Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.

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VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Technical assistance - Shelter project management (CCCM)
Settlement management
Reuse of temporary shelters

Reuse of temporary shelters


Environmental factors causing/contributing to the needs and affecting the humanitarian activity

Temporary shelter materials have the potential to cause significant waste and pollution, or can be designed so that they are durable and can be reused or repurposed, which significantly reduces their impact on the environment.

Environmental impacts arise from the sourcing and disposal of shelter materials and their location. Their location can increase demand for natural resources; lead to damage to pristine environmental areas, or expose people to environmental hazards.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

People who have specific health requirements or age or religious-related needs should be consulted so that these are accommodated within shelter or camp design.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural Resource Depletion
Soil erosion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Temporary shelter materials impact the environment throughout their lifecycle. This is particularly affected by whether they are durable and designed for re-use:

1. Fragile materials will degrade, causing pollution and requiring replacement

2. Materials made from non-renewable resources cause pollution

3. Transport causes air pollution

4. Use and maintenance sustains or degrades materials, preventing or causing polluting waste

5. Ease of disassembly affects materials condition and potential re-use

6. Transport to new locations risks damaged to materials

7. Design of replacement shelters affects the potential for re-use

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Material selection, procurement, transport, installation, use, disassemble, transport to new locations, and design of alternative shelters all have a direct impact on whether or not shelter materials can be re-used, which is directly proportional to their impact on the environment:

1. If fragile or short life-span materials are used in temporary shelter construction such as canvas and plastic sheets, the sun’s rays, wind, and general use will degrade them and they will require replacing. Degraded materials can cause air, water, and soil pollution and lead to disease spread and harm to animals (ingesting plastic waste or chemicals) and plants

2. Materials such as plastics, cement, timber, made from non-renewable or sourced unsustainably cause pollution and environmental degradation

3. Transport of materials causes air pollution and release of greenhouse gases and wear and tear on vehicle components. This increases with the weight of shelter materials

4. How materials are used and maintained has an impact on the environment – poor maintenance leads to faster deterioration, waste, and use of more renewable resources to replace them

5. Methods and ease of shelter disassembly affects their condition and potential for re-use

6. Methods of transport to alternative locations creates emissions and risk damaged to transported materials

7. Design of replacement shelters directly affects whether or not temporary shelter materials can be re-used. Materials that cannot be reused, repurposed, or recycled cause pollution.


Summary of environmental activities

1. Source durable, re-usable materials

2. Source materials from sustainable sources

3. Select lightweight materials and plan efficient transport routes

4. Plan for sustainable material use and maintenance

5. Design for ease of disassembly

6. Protect materials during transport

7. Design replacement shelters to re-use temporary materials. Implement effective solid waste management

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

1. Source durable materials. Ensure they are either re-usable, can be re-purposed, or can be recycled

2. Source materials from sustainable sources whenever possible. If not possible, then ensure they are strong, durable and re-usable

3. Select lightweight materials and plan efficient transport routes to reduce transport emissions

4. Plan for sustainable material use and maintenance to reduce deterioration, waste, and frequency of replacement

5. Design temporary shelters for ease of disassembly and materials re-use

6. Plan efficient transport and assess materials and plan to minimise damage during transport

7. Design replacement shelters to make use of materials from temporary shelters. Implement effective solid waste management for materials sorting, separation, and disposal of hazardous waste and re-use, repurposing, or recyling of non-hazardous waste.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

The December 26th earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Banda Aceh damaged or destroyed communities along over 800 km of coastline.

The combined hazards destroyed 130,000 houses and damaged an additional 95,000. A number of hazards, including standing water and mass graves (particularly around Banda Aceh and Meulaboh), and a risk of catastrophic flooding in the future, complicated the site selection process. To determine site suitability, communities engaged in risk mapping to identify all locations that had become unsuitable for future development.

The mapping was coupled with disaster risk reduction strategies to create effective land use plans that addressed future tsunami, storm surge or flooding risk. Villages identified buffer zones and the availability of evacuation routes and post-disaster meeting points.

For instance, the site assessment in low-lying areas included the identification of nearby hills suitable for protection in the event of a future tsunami-related evacuation. Where such geographic features did not exist, planning regulations called for the construction of public buildings that were capable of providing enough protection for the community in such an event.

Plot-specific assessments were made as well, and investigated structural mitigation options including structural elevation or regarding of the property. In this effort, participatory planning processes were extensively employed in order to develop a shared understanding of site constraints given that those whose property was identified as unsuitable were likely to be dissatisfied with the decision. The assessment also looked at land boundary negotiations, zoning practices (for residential and commercial), and allotments for public space.

Sites were assessed for their suitability (social and geotechnical) for schools, health centers, shops, market places, roads, and other community features. To assess the site for other services and features, the community capitalized on existing expertise or found partners with the desired capability (e.g. government agencies, humanitarian organizations). Planners did find site assessment to be time-intensive and complicated given the technical requirements. Also, it was determined that detailed physical planning was needed for each plot to ensure that the footprint of the house itself and any service or utility improvements would be compatible.

· Community involvement in risk mapping can improve their effectiveness
· Shelter recovery planning should incorporate future land use plans
· Needs assessments must consider boundary negotiations, zoning practices, and
· Set-asides for public space
· Long-term shelter needs assessments may be time and resource-intensive

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

% of temporary shelter materials re-used

# of people trained in re-use of temporary shelter materials

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Mitigation of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time for temporary shelter materials sustainable selection, sourcing, shelter design, improved construction/disassembly methods and incorporation into permanent shelters

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