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Unintended Permanence: Mass Customized Housing For Protracted Statelessness

There are currently 100 million people worldwide that have been forcibly displaced from their homes. According to the Institute for Economics & Peace that number is expected to reach 1 billion by 2050 (Staff, W.E.F., 2022). The average length of stay in refugee camps in 2015 was only around 4 years. In more recent years we have seen that average increase to around 15 years. While not everyone in the camps has been there since their inception many of the camps themselves have been in existence for 20-30 years, raising generations of refugees.
The current approach to refugee sheltering is to provide materials that are often foreign to the region and to impose these materials and construction methods on the refugees. The capabilities of these temporary shelter products are being far exceeded by the length of time they are expected to last. Current solutions have a life expectancy of 1-5 years. Refugees remain in these shelters for periods lasting 15 years or more. Temporary shelter materials also rapidly deteriorate under the extreme environmental conditions common to the camp. Emerging technologies provide architects with the opportunity to design at an unprecedented scale and to develop a process which can engage the refugees with contemporary construction methods.
This thesis proposes to design a building process that merges ancient vernacular building knowledge with contemporary technology. Digital fabrication will enable rapid mass customization of designs at a scale necessary for a refugee camp size. Contemporary construction methods can be used to build key components of shelters providing a level of precision and accuracy while other components can be assembled by refugees allowing them to remain engaged in the process.








Michael Tokarz

Michael is currently a Master of Architecture student at Lawrence Technological University, where he is passionately researching and focusing on refugee camp sheltering. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Cleveland State University and a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Computer Information Systems from Kent State University. As a U.S. Navy Veteran, Michael brings a diverse range of experiences to his studies. Currently, he is working as an Intern Architect at SA Group, a Cleveland-based firm specializing in adaptive reuse, retail, and continued care facilities. In the future, Michael aspires to further explore the potential of modern technology combined with ancient building techniques to address the pressing issue of refugee housing crisis.

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