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Baitk Althany – an Arabic saying of “home from home”

Rolling out the next generation of refugee constructed, environmentally sustainable structures in the largest Syrian refugee camp.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The idea is to roll out the next generation of refugee constructed, environmentally sustainable structures in the largest Syrian refugee camp in the Middle East by developing an easy to follow user manual, create a cadre of trained trainers and at the same time support refugees to design and build their own SuperAdobe structures (approx 100) in Za'atari refugee camp

SuperAdobe is an innovative construction technique that can be led by refugees. It is made by filling plastic bags with earth from the surroundings mixed with a small amount of water and cementation material. The bags are manufactured on site to be used immediately. The technique provides improved living conditions with better thermal insulation from natural materials. In the long run it does not leave an environmental footprint by minimizing generation of waste. Oxfam will engage with the Shelter working group and directly through its community mobilization team (inc focus groups discussions) to get refugee inputs regarding needs to co-design this initiative.

Refugee camps last on average for 11 years, they are often constructed in difficult environments and constrained by the principle of permanence which is seen negatively by refugees, host communities and by host governments. The caravans and tents provided in the emergency phase of a response often wear out, do not offer sound protection against natural elements, are not sourced locally and generate a large volume of waste. Refugees in Za’atari Camp asked Oxfam to come up with alternatives to their caravans; SuperAdobe allows refugees to design and construct their homes giving them a greater sense of control and identity which is severely lacking in a refugee camp, particularly in a protracted crisis setting. The construction of SuperAdobe structures also offers skills and cash for work opportunities.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Currently there are 80,000 refugees in Za’atari Camp, the 4th largest urban centre in Jordan. There are approximately 24,000 households consisting of 2/3 caravans. These caravans will not be replaced. The need for extra space is increasing regularly as family sizes increase. Oxfam is therefore looking to use this technique for cases which have new or increased shelter needs, targeting 100 new structures, reaching 600 direct beneficiaries (50% women, 50% men, of which 28% children). The user manual and training of trainers aim to reach many more indirect beneficiaries who will be encouraged to take on the construction. SuperAdobe allows refugees to create their own sense of identity by constructing or adapting their living spaces/public spaces to better meet their family, business and community needs. The concept of implementation will be owned and led by the community, and the refugees will learn valuable skills that can also be used once they return to Syria.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

SuperAdobe is a traditional method dating back centuries; the construction design incorporates locally available material that is affordable and reflects traditions on both sides of the Jordan-Syria border. It is able to eliminate supply-chain requirements, import-export procedures, and construction contractors, which are challenging in a humanitarian setting, and also offers a solution for refugees when they return to Syria. Uniqueness: 1) user-centered design and construction, based on the principle of vernacular architecture 2) creates living conditions that integrate into the local environment without leaving permanent impacts 3) the construction methodology and design will be adapted to the skills of refugees who do not require construction or engineering expertise 4) there are many innovative options such as the IKEA “Better Shelter”, but SuperAdobe has already received approval from UNHCR and the government and has been successfully piloted in the camp by Oxfam.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Oxfam began working in Jordan in 1990 through national partners and registered its operations in Jordan in 2013 to respond to the influx of Syrian refugees at the start of the Syria conflict. Oxfam has an office in Amman and has been present in Za’atari Camp, the largest refugee camp in the Middle East, since 2013. Oxfam has a team of Jordanian architects and engineers embedded in the local camp communities. https://www.oxfam.org/en/jordan

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

The pilot demonstrated how strongly the home – both as a physical space and an emotional location- is tied to a person’s sense of control, security and identity. Despite being forced to live as a refugee, subsisting on aid , the act of constructing their own space shows the indomitable human spirit to hope and continue to learn. Refugees who have worked on the pilot structure tell us how they will use the new skills to build their homes when they go back to Syria, offering hope for the future.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

The key idea of this project is to "help more, with less". As a result of the increasing number of protracted crises around the world, there is an urgent need to create a shelter solution that allows refugees to take more control of their lives and to better respect the long-term environmental impact of displacement on local surroundings, using a low-cost model in a low resource setting.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Ongoing design and testing is done in partnership with the University of Bath (UK) and Jordanian architects and urban planning experts. Oxfam also works closely with UNHCR, the agency responsible for managing the camp and all site planning matters, and through this partnership Oxfam is looking to address how the SuperAdobe design can replace caravans as the standard approach for the future of the camp.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The Syrian refugees of Za'atari camp are incredibly resourceful, determined and skilled. The restrictions on working outside of the camp mean that there are a large number of refugees of working age who work a few hours a day in cash for work initiatives or not at all - there are therefore a large number of able and willing people who are ready to be engaged and improve their way of life.

Geographic Focus

Jordan, Za'atari Refugee Camp - Syrian Refugees

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

36 months - whilst the structures themselves only take a few weeks to construct, Oxfam is well aware of the importance of community design and buy in. Therefore there will be a well thought through community engagement plan working closely with refugees to sensitize them to the idea of building their own homes at the start of the project. There will also be time in the workplan to consult and assess beneficiary needs and to support in design and construction.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No
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Attachments (3)

Oxfam SuperAdobe - Video and Photo Case Study.docx

Unable to upload as links above so please find a video and photo case study attached

Oxfam - Diaa - SuperAdobe CFW - Case Study.pdf

2 case studies with 2 of the refugees who participated in the SuperAdobe pilot project in Za'atari Camp.

Oxfam - Hasan - SuperAdobe CFW - Case Study.pdf

2 case studies with 2 of the refugees who participated in the SuperAdobe pilot project in Za'atari Camp.

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