Future Scenarios – Housing Disaster

EXO Shelter Render - Michael McDaniel

EXO Shelter Render – Michael McDaniel

For a futuring scenarios task we envisioned a high surveillance society with no borders. The lead up to this scenario came into effect because of climate refugees. As a result of inevitable natural disasters on the tectonic plate lines certain countries are prone to creating climate refugees sooner or later. The Refugee Council of Australia refers to the rise in climate refugees being a direct result of ‘increased public awareness of climate change’. The Global Governance Project defines them as “people who have to leave their habitats, immediately or in the near future, because of sudden or gradual alterations in their natural environment”, this can be due to sea-level rise, extreme weather or drought.

With this idea we looked closer towards turning semi-permanent refugee camps into permanent, functioning communities, that sustain the ability to prosper and grow. There have been flat pack projects by IKEA and event tent outfits by designers such as Lucy Orta. However a design that struck to be most interesting was Michael McDaniel’s Exo Shelter for Reaction Housing. As a direct result of experiencing natural disasters in Mississippi as a child he became inherently aware of the “poorly equipped shelters”. His design solution is likened to a coffee cup – stackable and easily connected to a snap base (like a coffee lid). Its rigid and durable structure allows its life span to far exceed that of other similarly aimed designs. Further to this its nature allows it to be easily cleaned, transported and reused when needed.

On the Reaction Housing website they state their mission – “to revolutionize disaster response”. This mission tied in nicely with our scenario, which focused on the rehousing of refugees in Australia, and ultimately turning semi-permanent residences into permanent ones. The increase in refugees, often commented on in the Australian media, is for a reason and it needs to be addressed appropriately. The Exo Housing system is a “smart, highly portable shelter.”

EXO Shelter – Reaction Housing, Michael McDaniel

The UNHCR has reservations about the term coined ‘climate refugees’ as it has no grounding in the international refugee law. McDaniel has clearly noticed a void in the market for refugees, in the near and almost distance future it is difficult to visualize ‘world peace’ and ‘curing world hunger’, meaning that this issue needs to be addressed. To me, this move towards housing refugees in a sustainable way is essential to moving out of the continuous cycle they find themselves in. A cheap and affordable way to house and connect means they are able to focus on building lives rather than staying alive. This, I feel, is a big part of assisting third world countries. The following video from Ted Talks x gives useful insight into the idea of assisting refugees in life, rather than in survival. Melissa Fleming comments on those that have ‘forcefully displaced’ from their homes.


This idea of housing links nicely with Alysse Currans blog on Nomadism: The Contempory Guide for Sustainability, where she discusses Lucy Orta’s Dwelling X Maquette. She talks about the “inevitable expansion of the population”, which connects in nicely with the idea of quick, sustainable and affordable housing, such as the EXO housing the Michael McDaniel has built. Key words related to both designs include ‘low cost’, ‘durable’, ‘transportable’ and ‘easy to assemble’, which is exactly the type of modular housing we aim to create for our futuring scenario. Whilst the possibilities for the future are endless and highly unlikely to match what we have proposed, thinking of the future and towards the future about the possibilities that will lead us there and the challenges we may face is a perfect exercise in design. Where as designer we are inherently designing for the future, whether that be in 6 months, 6 years or 6 decades. We always need to think outside the box, of all possibilities and ultimately of human interaction and how we as humans can work towards a sustainable future and just world.

Council, R., (2012), “Climate Refugees?”, The Refugee Council of Australia, October 18 2014, <http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/f/int-env.php&gt;

Curren, A., (2014), Nomadism: The Contempory Guide for Sustainability, October 18 2014, <https://interdislaba.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/nomadism-the-contemporary-guide/&gt;

Fleming, M. (2013), Let’s Help Refugees Thrive, Not Just Survive, Ted Talks x, October 17 2014, <http://www.ted.com/talks/melissa_fleming_let_s_help_refugees_thrive_not_just_survive#&gt;

McDaniel, M. (2014), Blog, Reaction Housing, October 19 2014, <http://www.reactionhousing.com/blog&gt;

Orta, L. (2014), Lucy Orto Bio,  Lucy Orta, October 17 2014, <http://www.studio-orta.com/en/lucy-orta&gt;

Zimmer, L. (2013), IKEA Unveils Solar-Powered Flat Pack Shelters for Easily Deployable Emergency Housing, Habitat, <http://inhabitat.com/ikeas-solar-powered-flat-pack-refugee-shelters-offer-easily-deployable-emergency-housing/&gt;


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