrication method, its delivery method, and its assembly sequence. Relying more on prototyping than representation, the team adopted the strategy of versioning to guide the project, a strategy that encourages the use of technology to both expand the possibilities of design and create a true integration of the process of con-­‐ struction. The team of teachers and students has to date created three related versions of a shelter using a design process based on (1) the vertical integration of shared expertise, (2) the utilization of full-­‐ scale prototypes created with digital fabrication methods, and (3) extensive testing using both analytical and empirical testing.

Given the need for large numbers of shelters (due to the growing frequency of disasters) in the face of diminishing resources, the team is focused on shelter designs based on efficiently fabrication and construction from sustainable materials. Our research has led us to believe that shelters are most viable if they are hybrids of short-­‐lived, fully recyclable materials and long-­‐lived, reusable materials. This approach will satisfy the need for short-­‐term shelter (without adding significantly to the waste stream) and provide a source of generic building materials (to be used in long-­‐term rebuilding efforts).

Attainment Descriptions: Following are descriptions of our grant submittals and/or abstracts. Preceding these applications was a period of research during which we assessed the match of the granting agency and their programs to our project. Based on that research and an analysis of due dates, we determined that the following eight opportunities provided the greatest chance of success. Evidence of these attainments is included in the Appendix at the end of this report.

1. The Engineering Design and Innovation Division of the National Science Foundation supports “research leading to design theory and to tools and methods that enable implementation of the principles of design theory in the practice of design across the full spectrum of engineered products. The program funds advances in basic design theory, tools, and software to implement design theory and new design methods that span multiple domains, such as design for the environment and for manufacturability.”

We felt that our project, conducted by a multidisciplinary team of faculty and students using an innovative design process was a good fit for this division. We found that the process used to develop the shelter, with its alternation between ideation and testing, between testing and versioning, and between digital models and physical prototypes, was an effective methodology for developing design intelligence. Our methodology enabled engineers on the team to see the value of physical modeling (a mainstay of the architectural design process) as a means of optimizing fabrication and construction, whereas architects on the team were challenged by critical performance issues (often eclipsed by aesthetic or cultural concerns) at both the digital and physical phases of the project. We believe our developing interdisciplinary approach to designing, prototyping and testing, with its equal balance of theory and practice applied to a real-­‐life situation of pressing concern, has the potential to influence a generation of architects and engineers.

Our proposal, “Versioning in an Integrated Setting: New Methodologies for the Design of an Emergency Shelter,” seeks $284,401 to further develop our methodology and use it to complete our shelter project 3 and also develop coursework based on the versioning process. The NSF’s decision to fund this project is pending.

2. The goals of the California Central Coast Research Partnership (C3RP) are to “strengthen relationships between Cal Poly and industry, and build new relationships where opportunities exist for collaboration; enhance the competitiveness of companies working with Cal Poly by applying university expertise to the development of commercially viable research, products and technology; create opportunities for industry to take advantage of the deep reservoir of technical expertise in the Cal Poly faculty; provide enhanced access for business to faculty researchers, laboratories, facilities and students; create opportunities for entrepreneurs to start companies and established businesses to grow by engaging with the university; and enable Cal Poly students, faculty, and spouses to find well-­‐paying, interesting job opportunities in clean industries in San Luis Obispo County.

Our proposal, “Rapidly Assembled Emergency Shelters, Phase II,” seeks $38,330 in funding to begin formulating our approach to a community services hub (food and waste) for disaster relief sites. A decision by Cal Poly’s Office of Research and Graduate Programs (who administers C3RP funding) is pending.

3. The Research Grants in Architecture Program of the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) supports projects “that bring together those in practice and in academia, either by including professionals and academics on the project team, providing opportunities to engage students through research studio projects or by other means of joining research efforts across the field of architecture. We are interested in innovative, practice-­‐based and practice-­‐oriented research that expands the definition of research in the profession and the industry.”

Our proposal, “Interdisciplinary Design, Prototyping and Testing of a Flat Pack Emergency Shelter,” seeks $34,981 in funding to extend our research into both process and product. If funded we will expand our team to include an industry partner who will provide production expertise and deepen the design knowledge gained from our design/prototype/test model. The expanded team will create 2-­‐3 new prototypes that will culminate in a production-­‐ready version. A finalized prototype will close the feedback loop and allow us to assess the value of our approach, which if successful will be migrated from our small group/laboratory setting to interdisciplinary design studios working on community-­‐based projects. A decision by the BSA is pending.

4. “Collaborative Practice: When Engineering Design Meets Architecture” was a two-­‐day NSF workshop co-­‐hosted by the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State University. The workshop was “dedicated to the cultivation of a common research language amongst architects and engineer with the goal of overcoming many of the historic barriers that have hindered effective collaboration between the disciplines.” Participation was sought by “interdisciplinary research teams working across institutional boundaries who have or who are planning to participate in funded research.”

Unfortunately our project team was not selected for funded participation.

5. The National Collegiate Innovators and Inventors Alliance supports and promotes technology innovation and entrepreneurship to create experiential learning opportunities for students, and successful, socially beneficial businesses. Member universities may apply for Advanced E-­‐Team grants to help bring innovative technology products and services from idea to prototype, and eventually to market.

Our proposal for funding in the $1000-­‐$20,000 range will be submitted on December 3, 2010.

6. The mission of Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is “to open the world of entrepreneurial opportunity to Cal Poly students and faculty members and to promote entrepreneurial activity, scholarship and dialogue across the university. This university-­‐wide Center is designed to enable students to interact with faculty, with experienced entrepreneurs, and with each other, in ways that will enhance their educational experience as well as strengthen ties between the California entrepreneurial community and Cal Poly while enhancing the university’s historic strengths in technological innovation.”

We have begun discussions with Lou Tornatzky, co-­‐director of the program, and have begun exploring ways for the Center to assist with our project.

7. The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) is a professional organization that encompasses the entire range of materials and engineering, from minerals processing and primary metals production to basic research and the advanced applications of materials. The society provides forums for the exchange of information; promotes technology transfer; promotes the education and development of current and future professionals; represents the profession in the accreditation of educational programs and in the registration of professional engineers (a U.S.-­‐grounded activity); encourages professionalism, ethical behavior, and concern for the environment; and stimulates a worldwide sense of unity in the profession.

Ed Saliklis submitted an abstract for peer-­‐reviewed presentation at the 2010 TMS Annual Meeting to be held February 27-­‐March 3 in San Diego, CA. The abstract, which summarizes the material modeling portion of our research, was accepted. Additionally, Ed’s abstract, entitled “A Bilinear Semi-­‐Empirical Constitutive Model for an Orthotropic Material,” captured the attention of the "Bridging Microstructure, Properties and Processing of Polymer Based Advanced Materials" subgroup of the TMS, for which they awarded him nomination into the society.

8. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture seeks “to advance architectural education through support of member schools, their faculty, and students. This support involves encouraging dialogue among the diverse areas of discipline; facilitating teaching, research, scholarly and creative works, through intra/interdisciplinary activity; articulating the critical issues forming the context of architectural education; and fostering public awareness of architectural education and issues of importance.

Robert Arens submitted a poster for peer-­‐reviewed presentation at the ACSA Annual Meeting to be held March 3-­‐6, 2010 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Acceptance of the poster, entititled “Flat Pack Emergency Shelter,” is pending.

Conclusion: We sincerely thank the PDCI for their support of this project. We hope this seed grant leads to further funding and dissemination, a measure of success that the PDCI may share in.

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