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

Planning - Site planning and urban planning
Living space and shelter design
Shelter design considering climatic conditions

Shelter design considering climatic conditions


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

Local climate directly affects people where they live. This is exacerbated by climate change, caused by human activities. Weather and temperatures naturally vary significantly between locations and by season. Human-caused climate change is bringing greater extremes in rainfall, temperature, storm intensity, which is contributing to variations in water resources; the viability of different flora and fauna in different locations, and the spread of disease.

Shelters need to be adapted to consider both historical local weather and temperatures and seasonal variation, and current and projected impacts of climate change. A lack of adequate consideration with regard to climatic conditions can lead to an unacceptable standard of living with local people feeling forced into environmentally damaging coping strategies such as unsustainable firewood collection for extra heating, over-extraction of water resources due to extreme heat hours during the day inside the shelters or the look for alternative materials for shelter.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Plan meetings to discuss the specific shelter needs of women, men, children, the elderly, disabled, and people living with chronic or terminal health conditions.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Climate Change
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Natural resource depletion
Soil erosion
Drought / flood

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

1. Air, water, and soil contamination due to unsustainable coping strategies including unsustainable use of natural resources and the use of fossil fuels for heating or cooling shelters or for shelter modification.

2. Air, soil, and water contamination, from indoor wood stoves or wood or charcoal heating; from waste generation; from inadequate provision of waste management; lack of greywater capture and re-use; all create conditions for vector-borne disease.

3. Damage to ecosystems and local flora and fauna.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

1. Poorly designed shelters can lead to unnecessary natural resource use and energy consumption to provide inhabitants with comfort (e.g. excessive electricity usage for cooling, burning of wood or other biomass for heating, or resources for insulation or ventilation). Poor energy practices can also have detrimental effects on human health. This may result in unsustainable use of natural resources and contribute to climate change.


2. Internal cookstoves burning wood or charcoal, without the provision of adequate flues for ventilation pollutes the internal air, directly harming human health. This also creates local air pollution across the camp or settlement, affecting children’s health. Lack of adequate organic waste separation and composting and solid waste separation and recycling also leads to waste piling which causes air, soil, and water pollution and creates health hazards. Poorly designed household water provision, greywater separation, and management can all contribute to pollution, for example, lack of provision of adequate bathing or laundry facilities can lead to wastewater contaminating freshwater sources.

3. Unsustainable use of natural resources, unsustainable polluting household heating, cooling, cleaning, and forced strategies to cope with climate variability and climate extremes all put greater stress on local ecosystems and local flora and fauna, which can cause serious or permanent harm.


Summary of environmental activities

1. Ensure that shelters are designed to suit the local climate and climate change projections (seasons, temperature, and rainfall). Consult local communities regarding traditional designs and their specific needs

2. Plan for the provision of efficient or alternative stoves, adequate ventilation; waste separation and management facilities; composting; water management, drainage, bathing, laundry, and wastewater facilities

3. Assess local ecosystems, flora, and fauna and plan shelter to ensure people are not being unintentionally forced into behaviours that will exacerbate negative impacts on them.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

1a. Design shelters suited to the local climate. Poorly designed shelters can lead to unnecessary energy consumption to provide inhabitants with comfort (e.g. excessive electricity usage for cooling, or burning of wood or other biomass for heating). Poor energy practices can also have detrimental effects on human health. Ensure adequate insulation against heat or cold; adequate ventilation; positioning of windows to provide the light that considers the location of the sun and impact of passive heating or cooling. Design appropriate cooking spaces and provide stoves that don’t rely on timber or charcoal.

1b. Polar and boreal regions have harsh and very cold winters, with short and cool summers. These areas experience limited rainfall, so it is recommended to deliver campaigns for water consumption reduction.

1c. Temperate regions have mild winters and can experience very hot summers. Precipitation patterns vary across this climate, though periods of moderate rainfall can be expected. Plan for adequate rainwater capture and storage. The shelter should be as air-tight as possible to minimize entry of cold air from outside, particularly around windows and doors. Heaters /stoves should have dedicated exhausts for ventilation to avoid concerns of indoor air pollution.

1d. Desert regions are defined by a lack of precipitation. Desert regions have periods of intensely hot weather during the day and cooler weather in the evenings. Some deserts may have very cold nights during periods of the year. Plan for sustainable water provision and use and for shelter insulation and ventilation for cooling and warmth. Rectangular shelters can be orientated with the long side facing the north-south axis to minimize direct sunlight exposure. The west-facing side has the most intense sunlight and large windows here should be avoided. Trees, foliage, roofs, and awnings can be used to provide passive shading. Heavyweight materials have the high thermal capacity for cases of day-night temperature variability. Where there is lower day-night temperature variability, lighter construction materials with insulation for rooms designated for sleeping can be sufficient. Shelters should use lightweight materials to improve heat dissipation, roofs should be insulated, to minimize heating from solar radiation. Roofing should include adequate drainage and the structure and fixings should be robust enough to withstand periods of heavy rainfall and rain. Insulated walls can also keep the heat out. Raised floors and high ceilings improve ventilation of heat, and openings in the walls and roofs can be used to expel accumulated indoor heat. Doors/windows on opposite sides of rooms/shelters improve natural draft cooling.

2. Design / provide efficient/alternative stoves that do not cause air pollution. Design appropriate facilities, services, and infrastructure to ensure appropriate water abstraction and supply; rainwater harvesting; greywater capture and reuse; drainage and groundwater recharge; appropriate ground vegetation coverage; organic waste separation and composting; appropriate solid waste separation and recycling. Appropriate design can help conserve natural resources, reduce air, soil, and water contamination; avoid creating conditions for vector-borne disease, and help adapt to the impacts of climate change. Design household water provision, greywater separation, and management to avoid groundwater pollution – this can include the provision of adequate bathing and laundry facilities with adequate wastewater collection and treatment.

3. Assess local ecosystems, flora, and fauna and plan shelter to ensure people are not being unintentionally forced into behaviours that will exacerbate negative impacts on them. Provide adequate drainage and ground cover vegetation to assist with groundwater recharge; plan sites so that ground cover and natural shade are not removed where they protect or provide habitats for flora and fauna. Plan for sustainable materials resourcing for winterisation and summerisation activities.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences
Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples
  • Percentage of shelter projects whose design has been adapted to local existing and projected climate conditions.
  • Percentage of shelters that meet agreed technical and performance standards and are culturally and environmentally acceptable and sustainable
Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities
  • Prevention of environmental damage
  • Mitigation of environmental damage
  • Environmental enhancement
Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Field and desktop research to understand the local climate and climate change projections and adapt settlement/camp/shelter design.

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