Carbon Footprint of Transitional Shelters

Matti Kuittinen*, Stefan Winter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Extreme weather events, sea level rise, and political disputes linked to climate change are driving masses to leave their homes. Their transitional settlements should be produced in a manner that causes minimum greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent any further acceleration of climate change and the humanitarian crises it causes. This article presents a study of the carbon footprint and primary energy demand of the construction materials of eight different transitional shelters. The lowest carbon footprints were found from shelter models made from bamboo or timber. The highest emissions were caused by shelters that have either a short service life or that are made from metal-intensive structures. The choice of cladding materials was surprisingly important. The findings were further compared to the overall impacts of each construction project, to national per capita GHG emissions, and to construction costs. Some shelter projects had notable total energy consumption even compared to the annual energy use of industrialized countries. The study concludes that construction materials have an important impact on the carbon footprint of shelters. Comparisons should however be made only between similar functional units. Furthermore, benchmark values and more background data are urgently needed in order to give humanitarian nongovernmental organizations tools for lowering the carbon footprint of their construction operations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-237
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Carbon footprint
  • Humanitarian construction
  • Lifecycle assessment
  • Primary energy

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