To conclude our Designing for Disasters series, we have brought together 10 design and architecture projects that aim to prevent, manage or assist in recovery from natural hazard events.
Running on Dezeen over the past two weeks, our series has explored the different approaches taken to dealing with serious earthquakes and worsening extreme weather events around the world.
Here we round up 10 interesting projects aimed at preventing disasters, including a forest fire remote sensor, an artificial coral reef and earthquake-resistant bamboo housing.
ForestGuard, Türkiye, by students from İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi
Design graduates from İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi created this forest sensor system that alerts local authorities to the presence of remote forest fires.
The bright orange device is strung around a tree, where it analyzes temperature, humidity, air pressure and various gases to detect fire, using satellite connectivity to relay the data to the internet.
“We focused on the phrase ‘what if the trees themselves notify us,’” said chief technology officer Suat Batuhan Esirger. “We approach this like a smartwatch; we’ll monitor the air in the forest below the tree line. So if something unusual happens, we’ll know.”
Learn more about ForestGuard ›
Climate Safe Rooms, Australia, by Tim Adams for Geelong Sustainability
Created by Tim Adams for non-profit community group Geelong Sustainability, the Climate Safe Room initiative seeks to insulate a room in a low-income family to create a place of refuge during periods of extreme heat and cold.
The chosen room, which is usually a living room or dining room, is renovated with insulation, curtains or blinds and made airtight and waterproof to prepare for extreme temperatures.
“The idea of climate-safe rooms was to say, okay, the whole house is difficult and expensive to look after, let’s make sure there’s a part of the house that can be comfortably lived in, both winter and summer,” Adams told Dezeen.
Learn more about Climate Safe Rooms ›
Paper Partition System, Türkiye, by Shigeru Ban Architects
Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban has provided his Paper Partition System for evacuation centers housing victims of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes that occurred in February 2023.
The system, which has been used during previous climate-related disasters and the Covid-19 pandemic, is made from cardboard tubes and textile dividers to create a series of private rooms measuring two by two meters or 2.3 by 2.3 meters.
Three people can build the shelters in just five minutes.
Learn more about the paper partition system ›
Project Hero, Austria, by Land Rover and the Red Cross
Working with the Austrian Red Cross, Land Rover has developed a search and rescue vehicle that comes equipped with a drone to scan the surrounding landscape during emergency response to landslides, earthquakes and other disasters.
When airborne, the drone transmits live footage to the rescue team below to provide a picture of the surrounding terrain, as GPS and maps often become moot.
A roof-mounted landing pad allows the drone to land on the vehicle when it is moving.
Learn more about Project Hero ›
Living Breakwaters, USA, by Scape
Landscape studio Scape won the 2023 Obel Award for Living Breakwaters, a coastal defense system installed along Staten Island in New York City.
The project consists of a linear stretch of rocks and concrete structures that reach into the water, similar to a pier, to calm the waters, preventing flooding and at the same time reducing coastal erosion.
The large rocks have also been “ecologically enhanced” to include grooves that will attract marine life in order to create an artificial reef over time.
Find out more about Living Breakwaters ›
Bot life jacket, UK, by Ewan Morrell
Northumbria University design graduate Ewan Morrell has created a life jacket that uses discarded plastic bottles as flotation devices in flood-prone and low-income areas.
The Bot life jacket would be created from waste generated by charitable fast fashion manufacturers, who often burn waste or sell it cheaply for insulation.
For buoyancy, four plastic bottles are inserted into large pockets on the front and back of the vest.
Find out more about the Bot life jacket ›
Model Homes, Indonesia, by Ramboll
Civil engineering firm Ramboll worked with residents of Lombok, Indonesia, to develop three earthquake-proof housing prototypes made from bamboo.
Following several earthquakes in Lombok in 2018, the project seeks to provide local homeowners with earthquake-resistant models that are also affordable and sustainable.
The project also encourages the abandonment of the use of materials and construction techniques used in the West and in large cities that are unsuitable for the region, in favor of the use of local resources.
Find out more about Model Houses ›
Mud house, China, by the Chinese University of Hong Kong and University of Cambridge
This prototype mud house was developed in response to the 2014 Ludian earthquake in China.
Residents of Guangming Village in Zhaotong tried to rebuild their homes after the earthquake, but earthquake-resistant materials such as concrete and brick were too expensive for reconstruction.
In response, a team of professors and design experts from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Cambridge developed a housing prototype that optimizes a traditional local rammed earth technique to be more earthquake-resistant.
Find out more about the mud house ›
Houseboat, Vietnam, by SDA
Architecture studio SDA elevated this home on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City to be more flood-resistant.
Located next to a river, the site tends to flood, so the studio raised the structure one meter above the ground to reduce the risk of water entering the house.
Its concrete structure is exposed, with around 70% of its spaces open to the elements.
Find out more about the Floating House ›
The Golden Capsule, South Korea, by Yujin Chae, Daeyeon Kim, Yeonghwan Shin and Yuan Bai
Recently revealed as the winner of this year’s James Dyson Awards International, the Golden Capsule is an intravenous (IV) device designed for use by doctors in disaster zones.
It was developed by Hongik University students in response to reports that traditional intravenous packs were of limited use following the February 2023 Turkey-Syria earthquake due to their dependence on gravity and electricity.
Instead, the Golden Capsule uses elastic forces and air pressure to release fluid into the patient, meaning it can be used hands-free and without a power source.
Find out more about the Golden Capsule ›
Designing for disasters
This article is part of Dezeen’s Designing for Disaster series, which explores the ways in which design can help prevent, mitigate and recover from natural disasters as climate change makes extreme weather events increasingly common.