Design Process

The shelter project has been a nine month long process, from early concept sketches to full scale component tests, multiple systems in development to one final shelter design. It is a product of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary collaboration, supported by the opportunities available at Aalto University and made possible by the dedication of the team.


A competition was held in the fall semester for the concept of the transitional refugee shelter. Everyone submitted his own design, with the ultimate winner being Signe’s flatpack, ‘single structural system’ shelter.

Interior Mock-up of the Shelter

Throughout the design process a 1:1 scale mock-up of the interior of the shelter was used to help visualize the space and size of the design.  The mock-up changed as the design process progressed.

Modeled Interior Studies

Openings and interior spacial configurations were tested in physical models as the design evolved and changed. To the left is an image of the final shelter interior.

Joint Component Testing

With the assistance of the engineering team, 1:1 scale joints were tested in the Aalto University Engineering Laboratory.  The results informed the final design choices, in particular the use of the compression strap throughout the building.

In-House Component Tests

Throughout the entire design process full scale components were made, tested, refined, and remade for further studies.

1:5 Model

Once a complete design had been created, a 1:5 scale model was built to examine the connections, the construction and assembly process.

Wind Tunnel Testing

A 1:5 scale model of the entire shelter with terrace was tested in the Aalto University Aerodynamics Laboratory with wind speeds up to 20 m/s. This helped inform, among other things, the design for the terrace to make it a more secure and better place to be during high winds.

SIP Panel Frame Construction

A full scale truss was built and lifted up to test the ease of assembly and weight of the components. It passed – and an end wall is being built in order to be able to perform earthquake tests on the complete wall construction.

Earthquake Test

The truss and end wall were tested in one of the first earthquake tests ever conducted at Aalto University/TKK. While the dowels between the panels broke, the tongue and groove joints and compression straps kept the entire structure together. Connections were modified based on these results.

…and still under construction.

Posted by Maria

One Response to Design Process

  1. Chris says:

    Are you still working in this area?
    Would you be interested in using more sustainable wood in your units….lower shipping weight/ smaller fasteners/higher R Values++++++++
    Treecycling is an open source Company

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