Rebuilding Nepal: Applying Design Thinking to Sheltering in the Wake of Natural Disasters

Master's Thesis


My research leverages design thinking to address social and humanitarian concerns in the developing world. These wicked problems have shifting parameters and stakeholders, and by definition have impossible to formulate clear problem statements and singular definitive solutions. My work has focused on the complexity of problems in mobility design, handicap accessibility, and disaster relief in the developing world. After the massive earthquakes and subsequent devastation in Nepal, in April and May of 2015, I returned to contribute my unique skills in construction, architecture and design to rebuild transitional and temporary homes. In conjunction with building efforts, I conducted innovative and novel research in the field in the immediate aftermath, focused on the challenges of delivering and deploying shelters in low-resourced environments.

PACK focuses on addressing the challenge of delivering shelters to remote locations by enabling the rebuilding that is already occurring on the ground using existing materials, often without assistance. Traditional approaches to disaster sheltering focus on providing all-in-one kits to displaced individuals, but as my research in Nepal has shown, various factors limit the success of these initiatives. Deep immersion into resilient communities revealed untapped potential to transform and empower people on the ground to respond to disaster with locally appropriate, vernacular construction techniques. My approach differs by proposing to aid an often-unskilled civilian population to quickly and easily build structurally sound shelters using locally available materials with a portable construction template system. This radically different approach to disaster relief distributes a system for building transitional shelters, rather than the costly and wasteful distribution of numerous tents and prefabricated temporary shelters. The distribution of a single system, from which hundreds of shelters can be built, will be far more effective in reaching the many remote locations, where relief is needed the most.


Attribute NameValues
Author Kevin B Phaup
Contributor Ann Marie Conrado, Research Director
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Art, Art History, and Design
Degree Name Master of Fine Arts
Defense Date
  • 2016-04-11

Submission Date 2016-04-13
Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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