Kalobeiyei, 18 July 2017 – Renowned Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, has signed an agreement with UN-Habitat to design as many as 12,000 new homes in the Kalobeiyei refugee settlement site in Northern Kenya.

Signing the agreement on site in Northern Kenya, Ban explained that the most important thing was to ensure that the design was sustainable.

“The key thing will be to design and construct shelter where no or little technical supervision is required,” he said, “and use materials that are locally available and eco-friendly. It’s important that the houses can be easily maintained by inhabitants.”

A celebrated architect, both in his native Japan and worldwide, Mr Ban was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, understood to be the Nobel prize of architecture, in 2014. He is known for his innovative work with paper and has pioneered the use of recycled cardboard tubes to quickly and efficiently house disaster victims.

Adapting to local conditions

As well as being locally available, the material would need to withstand the harsh climatic conditions, explained UN-Habitat project coordinator, Yuka Terada.

“The shelter designs have to comply with the national regulations for housing while responding in a responsible manner to local climatic conditions and challenges, providing replicable sustainable solutions to shelter.

“UN-Habitat’s approaches are strongly participatory and the relevant county officers as well as the representatives from refugee and host community will have an input in the design process,” she said.

The Kalobeyei Settlement was established in 2015 between the Turkana County government, UN-Habitat and the UN Refugee agency, UNHCR, with support from the Japanese government to provide integrated services to refugees and local host communities. Acknowledging the need for a more sustainable developmental approach to refugee crisis’s, knowing that on average many displaced persons spend more than 16 years living as refugees in temporary shelter.