Kyiv-based global architectural and design studio Balbek Bureau recently presented designs for a modular shelter to house millions of Ukrainians displaced from their homes due to the ongoing conflict with Russia.

Amidst the war, bombings and destruction, Balbek Bureau architect Slava Balbek put together a team of 10 architects from his practice to begin work on a blueprint for refugee shelters that could be built quickly and affordably while ensuring comfort and dignity. The ongoing war has taken its toll on Ukraine with more than 6.5 million Ukrainians displaced internally and over 3 million people having crossed the border to neighbouring countries.

Aware of the urgent need for new housing for all the displaced people, Balbek and his team analysed more than 20 implemented projects in different countries on the use of the construction site, the development of a master plan and the layout of residential blocks.

“Since 2015, five projects of the ‘temporary housing’ type have been implemented in Ukraine. For most families, this is still their home,” Balbek said.

Named Re:Ukraine System, Balbek’s refugee housing scheme is based on the idea of ‘Dignity no Matter What’ and prioritises key objectives such as comfort at all levels, socialisation and reducing stress levels in extreme conditions.

Balbek Bureau temporary housing

“We have analysed the world experience in the development, construction and maintenance of settlements with temporary housing. Thus, a system of values and priorities has been developed to ensure temporary but decent living for Ukrainians,” the studio noted.

“The collected information is versatile. It is suitable for different types of construction, terrain and scope of investment. This is a construction kit that can be applied at both the public and private levels.”

The team of architects observed that most of the existing settlements were designed around accommodating the maximum number of people, compromising their comfort. The studio, therefore, designed a modular template where the number of units could be configured to accommodate anywhere from 50 people to many hundreds depending on the need. Additionally, space is allocated for playgrounds and recreational activities.

The modular design that combines function, empathy and technology principles is open source, with Balbek requesting users to maintain the sense of space when adapting or implementing the template.

In terms of modularity, the size is universal and can therefore, be adapted to suit specific needs. Scalability ensures the residential volumes can be increased without any structural change to the central block, which would house communal facilities. The variable typology of residential sections allows the schematic grid of buildings to be flexibly adapted for plots of different configurations and terrain.

The design also ensures that the temporary homes will provide a decent lifestyle to residents, which would allow them to live with dignity. The layout also encourages socialising through the provision of communal spaces, enabling residents to strengthen their mental health during a highly stressful time. Featuring sanitary units, full-fledged kitchens, baby care rooms and laundry, the shelter will also provide a comfortable living environment.

Technology is a significant part of the process since it’s important to find the best and fastest way to build the shelters. Keeping in mind the need to maximise the utilisation of available funds and resources to ensure more people are benefitted, these shelters will be built using a wood frame structure, oriented strand board (OSB) walls and rolled bitumen roofing, with the cost of the project estimated at US $350-$550/m².

The studio has been receiving several enquiries from volunteers, companies and investors for the designs.

Images: Balbek Bureau