Proposal for Refugee Housing in Southeast Europe Utilizing Regionally Appropriate, Sustainable, and Affordable Construction Methods

Hana Čičević

Authors:  Hana Čičević, Sarah Gamble

Faculty Mentor:  Sarah Gamble

College:  College of Design, Construction, and Planning


This research focuses on the emergency-housing demand caused by the ongoing European refugee crisis in Southeast Europe. The research identifies north Serbia as the focus location because this region generally lacks permanent housing solutions for accommodating the increasing influx of the immigrant population. This research offers an architectural proposal for the refugee housing unit designed particularly for the situational factors and limitations of the focus region.
The study proposes earth architecture as the primary building technique which satisfies the defined end-product goals. The criteria used to evaluate possible building techniques are the sustainability of the material, quality and durability of the final product, skill level required for non-professional construction, final cost of material and execution, historical regional president, and opportunity for communal engagement of the immigrant population. The proposed design uses earth-bag construction as the sub-method most suitable for this location.
The representational fragment of this research is the design proposal for a single refugee housing unit in the context of a larger community. The design offers a broader overview of possible solutions and is, therefore, a guideline rather than a precise construction model. The final product uses digital modeling, material studying, sketching, and drawing for illustrating the design concept.

Poster Pitch

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14 Responses
  1. Jessica Reade

    Hi Hana,

    Your presentation is wonderful and very explanatory! What has been the most interesting aspect of your research so far?

  2. Jordan Moumne

    Very interesting! I love the material studies. Have you considered looking at the drying time and seeing if that changes the results? What would you recommend these to be used for now?

  3. Hana Cicevic

    Hi Jessica!!

    Thank you! The most interesting part of this research was building the physical model. I needed to test several soil mixtures to find out which one is the best for building, and then I used small-scale bags filled with the mixture to build three walls as a base of the design.

  4. Hana Cicevic

    Hi Jordan!!
    Thank you for the question! Depending on the weather outside, the drying time varies. The mixture usually becomes completely solid after 2 days, and after that, I did not notice visible details in my tests. I think this type of construction has the potential to be implemented as a sustainable method for family housing, or other types of small scale construction.

  5. Cindy Chen

    Hi Hana,

    Your research sounds really interesting! I agree that resources are becoming a limited resource in planet earth as designers are shifting ways to be more sustainable. What were some changes you faced building this physical model?

    1. Hana Cicevic

      Hi Cindy!
      The most difficult part of building the model was not the earthbag element of it, but actually constructing the foundation system. I poured plaster into the model ground to simulate the need for a foundation system that would hold the earthbag construction on top. I envision this foundation system to be sustainable when built in true scale as it would use plaster stabilized soil mixture rather than a typical concrete foundation.

  6. Carolyn Muldowney

    Wow this is very interesting! How do you propose one could condense this information and present it in an understandable manor to those who have been displaced?

    1. Hana Cicevic

      Hi Carolyn!
      I believe this technique offers many opportunities for communal engagement during the construction process. Because only several materials are used in construction and there is not much mechanization required, it is a technique that can easily be thought to anyone and there are examples of such structure built by entire communities and families who knew nothing about construction before.

  7. Marta L. Wayne

    Hi Hana,
    What an inspiring and inspired project! Would love to hear this approach applied in other locations and contexts where affordable, weatherproof housing is required. Thanks!

    1. Hana Cicevic

      Hi Marta!
      I believe we will get to see a lot more structures built this way around the world. Right now, it seems like this is a technique usually used for single-family housing by people who prefer to built sustainably and who would like to save some money on materials. I think that there is a potential in this technique to be used for a larger variety of purposes and I hope it will one day be recognized as such.

  8. Marina Curtis

    I just want you to know I’m saving this poster for future reference, this is great work.