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Theoretical indicators for basic habitability for shelter solutions in humanitarian context

Habitability refers to the suitability of a built space to be inhabited as a home. To be considered habitable, certain conditions must be met, as established in institutionalized legislative contexts with specific norms of legal value. The parameters verified typically relate to the size of the building, its ability to respond to climatic conditions, natural lighting and ventilation, protection from humidity, and more.

While this principle is generally established in most countries, the humanitarian context is still lacking in clear standards. The Sphere standards provide some generic indications, and UNHCR and the Red Cross are working to define minimum standards. However, most principles are still open to interpretation, resulting in problems and shortcomings in projects.

To address this, the H7 Team has identified five minimum requirements for a shelter to be considered habitable:

  1. Weather resistance

  2. Natural light and ventilation

  3. Protection from rising damp

  4. Thermal inertia

  5. Internal hight

H7 Shelter Theoretical indicators for basic habitability

H7 Shelter was designed to meet all of these requirements in its different configurations.

However, simply meeting these minimum requirements is not enough to ensure a truly adequate living space. To promote a quality lifestyle, a shelter must also be dignified, which involves meeting certain minimum requirements.

The H7 Team has identified five such requirements:

  1. Privacy and security - The shelter must be able to ensure privacy and security, using sufficiently rigid and opaque materials, and internal partitions, among other features.

  2. Ownership - The shelter must allow for upgrades and personalization by users, both in terms of layout and materials configuration.

  3. Cultural appropriateness - The shelter must be designed to accommodate each culture's lifestyle comfortably and without constraint, including their most important cultural and religious habits.

  4. Quality of design - The shelter must be thoughtfully and sensitively designed using best practices, innovative approaches, and carefully chosen solutions and materials.

  5. Connection with outer valuable and interconnected space - The shelter must be placed in a setting where users can access adequately sized open areas and public services and nourish a sense of community.


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