Deployable Emergency Shelter

  • 2022

  • Next Gen

Designed By:

Commissioned By:

Henry Glogau

Designed In:


The Deployable Emergency Shelter harnesses extreme conditions to its advantage by utilising snow capture as a natural insulator and protective layer through a frictional origami skin. The shelter is positioned along checkpoints and hiking routes and can be instantly deployed in seconds when required in an emergency.

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Image: Henry Glogau
Image: Henry Glogau
Image: Henry Glogau
Image: Henry Glogau
Image: Henry Glogau
Image: Henry Glogau
Image: Henry Glogau
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  • What would you do if you found yourself in extreme arctic conditions? Lost with little visibility, no cell phone coverage, and sub-zero temperatures. Hypothermia is a serious threat, and help could be hours away. Cold extreme environments are hostile, with conditions often unpredictable and uncontrollable. This project, in collaboration with Alaska’s Critical Care Flight Paramedic Unit of the United States Army, proposes an alternative shelter design to conventional tents, which would help enable human survival in the most extreme scenarios. With over 4000 emergency rescue flights occurring in Alaska annually, an average 18 deaths are due to inadequate shelter protection.

  • The briefs challenge was to create a design which would enable human survival in extreme environments, by addressing the three fundamental issues with current conventional shelters: deployment time, protection against extreme forces, and internal thermal performance. With principles of biomimicry and symbiosis at its heart, the design focused on features which worked in harmony with the surrounding environment, rather than fight against it. Inspired by local flora, fauna, snow caves, and the traditional Inuit igloos, snow became a building material and protective layer for the design, rather than a burden.

  • As part of a one-month testing period while in Alaska, the results indicated that with a 300-400mm snow cover, an average of 37°C difference could be created between inside and outside compared to a conventional winter tent which offered a 13°C difference. Through a collaboration with the Alaskan Cold Climate Housing Research Centre, the opportunity arose to further explore the impact of these ideas at a much larger architectural scale, where a research and architectural tectonic proposal was developed which applied many of the same principles. Showcasing the potential impact for future applications in a variety of different fields.

  • In strong winds the aerodynamic water droplet form naturally anchors the shelter to the ground while dispersing wind forces. At micro scale, local level turbulence is created within the origami pockets, encouraging snow to naturally build up in blizzard like situations, thereby creating a natural insulation and protection layer. These design features are like the way a golf ball incorporates dimples for specific performance while travelling through the air. Comparative tests were completed physically, as well as through a series of computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations, where the shelters aerodynamic and thermodynamic outperformed the conventional winter tent design, especially when conditions reached an extreme blizzards scenario. To enhance the containment of a human user’s body heat, a mylar material is incorporated on the inside of the origami skin - reflecting the heat back into the space. This feature was inspired by the way Polar bears retain body heat within their fur coat with hollow fibre hairs. The final feature of the design is the internal fiberglass lattice structure which is connected and deploys simultaneously with the origami outer shell. The lightweight and structural optimized lattice has been put to the test – withstanding the weight of a 70kg human standing on top.