Student Sponsorship: Bushra Bataineh (MS '14, PhD '18) - Shelter solutions for displaced people and refugees in Zaatari Refugee Camp in North Jordan

SPIRE was proud to support Stanford Sustainable Design and Construction student Bushra Bataineh (MS '14, PhD '18), sponsoring her and research on shelter solutions for displaced people and refugees with the main case study at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in North Jordan. It is a 100,000 person refugee camp, the fourth largest city in Jordan. The focus of the research is to improve the built environment for displaced populations. In late 2018 there were over 62 million forcibly displaced persons, and 21 million refugees, 5 million of them are Syrian refugees. Every year, humanitarian organization spend over $1.1 billion U.S. dollars on shelter procurement and non-food items. These resources are going towards construction solutions that last between 1 to 5 years. The problem, however, is that the average stay of a refugee in a refugee camp is 17 years (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2017). The majority of the solutions deployed are quite expensive and do not match the length of the stay of refugees in a host nation. This inspired Bushra and the rest of the Mawa Modular team to further study the current status of refugee camps, and to assess the applications of industrialized construction and modular housing to provide longer-term, adaptable, flexible, cost-effective, and dignified housing for refugees and displaced populations.

Read Bushra’s account of the project below:

Mawa Modular (from the Arabic word for shelter) provides kit-of-parts shelter solutions for displaced communities and refugees. It is backed by Stanford University’s TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy, Stanford Professionals in Real Estate, and Stanford’s Accelerator, StartX. Mawa Modular’s kit-of-parts of panels is easy to assemble, disassemble, expand, and reuse to meet the adapting needs of a displaced community. The modules are designed to be safe, dignified, cost-effective, and off-grid.

Mawa Modular

The Problem

We now face the largest displacement of humans in history. 70.8 million people are forcibly displaced, of whom over 25 million are refugees. Current shelter solutions are temporary and last between 6 months to 3 years. The problem is that the average stay of a refugee in a refugee camp is now 23 years. There is therefore a huge mismatch between the solutions provided and the reality on the ground.

The Solution

The Mawa Modular shelters are designed to be longer term and last 20+ years. The kit-of-parts consists of panels, guide rails, and novel inter-panel connections that are easy to assemble and disassemble, allowing ease of relocation and redeployment. The modules can expand in six directions to form various living spaces and semi-enclosed courtyards. An elevated floor provides durability, safety, and improved health. The panels provide improved thermal performance and fire resistance. No tools are required for assembly and it takes 4 people between 2 to 3 hours to assemble each base unit. The same kit-of-parts is used to create the clusters around a central utilities unit, providing adjacent washroom and kitchens. Mawa Modular leverages existing manufacturing capabilities. The modules are flat-pack-shipped to the camp for assembly by the refugee community.

Flat-packed and Easy to Deliver

Utilities Unit Cluster

Mawa Modular’s interdisciplinary team of engineers, designers, and scientists are leveraging innovations in industrialized construction and applying design thinking to address the shelter needs of displaced populations worldwide. The team works in close collaboration with the Norwegian Refugee Council and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The team is also advised by professors and professionals from Stanford University, ETH Zurich, and BOKLOK (the IKEA and Skanska Joint Venture). Mawa Modular’s newest team members include students from Yale University and Duke University. The interns are conducting interviews and literature reviews to ensure that Mawa Modules address current international emergency shelter criteria while meeting communities’ urban planning and energy needs. The team is also building an online tool to recommend shelter configurations for specific budgets, land area, population size, and space requirements.

With the support of SPIRE, StartX, and the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy, Mawa Modular is moving forward with its mission. To learn more, please visit or contact [email protected].

Mawa Modular

Bushra Bataineh