- Regulatory Reform and Affordable Housing
- Volume 23 Number 2
- Managing Editor: Mark D. Shroder
- Associate Editor: Michelle P. Matuga
A Fresh Look at Emergency and Rapid Shelter Solutions: Key Takeaways from The Rapid Shelter Innovation Showcase
The Housing Innovation Collaborative
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not represent the official positions or policies of the Office of Policy Development and Research, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the U.S. Government.
When The Housing Innovation Collaborative (“HICo”)—the housing-focused research and development platform based in Los Angeles—launched The Rapid Shelter Innovation Showcase (Showcase) in mid-2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the response from the housing industry was unprecedented. In a short few months, the Showcase quickly became the largest, most diverse opensourced collection of rapidly deployable shelter solutions in the world. In one interactive online interface showcasing 68 shelter solutions from more than 50 vendors representing 14 countries, it acts as not only a continually growing global conference of the latest technology and trends in rapid shelter housing, but is also a resource to help accelerate the discovery and selection process in deploying rapid shelters during crisis situations, ranging from rising homelessness to devastating natural disasters.
The Showcase launched with national media attention, which has renewed focus on the often-overlooked rapid shelter sector within the housing industry. The Showcase highlights many of the most frequently used shelter units for refugee, disaster, and homelessness crises worldwide, alongside the next generation prototypes and conceptual-stage solutions. With this new level of perspective, we have been able to review and categorize the rapid shelter landscape in entirely new ways. This article outlines a five-step roadmap for decisionmakers to find “the best” rapid shelter solution for any given situation.
Three main takeaways from the Showcase include (1) there is no silver bullet answer for the “best shelter” given the variety of sheltering circumstances, so understanding the landscape is critical; (2) the whole lifecycle of using the shelter must be considered when comparing costs, as you often get what you pay for; and (3) good design—whether it is in the shelter’s layout, the manufacturing process, or how it is deployed—goes a long way in determining the overall success of any rapid shelter solution. The Showcase highlights a range of innovative design features that can help elevate the standards of every shelter on display. Ultimately, the Showcase has formed the much-needed platform for everyone to come together to share best practices, improve shelter response, and accelerate the rapid shelter sector forward into a new age.
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