Sustainable Schools for Refugees



schools_1While many youths are complaining about the start of yet another school year, other school-aged children living in conflict zones can only dream of such an opportunity. Millions of Syrians have fled their homes over the past four years in an attempt to survive civil strife, which has left hundreds of thousands of children displaced with no access to education. A generation of children are missing out on key opportunities for educational advancement and training.

In refugee camps across Jordan — which house just over half a million refugees — permanent schools are being built to help ensure children are able to succeed. The majority of refugees live in small, poorly built tents, but architects have partnered with nonprofits to design and implement new, innovative buildings that will not only last, but help improve livelihoods.


Locally Sourced and Sustainable


The project is called Re:Build, and is a collaboration between two architects — Cameron Sinclair and Pouya Khazaeli — the Pilosio Building Peace organization (which provides scaffolding), and two nonprofit groups: Save the Children and Relief International. The designs utilized by Re:Build are both simple and versatile, so they can easily be changed as needed to construct various types of buildings, such as homes, clinics or community centres.

Teams use grids of scaffolding to create building frames, which are then filled in with local resources — namely sand and gravel — to serve as the walls. Sand is often used an as insulator in Syria, as it provides protection from both extreme heat and cold. Roofs are added on, and topped off with solar panels for power.

The design is not only locally sourced and sustainable, but also innovative and cost-efficient. While the current models are easily implemented in refugee camps, they could also be utilized in other humanitarian situations to easily pop-up whatever physical spaces are in demand.


Faster, Cheaper, and More Versatile


schools_2Re:build designs were introduced and implemented at local levels, so those living within refugee camps are trained and able to construct new buildings themselves. This increases sustainability, and also boosts morale for those involved by giving them the opportunity participate in meaningful projects and provide an income for themselves and their families. All workers involved in the construction project are paid for their time.

The first two buildings created by Re:Build were schools, which were constructed in the Za’atari and Queen Rania Park refugee camps in Jordan. Since the design is simple and utilizes easily accessible resources, future construction projects are being planned. The buildings can also be equipped with rain barrels for additional access to drinking water. An alternative design offers roofs covered in soil to be used for food production.

Each school takes two weeks to construct, which is much faster than building with other methods. The process doesn’t require advanced means of construction, such as running electricity or mixing and pouring cement, so the timeline is faster. The cost of construction is also lower, at roughly $30,000(EUR) per school. Designs are currently being developed for construction in Somalian refugee camps as well.

More images and blueprints of the buildings can be viewed here. A time lapse video of the school’s construction process, as well as the interior of the building, are here.


Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth is a writer currently based in Kitchener-Waterloo.

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