Thursday, October 20, 2005

Oxfam tent innovation

Oxfam have come up with an ingenious new tent based on materials that are locally available. They cost around $140 each, 6 people can sleep in them, they are easy to put together - you don't actually need any tools to erect one of these tents:

See: Oxfam innovates to tackle shelter crisis in earthquake zone

with images: here
3 Comments Post a Comment
Blogger ICEKNIFE said :

Brilliant! They reinvented the quanset hut (poorly) and call it an innovation, then charge four times the cost! What a scam! Now if we can keep people from trying to use them where it snows, so they don't freeze to death, that'll be good.

The design in question is profoundly inferior to what World Shelters does, which is decent, but not for long-term use in most places.

Here's a letter I've sent to numerous UN relief coordinators:

It came to me suddenly while considering shelter alternatives, the most fundamental thing that can be done for people in this situation is to give them large needles, heavy canvas thread, loops made of heavy canvas, and pictoral instructions on how to make a suspension frame tent. The UN and other sources often provide blankets, and even rugs can be used. Canvas loops are sewn to the fabric, and different things be used to provide structure.

Rigid things like seasoned wood or PVC will work, but green wood, fiberglass rods, or something equally flexible would be preferable. When all else fails, clothing can be sewn together and suspended from a hard wood frame.


Someone who has apparently always lived in a nice warm house, and doesn't know that the best artic tents are suspension tents replied:

"Thanks for the suggestion but we are having to provide tents which will withstand the extreme winter conditions here."

To which I replied:

Suspension tents are easily doubledomed or pocketed, and everything from straw to paper can be used for insulation. I'm originally from Fargo ND., which is where I learned the technique, and had occasion to use it to save my own life. My first one was made from two deer hides, an army blanket, and a big scrap of carpet remnant, wired with baling wire to green limbs, stuffed where doubled with newspaper.

Like I always say, only brew coffee in a sock if you have to, but it beats no coffee at all. Never get caught in a Dakota Winter with a three-season sleepingbag. Suffice it to say it was an unplanned vacation due to an early snow.

If Oxfam wants to actually save lives, they should use those materials as described in the following letter from Steve Kornher.

I asked:

If you had to house 4 million people in two weeks, against a devastating winter, how would you do it? What would it require?

He replied:

"I'd make quanset huts out of 3/8" rebar bent into half circles-- use tie wire to stand up the arches and hold them in place-- Make 12 ft wide by 40 ft long tunnels. Then blue tarps (rugs plastic etc) over the barrell vault cage. Then straw bale over the blue tarps."

Steve knows more about lightweight concrete than just about anyone around. Take a look at his website Flying Concrete

October 20, 2005 11:30 am  
Blogger Muhammad Ansa said :

Thanks for your informative comment ice knife. What you could do is set up an NGO "Tent Action" say, get yourself recognised, get some work done on the ground and build up your profile that way. They will be more likely to listen then.

Others have done similar, Map Action, for instance, might be a good organisation to model yourself on. They came in useful in the tsunami, and for this disaster they are the official mappers. It can be done. Get a bunch of winter shelter specialists together and get it going!

October 21, 2005 4:34 am  
Blogger ICEKNIFE said :

Please allow me to clarify my position on the Oxfam quanset hut style tents. As they currently show the structures on their website, it's my considered opinion as an outdoorsman with over thirty years experience hunting and camping in all weather including extreme Winter that the structure in question, if used above the frost line, may well result in loss of life. For that reason, I can not support or advocate their use *AS IS*. Should further modifications be made, both thermally and structurally, they would be worthy of consideration.

I'm sorry if my glib approach caused anyone discomfort, and apologise for that. I can not and will not withdraw my objections however, as they're based on long years of experience, and a desire to see no harm come to those seeking help. Would one of those structures be better than nothing? Certainly, as long as someone goes out and cleans off the snow every half hour. Otherwise, while snow falls or ice gathers, they can't possibly be safe for more than a half hour at a time. If anyone is using them above the frost line, please warn them that they have to clear all precipitant every half hour, to avoid structural collapse.

Mohammed, your suggestion has great merit, and I'm trying to get a group of volunteers to do just that. My time constraints are such that I personally can't manage to coordinate another effort, got too much going on as is.


John Iceknife

October 21, 2005 12:43 pm