Revolutionizing Natural Disaster Shelters

When I visited Fukushima, Japan after the tsunami/earthquake disaster I was shocked with what I saw, roads were cracked in half and roofs had been torn off their houses. The people living Fukushima in such a rush that there were still houses filled with personal belongings. In contrast to Tokyo’s dense population, this area of Fukushima was empty.



USERS: The people using my shelter would be people who have lost their homes to natural disasters. For example this would have been useful for people who lost their homes to the tsunami/earthquake disaster 8 years ago.

NEEDS: A quick, portable, and cheap source of shelter with basic needs such as a bathroom and shower. These shelters must be big and have enough privacy so that the victim can live comfortably. I also need to design a portable container which can hold multiple houses and supply energy.

Description: After the tsunami/earthquake that occured in March 2011 many people didn’t have shelter and many families went to their parents’ or relatives’ homes. People had lost everything. Since Japan is located where two tectonic plates overlap there is a high chance that this is going to occur again. Next time a disaster like this happens the shelter I design will provide quick, portable and cheap housing for the victims. This shelter will include the basic necessities such as a bathroom and shower. Additionally by making each individual shelter, if someone is ill it will keep the sickness from spreading throughout the site. This shelter will be foldable to make it portable and quick to deploy. Several shelters will be stored in containers and the containers will be kept in a storage facility in Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan.



Exterior Folding Mechanism: The image and the drawing on the upper left is my inspiration for the folding mechanism on the exterior of the shelter. I found the image on a german blog about different types of trailers. I was intrigued by its simplicity and the amount of sunlight it brought into the house. In addition with this mechanism the shelter can get up to 4 times smaller than its expanded size.

Interior Folding Mechanism: The image and drawing on the bottom left is my inspiration for the folding mechanism on the interior of the shelter, since everything in the shelter must be collapsable. I found the image in a Youtube video by ZenTV. This way the interior of the shelter doesn’t get in the way of the shelter when is getting folded up. Like my inspiration for the exterior folding mechanism of the shelter this mechanism’s simplicity attracted me. In my project I incorporate this mechanism to my foldable safe.

Container: The photo on the middle right is my inspiration for my container, which I found this image on Pinterest This photo inspired me to used the transport containers as an energy source. As a result I designed a container which could fold out flat and create energy using the sunlight, through the solar panels on the walls.



Where did people end up staying after the disaster?

How were the conditions where the victim took refuge?

What is the maximum budget they have for a home?

What is the most important part of the house?

What is the minimum amount of space required for a family of four?

Was privacy a big problem while families took refuge in a school gym?


“People took refuge in the gyms of public schools or their parents house. In the gyms of schools privacy was a large problem because the only thing between families would be low cardboard walls. This is an important that should be considered while designing the shelter. Since the families have lost everything they’re budget is going to be low unless the parents could get support from the grandparents. While the families were taking refuge in the gyms they would have an extremely small amount of space since there were many other refugees. She also told me that when someone got a cold everyone would be so close together that it would spread quickly.”

-Lilly Tokoro, Leader of English Circle

The information I got from this interview allowed me to clearly understand the needs of the victims, such as privacy and space. By clearly defining the needs of the victims I was able to create a solution to those needs.


Shelter Design:

Hand Drawn Measurements and Perspective Drawing:

SketchUp Model:

This is a video of my 3D model:

The whole house folds around the center area containing the bathroom and genkan (entrance). The floor folds up first, then the walls fold in next, then the walls push in towards the center, and finally the ceiling is going to fold down over every other part. By using this order I was able to get the shelter to about 4 times smaller than its size when folded out.

Container Design:

Hand Drawn Sketches and Measurements:

By making each shelter have a length of 2 meters when folded up I can fit up to 6 shelters in each container. Additionally I can fit 49 320 watt solar panels into my container which is going to fold out later and provide electricity to the 6 shelters.


The image above is depicting a site in Fukushima, Japan which was affected by the tsunami on 3/11. The drawing on the on the right shows that the shelter can be applied to even sloped terrains with its hydraulic supports embedded into the floor of the shelter. Although the shelter can be used in any natural disaster site, the images above are examples of sites that the shelter can be built on.



Although I have thoroughly designed my shelter and container I am still in the design development stage. I believe that I could use this conference as a way to gain a large range of opinions, in order to meet the needs of people in many different situations.

Throughout this project all of my work and progress has been tracked in this google document.

The link will take you to a google document with my citations.

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  1. April 27, 2019 by Claudia.Sheridan

    Hello Leo – I really enjoyed reading your project. This definitely seems like an important issue. I believe the next step would be considering the estimated price of these shelters. I hope you continue to ponder and design this project. Great Job!

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