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Jan Roekens

Ir. arch. Jan Roekens is a PhD researcher at the Department of Architectural Engineering of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). He obtained the degree of “Master of Sciences in Architectural Engineering” at the VUB in 2010. The following year, he started his PhD research under the supervision of prof. dr. ir. Marijke Mollaert from the VUB and dr. Rolf Luchsinger from the EMPA-Center for Synergetic Structures (part of ETH Zürich) . His research focuses on lightweight structural concepts applicable in disaster relief sheltering. His work is a part of the research conducted in the European project S(P)EEDKITS and is funded by the European commission


PhD research

Lightweight structural concepts for disaster relief sheltering

Lightweight structural concepts for disaster relief sheltering

Date2011 - 2016
SupervisorsMarijke Mollaert and Rolf Luchsinger
FundsEuropean commission

Disasters, either natural or manmade, occur worldwide. As a result, countless people are rendered homeless without any protection against the external environment. Different humanitarian organisations (NGO’s) try to help these affected people, by sending several disaster relief items. One of these items are temporary shelters. These disaster relief shelters should be extremely lightweight, durable and easy to set up. In the search for more appropriate shelters, several lightweight concepts will be analyzed.

This research will focus on two structural concepts which are applicable for disaster relief shelters: ‘Clever Roof Shelter Kit’ and ‘Tensairity Shelter’. Each concept will focus on the following parameters: the level of technology, the total cost, the durability, the set-up time and the weight. While the clever roof will focus more on the low tech parameter, the Tensairity shelter will emphasize the durability parameter.

The clever roof shelter kit

The first products arriving on site at this moment is the basic shelter kit with added tarpaulins. This kit consists of: rope, a handsaw, nails, a shovel, a hoe, a machete, shears and a claw hammer. This research will try to improve the standard shelter kit which is used in large quantities by the NGO’s. The greatness of this kit is because of its versatility. The tarp can be used in different occasions and can provide different functions. However, there are still some set-backs with this classic tarp. Usually the knowhow of how to span the tarp correctly isn’t at hand on the affected site. And this is detrimental for the structural efficiency of the structure. This proposal will investigate several solutions where structural elements are provided, alongside the tarp, to correctly span this tarp. The total package incorporates all the materials needed to provide a simple light weight ‘clever roof’.

Tensairity shelters

The structural concept Tensairity is the synergetic combination of an airbeam under low pressure, slender struts and some cables. The airbeam has a dual purpose in the system. Its first purpose is to make a physical separation between tension and compression. Secondly has the airbeam a stabilizing effect on the slender strut against buckling. This whole brings forth a very lightweight structure which has still a decent load bearing capacity. Research in the field of Tensairity, has up to now mainly focused on beam components. But in the case of sheltering, an arch component will be more appropriate. Because the concept of Tensairity arches is fairly new, the feasibility still need to be tested through means of experimental testing and numerical simulations.

Master’s thesis

Experimenteel onderzoek naar opplooibare Tensairity bogen

SupervisorMarijke Mollaert