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Modular construction for emergencies: rapid and effective solutions

Modular construction for emergencies: rapid and effective solutions

Why do we need modular construction for emergencies?

In the face of natural disasters, conflicts and other emergencies, the world needs swift and efficient solutions to provide the affected communities with temporary accommodation.

Humanitarian disasters bring with them many challenges, not least providing emergency accommodation for those affected


Traditional construction methods often prove inadequate due to

  • Time constraints
  • Lack of resources
  • Logistical challenges.

Modular buildings offer a game-changing approach to emergency shelter solutions, and at HOUSE-MATIC, we’re no strangers to lending a hand in crisis situations.

HOUSE-MATIC supplies the United Nations with modular construction solutions (UNGM number 261831). We have registered with 27 of its agencies worldwide.

HOUSE-MATIC – official United Nations provider of site and camp buildings

In this article, we delve into the world of prefabricated buildings, exploring how modular construction empowers disaster relief efforts and addresses social needs thanks to its rapid deployment and versatile design.

Modular construction as humanitarian construction

We have already covered many of the advantages offered by modular construction in previous blog articles, so here we’re just going to highlight why it’s so great in emergency situations:

  • Quick deployment and assembly, ideal for disaster relief
  • Cheaper than traditional construction
  • Easily adapted to the local environment and climate conditions
  • Resilient to extreme conditions such as wildfires and earthquakes
  • Suitable for use in temperatures as low as -50 °C and as high as +50 °C
Prefab emergency hospitals


Recent examples of modular construction in humanitarian disasters

But you don’t just have to take our word for it: here are some examples of modular construction being used in recent emergency situations.

Earthquakes in Turkey, 2023

The earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria in February 2023 killed tens of thousands of people and left millions homeless.

UN News.

Up to 1.5 million Turkish people left homeless after earthquake

After the initial rescue efforts, the first priority was to get people into safe emergency accommodation, and modular steel containers offered the perfect solution.

An aerial view of a container city set up in earthquake-hit Nurdağı district of Gaziantep, southern Turkey, April 26, 2023.

Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, 2017

Estimates reckon that anything from 166,000 to 472,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017.

Damage caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, 2017

Thousands of people were left homeless and without basic amenities.

Again, modular construction played a crucial role in providing rapid shelter solutions.

Design for modular construction in Puerto Rico, Marvel Architects

Organisations like World Central Kitchen also partnered with local and international groups to set up modular kitchens and dining facilities to feed thousands of displaced residents.

These modular structures allowed for quick deployment and efficient food distribution, helping communities recover faster.

COVID-19 pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, there was a sudden, global need for rapid and adaptable medical facilities.

In response, governments around the world employed modular construction in order to set up:

  • Field hospitals
  • Quarantine centres
  • Testing sites.

These modular medical facilities allowed healthcare providers to expand capacity and respond swiftly to the pandemic.

For instance, in Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the outbreak, entire modular hospitals were constructed within days to accommodate the surge in patients.

The 1000-bed Leishenshan Hospital in Wuhan, China, was built in just 10 days

Ongoing emergency situations

However, not all humanitarian disasters are caused by one-off events. Around the world, we are also dealing with several ongoing crisis situations which have left people in dire need of accommodation.

Syrian refugee crisis

The ongoing conflict in Syria has led to one of the largest refugee crises in recent history:

  •       Ongoing for 12 years
  •       Over 5 million Syrians have sought refuge abroad
  •       Millions more have been displaced within Syria
  •       The UN estimates that 70% of all Syrians are currently in need of aid.
Syrian refugees

In collaboration with governments and agencies such as the UN, companies like HOUSE-MATIC have used modular construction to create site and camp buildings for refugees across neighbouring countries.

These units are quick to assemble and able to withstand various climatic conditions.

HOUSE-MATIC refugee camp in Berlin

Ukraine war

The Ukraine war with Russia has led to over 6 million Ukrainians fleeing the country, with millions more displaced from their homes within the country’s borders.

As authorities have struggled to cope with the influx of people needing temporary housing, modular solutions such as container villages have helped to alleviate the pressure.

Container village just outside Lviv, Ukraine, 2022

Wildfires in California

In recent years, wildfires in California have become more frequent and have increased in severity. The resulting destruction of homes in an area where housing is already in short supply has led to the need for adaptable emergency solutions.

Damage after wildfire in California, 2019

In many cases, local residents have looked to modular construction for a solution.

These structures are easy to transport and set up, and provide a quick fix to the urgent housing needs of affected communities.

The steel constructions are naturally fire-resistant, making them the ideal solution for areas prone to wildfires. And as the use of shipping containers in construction has increased, so have the options on offer: this Buhaus design is delightfully sleek and sophisticated.

Fire-resistant Buhaus modular construction is sleek and sophisticated

In summary

We hope that these examples have shown the versatility and effectiveness of modular construction in various emergency situations, from natural disasters to conflict-driven crises.

The ability to provide rapid and adaptable shelter solutions has proven to be a critical asset in relieving human suffering and helping people get back to normal after an emergency.

HOUSE-MATIC is proud to be an official UN supplier of modular construction for emergencies and to help people in disaster situations.

Proud to be an official UN supplier


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