Loughborough University
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Modelling the thermal comfort performance of tents used in humanitarian relief

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posted on 2017-05-25, 10:41 authored by Ruth A. Poschl
Globally, billions of people live in temporary shelters due to poverty, and every year millions of refugees and disaster affected individuals are forced to live in temporary shelters such as Standardised Emergency Relief Tents (SERTs). The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has spent millions of US dollars annually on tents, blankets and mattresses. The tents used are designed as temporary accommodation; in reality they sometimes become homes for a number of years when the return to permanent shelter is slow or unaffordable. While the SERT aims to adhere to humanitarian standards for basic shelter provision, this type of construction is ultimately designed to be quick to deploy, using lightweight and cost effective materials. Consequently, SERTs have been known to provide an extremely thermally uncomfortable place to live in different climates, requiring stove heating in cold climates and being impractical to keep cool in hot climates. Little research has been done to determine whether this situation could be improved. The thermal comfort performance of a real SERT in a known UK climate was investigated, to explore the science behind the experience of real users. Measurements were made in the SERT over a 6 month period and the observations quantitatively analysed in order to characterise and explain the tent s response to a range of outdoor conditions. The predicted thermal comfort in the SERT was calculated using a variety of suitable metrics. The data collected in a UK climate was used to develop and validate computational models of the SERT, which have applications in any world climate. Based on quantitative analysis of the SERT models performances in cold, temperate and hot climates, conclusions were drawn regarding the suitability of the SERT for use in each climate. The computational models of the SERT were modified in geometry and material, with the aim of improving the predicted thermal comfort in the SERT in hot and cold climates. The effectiveness of these design changes was analysed, and recommendations for improvements to the SERT were made. These recommendations could be used by SERT manufacturers and key humanitarian organisations in order to facilitate design modifications.


Loughborough University, School of Civil and Building Engineering (Research Studentship).



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering


© Ruth Pöschl

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


  • en