42_Global Village Shelters

The end of the tent city

Before Mia Ferrara and her father built the prototype of the Global Village Shelters, the state of the art in refugee housing was the canvas tarp and cardboard lean-to. Ferrara kept the cardboard, but her shelters—with actual walls, a roof, and even windows—are reinforced, weatherproof, and biodegradable. The smaller model, which shelters one family, can be erected in under 20 minutes by just two people. The larger version is 20 meters long, made of corrugated plastic, has windows and a latrine, and lasts as long as three years—for less than $1,000. The GVS is made by Weyerhaeuser and debuted two years ago in Pakistan after an earthquake left 3.3 million homeless. But while the shelter has been a smash in design circles, Ferrara has had a tough time persuading NGOs and relief agencies to fork over grant money. "It's a matter of convincing them that this is a lot better than a tarp," she says. Can that be so hard?

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