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BURUNDI Shelter Solutions

January 2012 By : IFRC SRU 44 Boulevard Joseph II L-1840 Luxembourg B.P. 404 – L-2014 Luxembourg

FOREWORD Every year thousands of shelters are built throughout the world. Record is mostly kept per project, per operation or per organization. Little catalogue of shelters exists that covers a specific country, across the boundaries of time and implementing agency. This means that project managers, when assigned to a specific project, often have to start from scratch because they have no knowledge of the building techniques, traditional shelters, or of the common shelter model for a specific country or region. The IFRC SRU is working to gather all that information in a way to establish a global database of shelter solutions. In addition, the IFRC SRU will complete a specific catalogue for every vulnerable country with all the collected information related to sheltering. These two processes together have been called the IFRC SRU Shelter Solutions Project. As part of setting up the IFRC SRU Shelter Solutions Project, a field study has been carried out in Burundi. The field study was dubbed the Burundi Mapping experiment. The main aim of the study was to map shelter solutions and associated technical aspects. The study also functioned as a pilot for future mapping activities. In April 2011 a research officer of the IFRC SRU went to Burundi with the aim of documenting shelters. It was conceived as a pilot because it was the first project of the IFRC SRU in mapping, and the results of this study would help improve the way shelters are documented and to produce a shelter mapping handbook. From June to December 2011 the same mapping effort was done by another research officer in Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines. This publication is the result of the mapping process done in Burundi with information about the country itself, the conflict, the theoretical construct behind the project, settlement options encountered, building materials and building techniques, ranging from traditional and self-built to agency implemented shelters. This catalogue doesn’t claim to be representative of all sheltering in Burundi. It is rather a description and presentation of the data gathered during the Burundi Mapping experiment mission in the country, keeping in mind what could serve shelter implementers most in the country. The conclusions are stimulating further work on the subject and for creating better solutions in the shelter field. This catalogue was created for people working with shelters and facing shelter-related problems in their everyday life. For those who want to find more information on the different subjects that are discussed, references and further literature are given in this catalogue. This catalogue focuses on material and technical aspects of sheltering; this alternative outlook may color current sheltering discussions differently. It may facilitate a discussion that is closer to the reality of being sheltered after disaster, or not, and how. Before taking any decision, socio-economic aspects have to be taken into account as well. The perspective of the person seeking and finding shelter is the starting point for this work, rather than the project descriptions of the implementing agencies. The 26 shelters documented in Burundi are presented on overview sheets in the Publication ‘IFRC SRU Shelter Solutions Burundi – 2. 26 Shelters’. We kept the anonymity of which organization has built which shelter but wanted to thank UNDP, CARE, Paresi, UNHCR, IFRC, Worldvision, ADRA GIZ, the Luxembourgish Red Cross, the Spanish Red Cross and the Burundian Ministry of solidarity to allow us to document their shelters in the field. Secondly, we would like to thank the people living in these shelters, for allowing us to visit their current homes. Shelter Solutions Burundi: 26 Shelters:

General Information 26 Shelters Cross analysis Theoretical Construct SITE Settlement options Housing Types STRUCTURE Wattle and daub Adobe Foundation Walls/ Bricks & Blocks Roof/ Truss & Tie-downs STRUCTURE & SKIN Walls/ Sheets & organic material Roof/ Cladding SKIN & SERVICES Wall openings Emergency Shelters Transitional Shelters Permanent Shelters Upgr Upgrading Process ISSB Recommendations Conclusions

BURUNDI General Information* Demography*


Situated in the African great lakes region between Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda.

The country is resource poor. underdeveloped sector.

Former colony Belgium.




Temperature varies between 17 and 22 C°. 4 seasons can be identified.

Population 10 216 190 Composed by: 85% Hutu (Bantu) 14% Tutsi (Hamitic) 1% Twa (Pigmy) Minority of Europeans and South Asians. Official Languages: Kirundi and French but Kiswahili is spoken a lot in the Region of Lake Tanganyika. 70% Christians, 30% indigenous and Islam Population growth rate: 4%

landlocked and It has an manufacturing

90% of the Burundians work in the agricultural sector, primarily as the main exports are Coffee and Tea. Less than 2% have electricity in their homes.

* For further information: ns/the-world-factbook


Burundi Today**(Dec 2011)

Burundi is exposed to violent conflict due to ethnic tensions between the Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority.

As about 6% of the populations are former refugees, the reintegration programs are high on the governments and international organizations agendas. The results of the presidential, parliamentary and local elections in 2010 should help to consolidate peace. However, the opposition’s withdrawal from the electoral process and the claims of corruption towards the government could lead again to instability. This conflict ridden context may experience violence again.

1962: Burundian Independence 1963: Ethnic violence causes thousands of Hutus to flee to neighboring countries. 1965: Hutu rebellion is suppressed by the Tutsi-dominated army. 1972: An attempt to return King Ntare V to power is crushed and the former king is killed. Some 200,000 Hutus and 10,000 Tutsis are killed in reprisal attacks and thousands of Hutus flee into Tanzania and Rwanda. 1988: Massacre of Hutus kills up to 20,000, thousands more flee. 1993: The first democratically elected Hutu President Ndadaye is assassinated by Tutsi soldiers. As civil war starts between Tutsi-dominated army and Hutu rebel forces, a cycle of ethnically-motivated reprisals ensues, leading to the killing of approximately 300,000 Burundians. 2008: Violence breaks out between FNL rebels and government troops, killing more than 100 and displacing thousands. 2009: Burundi’s last rebel group, the Forces for National Liberation (FNL), lays down arms and officially transforms into a political party in a ceremony supervised by the African union.

Natural Disasters** Most appearing natural disasters in Burundi: Draughts: even if draughts represent only 13% of the natural disasters occurring in Burundi they are responsible for the most people affected (70%) Floods: heavy rainfalls after a long and hard dry season are every year responsible for the destruction and damages on housing, food, and livestock Epidemics: due to bad hygienic conditions and increased by either draught or floods, epidemics just as the Cholera appear in the most vulnerable parts of the Burundian society.

** For further information:

26 SHELTERS The data collected is available le in different forms. 26 Overview sheets have been realized which contain the main information pertaining to the different shelters documented. To see all the 26 Overview sheets, please consult the publication “IFRC SRU Shelter Solutions Burundi 2. 26 shelters” she

• General information: ID, Location, Year of Construction, Cost, Settlement option, Map with indication, and available documentation

• Name of the shelter • Pictures of the four elevations and/or picture showing living conditions or other important details • Survey date

• Short description of the project implementation • Details of the setting and surrounding of the shelter • Google earth view of the area with the shelter indication

• Technical details of the construction relating to the important structural elements. • Detailed pictures of the different structural elements

• AutoCAD Technical drawings of the: - Floor plan - Cross-Section Cross A-A’ - Front Elevation - Side Elevation

The data is also so available as files according to the different differe shelters documented. On the left, you see the different information available for each shelter. There is also a more general file referring to Burundi as country. For more information or if you want to see the complete data, don`t hesitate to contact the IFRC SRU. Upon request we will send you all information. du-sru/

To have a country analysis as it was done for Burundi, the most important ortant part of the work is the collection of data and the right processing of the data. A handbook of the shelter mapping process will be developed in 2012. The relevant relevan information and methodology will be clearly exposed and explained explaine there.


THEORETICAL CONSTRUCT In order to analyze a shelter solution, the SRU adopted a model from Stuart Brand who states that buildings are not only changing as a whole but also the different parts of a building change at different rates. Brand identified six different layers; site, structure, skin, services, space plan and stuff. Some of these layers do not change at all or very slowly during the lifespan of the building. Other layers change much more rapidly. This hierarchy is not static; it can happen that layers lower in the hierarchy change faster than a layer higher up. Apart from its own different rate of change, each building layer also performs a separate function. The site locates the building in its place, the structure keeps the building upright, the skin protects its users against the weather, and the services make the internal environment of a house more comfortable. The space plan divides an enclosure into separate spaces in order for each to perform a specific activity and stuff is intended to support various human activities such as sitting, sleeping, eating, working, and storing other stuff. However, stuff can also have a purely decorative function. Although the different layers of a shelter have different life spans, they don't have same level of services and are built in different economic realities than most (residential) buildings in the Western World, Brands categorization can still be very useful for analyzing shelters built after a disaster. Stuff: Stuff consists of the furniture in the house and all other objects which can be easily moved around like chairs, beds, tables, lamps and kitchen appliances. They can be removed and replaced without problem at any time.

Space Plan: The space plan determines the interior lay-out of a building. These are the partition walls with their doors and the internal floors and ceilings. In the Burundian context, the space plan often is the same as the structure and is hardly changed without changing the structure.

Services: Services are the working parts of a building such as plumbing (water and sewerage), electricity and communication wiring, heating, ventilation and airconditioning (HVAC), and moving parts like escalators and elevators. In the Burundian context these will probably not be kept for more than 5-10 years. Skin: The exterior of the building with its openings, such as doors, windows, etc. keeps out the wind, rain, heat and cold. Especially in transitional shelters, the skin is perhaps the most likely element to change (i.e. upgrading process). Structure: The foundation of a building and its load-bearing elements, such as the floor structure, super-structure and roof structure keep the building upright. The structure can be changed even if it seen as very permanent. Roof structures for instance can be replaced. Site: This is the geographical setting, its location and the legally defined lot where the building is built upon, whose boundaries and context outlast generations of ephemeral buildings. The site is the most lasting layer, compared to the others. See: Stuart Brand; How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built; (1994)

SETTLEMENT OPTIONS TRANSIT CENTRES These are collective mass centres, usually found on the border of Burundi. These transit centres are used as reception points for displaced people returning to their country of origin. People usually live here for one day up to one month until they find a new place to live, and to rebuild their life. Still some of these transit centres are inhabited or used as permanent shelters, even though they were not built for that purpose. See BI003, BI007, BI008, BI019

VILLAGES RURAUX INTÉGRÉS Villages de paix These are planned camps where people generally find accommodation on purposefully built sites and a full service infrastructure is provided. These camps or ‘villages de paix’, become small trading centres and develop a social system and coherence comparable to small urban areas. See BI001, BI002, BI005, BI015, BI016, BI025, BI026

COLLINES Rural Self Settlement In Burundi a typical rural self settlement is the ‘Colline’ form where people build their houses on top of a hill. A displaced community or displaced group may settle in rural areas, independently of assistance from local government or the aid community.

URBAN SETTLEMENT This is a settlement option found in the urban areas of Burundi. Typically people settle down at the borders of big cities, e.g. Bujumbura

HOUSING TYPES There are various housing types found in Burundi. The traditional housing is the Rugo, a complex living space with different huts instead of different rooms. Even though it is an interesting housing type, there is no data recorded for a Rugo because Rugos are the result of an ongoing building process and not shelters for returning displaced people. However, a hybrid form of Rugo demonstrating the process of upgrading transitional shelter can be observed. (See BI016) At this point, the block house has become the most typical housing form in Burundi.


The is a unit of housing for all members of one family. It includes: The main house, a round structure that is surrounded by two or more, smaller houses, a large enclosures defining the front yard and the backyard and the entirety is surrounded by a fence made of bamboo. The population has adopted adobe structures. The frame of the house consists of a system of poles clad with reeds and bamboo strings. Inside the circle of poles, the domed ceiling is made of spiral coil basketry. The roof structure is covered with thatch. Inside the main house can be divided by partitions made of bamboo. The walls are covered with red clay, while the floor is made of mud and covered with mats.

BLINDÉS According to the NRC, ‘Blindés’ are emergency dwellings, which for many people have become their permanent houses. The word ‘blindé’ comes from the military term for “armored” and it refers to the tent-like houses that are covered with a plastic sheet from UNHCR, or just made of banana leaves.

E.g. BI013


The is the typical housing of the ethnic minority Batwa. The Batwa are a pygmy population. The walls are made of wooden sticks tied together with organic fibers. A central pole holds the structure together. The vertical sticks come together in the centre and are braided. The whole hut is thatched with braided grass. Even if this type of housing is only built and used by the Batwa population, not all Batwa necessarily live in Twa huts.

E.g. BI017


The is built of adobe blocks or wattle and daub and has a cubic form. Its roof can be either shed shaped or gable shaped or hipped. It has windows and doors of varying size and number and has walls and partitions inside to form different rooms.

E.g. BI006, BI009, BI011, BI012, BI014, BI018

UNHCR/RC STANDARD HOUSING Beside the traditional houses a commonly found type of housing today is the standard UNHCR housing, or alike, as it is described in the UNHabitat booklet on shelters in Burundi.





The UNHCR and implementing agencies developed a standard design for houses for returnees. The standard house has 3 rooms, is built with adobe blocks, has a wooden roof structure and is covered with CGI sheets. The size of the house is 7x5 meters. It has 4 windows (2 on the front and 2 on the back) to make sure that every room has natural light and cross ventilation is possible through the different rooms. The windows and doors are made of wooden panels. There are also similar standard rules relating to the conditions of the latrines.

Regarding the standard UNHCR Model, some weaknesses are observed: - On sloping ground the ground pressure is clearly acting on one side of the wall. - On sloping ground the foundation is not likely to sustain the structure for long, simple “cut and fill� maybe recommended to level the site prior to construction. - Because of the obstruction introduced by the wall on the higher side the soil will build up with time and weaken the wall. - Dampness on the wall will be a problem. - Flood resistance is low.

See BI004


See BI005

See BI024

The Red Cross house model is similar to the UNHCR standard, except for the foundation. The foundation is made of rubble and is plastered on the outside. This could possibly reduce problems relating to ground pressure and dampness; however it will not solve the problem constantly.

* Source: UNHCR Guide Habitat Burundi 2010

STRUCTURE BUILDING TECHNIQUES WATTLE AND DAUB Wattle and daub constructions with wooden poles for stability represent another traditional commonly found building technique used by the Burundians. The structure and the foundation are made of wood (eucalyptus for instance). This type of building is mostly found in self-built shelter solutions. Mud or dung or a mixture of both is used as cladding and insulation.

Advantages: This building technique is widely spread in Burundi; most people have the knowledge, and don’t need a skilled laborer to construct. Disadvantages: Needs to be renewed and repaired after every rain season. Without maintenance the durability of such constructions would be very low.

For Examples see: BI006, BI012, BI014, BI015, BI016, BI021 and BI026 For further information, refer to: WATTLE & DAUB : PARASEISMIC CONSTRUCTION HANDBOOK

STRUCTURE BUILDING TECHNIQUES ADOBE BRICKS The traditional building material found and used in Burundi is adobe blocks, either sundried or baked. The adobe is therefore pressed into a wooden mould. Depending on if it will baked or not, the size of these moulds can vary.

The molding of adobe bricks

After moulding the bricks, they are taken out of the wood frame, dried in the sun and afterwards fired in a kiln built of the raw adobe blocks. After cooling the whole oven is dismantled and the fired bricks are set aside in piles until they are sold or used for construction.

The baking of the adobe bricks

Advantages: A house built of baked adobe blocks is considered being more solid and has a higher value in the user perspective. Disadvantages: Baked bricks are very expensive compared to other building materials. The high costs result of the extreme use of fire wood in those traditional kilns. Because of the quantity of wood used to bake the bricks these kilns are not very ecological. For Examples see: BI001, BI004, BI005, BI009, BI010, BI020, BI023 and BI024

STRUCTURE FOUNDATION STONE MASONRY FOUNDATIONS Most of the foundations found in Burundi were perimeter foundations. These are made either of stone masonry or adobe blocks. The stone masonry can be plastered with cement or not. A general Issue for the foundations in Burundi is that they are not very flood resistant.

Stones used for foundations

Foundation under construction

Foundation under construction

Foundation under construction

See BI004

One of the ways to avoid moisture rising is the use of a damp proof foil. On the left is a picture that shows the proper use of damp proof foil used upon a stone masonry foundation.

On the right is a picture showing the damage caused by flood to a stone masonry foundation. Damp proof foil

Flood damages

ADOBE BLOCK FOUNDATION Foundations are also made of adobe blocks. The adobe blocks used in this case are also fired or sun-dried. Some of the issues encountered with adobe block foundations are multiple: Low flood resistance Moisture rises from the soil through the walls On sloping ground the ground pressure is clearly acting on one side of the wall and the foundation is not likely to sustain the structure for long, simple “cut and fill� maybe recommended to level the site prior to construction. Because of the obstruction introduced by the wall on the higher side, the soil will build up with time and weaken the wall.

See BI020

STRUCTURE WALLING : BRICKS/BLOCKS The main difference between the adobe blocks is the size Sun-dried Adobe Blocks

Baked Adobe Blocks

See BI004

Fired Clay Blocks

See BI009

See BI002

See BI018

See BI004

Most shelters documented are of the load bearing wall type. Also post and lintels constructions (with additional cladding) were documented. The following walling materials were observed during the Burundi study: sun-dried adobe blocks; baked adobe blocks; fired clay bricks. Most shelters and houses were built with either sun dried adobe blocks or with wattle and daub.

Issues observed: 1. Seasonal nature of block making makes construction activities not possible in the rainy seasons.

Some people use a mixture of adobe blocks and stone masonry mortared with a mud-pebbles mixture.

If the adobe soil is not of good quality or contains impurities as seen here, the whole construction is weakened.

In some solutions the walls are finished with plaster.

In this case the users have added remains of bricks as rain protection.

2. Low resistance to floods and earthquakes. Note that Burundi is not earthquake prone, but that floods happen regularly. 3. Quality of the blocks depends on the quality of the soil mixture. In some areas good quality soil is more difficult to obtain.

See BI001

See BI005

SKIN CLADDING: SHEETING ORGANIC MATERIAL Wattle & daub is a popular construction technique with the local population as it is very cheap and the necessary skills are widely available. Also the materials are available everywhere.

See BI014

See BI014

See BI017

See BI017

See BI008

See BI019

See BI007

See BI013

Organic material such as banana leaves or palm leaves, is mostly used to construct Twa-Huts which are only used by the 1% Twa population living in Burundi.

Plastic sheets are used in transitional shelters, not for permanent shelters. Even though, these constructions are sometimes used as frameworks to build a wattle and daub house. They allow to be upgraded.

CGI sheets are not only used for roofing but also as walling material. The longevity of this material is good compared to the other materials. But humidity and rusting can become grave issues.

STRUCTURE ROOF UNHCR STANDARD The UNHCR standard house has a well-defined roof structure described in “Guide Habitat 2010�. It is a gable shaped roof structure. It covers the entire house (5m x 7m) and has an angle of about 30 degrees. BI004 and BI005 are two examples of the UNHCR standard roof in practice.


See BI005


See BI004 The number of elements of the truss determines its strength and general resistance. Therefore it is very important that the truss should contain cross bracing elements. In reality the trusses differ in the number of elements from the UNHCR standard. For wood treatment in Burundi it is very common to use old motor oil. (for every wood, not only the roof structure) The three examples on the right are roof structures encountered in Burundi that demonstrate the problem of missing cross bracing. See BI001 The tie-downs are very important, especially in wind prone regions. Most tie-downs found were of steel wire, flat steel, attached stones or wood. The users especially added tie downs; often consisting of a stone fixed to a rope, attached to the roof.

See BI024

See BI011

The roof structure connection material is mostly nails and binding iron, poles, organic material, leaves and roofing nails.

BI009 See BI020

See BI016

See BI008

See BI003

See BI011

STRUCTURE & SKIN ROOF OTHER SHELTERS While organizational implemented shelters all follow the UNHCR standard for Burundi, some of the self built shelters vary in the roof form. Encountered roof structures were: gable-, dome-, tunnel-, shed-shaped and hipped roof.











Most roofs are covered with standard CGI sheets (BG32, zinc coated). The sheets are usually fixed with twisted shaft roofing nails. Other roofing materials are plastic sheets, organic material (thatch, banana or palm leaves), and tiles.

CGI sheets

Organic material

Clay tiles

See BI021 See BI012

See BI017 See BI014

See BI001

See BI006 See BI014

See BI023

See BI008

See BI012

SKIN WALL OPENINGS WINDOWS Most of the documented shelters have windows; others just have ventilation openings; and again others like some blindés or twa huts don’t have any openings. Window shutters are usually made of soft wood. During the mapping it wasn’t possible to identify the type of wood they were made of. The typical size of a window is 70x90cm. In most projects implemented by agencies the windows and doors are prefabricated and installed later on site.

See BI001

Lintels are usually made of timber (eucalyptus). As in the example of BI018, lintels often lack in height and are prone to bending under the weight of the masonry above.

See BI004

See BI006

See BI004

See BI009

See BI018

DOORS Doors are made of wood, or CGI Sheets and plastic sheets attached to a wooden frame. Doors typically measure 90x200 cm.

See BI025

See BI025


See BI012

See BI017

See BI021


See BI021

See BI009

Issues: Hinges and bolts differ greatly in quality, but more often than not are of lower quality or too small for the purpose.

See BI021

See BI011

See BI001 The function of ventilation openings or claustras is twofold: Allowing the wind in for cooling but also allowing the wind in to reduce the wind pressure on the roof hereby reducing the risk of the roof being torn away

EMERGENCY SHELTER The emergency phase is the initial period of a disaster during which the immediate priority of the affected population is to ensure survival through obtaining shelter, food and clean water. This phase also includes transit, where some of the affected population may be displaced and move away from their homes in search of safety in displacement options. The emergency phase may last a day or many weeks and even years, depending upon the circumstances. The emergency shelters constructed in Burundi have been built to be transit shelters for the populations who fled the civil wars in 1972 and 1994 and return either to Burundi or to their country of origin by travelling through Burundi. After crossing the border they are brought to the transit centres and depending on the issues, they stay overnight before travelling onward or they stay up to one month or even longer, until they find new land to build on or somewhere else to live. 3 Transit Centres were identified during our research.

BI003 Transit Centre Shelter This collective shelter is located about 5km north of Nyanza Lake town. It is close to the main road between Bujumbura and Nyanza Lake and close to Lake Tanganyika. The shelter is meant for returnees who don’t have access to land. They can stay here until they find a more permanent solution. For example; after this, a household can move to a reintegration village. WATSAN facilities were provided at the time of construction. At the moment there is no water and the latrines are out of service. Although officially closed, currently 7 households (about 32 people) still live here. The organization is planning to rebuild the shelter completely.


Transit Centre Shelter This collective shelter is 1 of 8 dormitories in this transit centre. The centre is located about 5 km south of Gitara, a small trading centre in Makamba province. It was meant as a temporary stay (about 1 week) for returnees. At the time some of them had to be expulsed from Tanzania. This transit centre was built in 2004. The organization has built a complete centre with dormitories, WATSAN facilities, and collective kitchens. It can house about 160 people.

BI019 Transit Centre Shelter This collective shelter is 1 of 14 dormitories in Songore returnee transit centre. The centre is about 25 km to the west of Muyinga town, in a rural area. This transit centre is meant for refugees that go back to their country of origin. They stay here overnight for one or more nights before continuing their journey. This transit centre was originally built in 1996, and has been renovated in 2011. The organization has built a complete centre with dormitories, WATSAN facilities, collective kitchens, poultry and livestock stables and a medical clinic. It can house about 500 people. The last time the transit centre was used was in February 2011

TRANSITIONAL SHELTER Transitional shelters can have a variety of different forms or stages. Traditional shelter theories give the following definitions (though labeling of shelters according to emergency, transitional or permanent remains difficult): Transitional shelter describes family shelter which provides a habitable covered living space and a secure, healthy living environment, with privacy and dignity, for both displaced or non-displaced occupants over the period between conflict or natural disaster and the completion of transitional reconstruction, that is intended to be relocated, upgraded, or dissembled for materials, and that may be supported as an assistance method. « Shelter which provides a habitable covered living space and a secure, healthy living environment, with privacy and dignity, for those within it, during the period between a conflict or a natural disaster and the achievement of a durable shelter solution. » (Corsellis and Vitale, 2005) During our research we identified 3 transitional shelters.

BI013 Self-built Blindé The shelter is located close to the Tanzanian border and about 25 km to the north of Muyinga town, in a rural area. This type of hut construction is quite common in Burundi and is used by people who have just settled somewhere. “Blindés are emergency dwellings, which for many people have become their permanent houses. The word blindé comes from the military term for “armored” and it refers to the tent-like houses that are covered with a plastic sheet from UNHCR, or just made of banana leaves” (NRC, 2006, see technical report).

BI007 CGI-Sheet temporary housing This complex is located in the south of Makamba province close to the Tanzanian border and 5km south of Gitara - a small trading centre. It is a so-called ‘centre d` hébergement temporaire’. On the plot are 10 of these buildings. Each building has 8 rooms and each room is meant for 1 household. In total 80 households (ca 400 people) can be housed here. The houses are meant for returnees who don’t have access to land. They can stay here until they find a more permanent solution. Although officially closed, currently 18 households (about 69 people) still live here.

BUR025 Plastic Sheet refugee Shelter In 2009 at least 2500 Congolese refugees were moved from Burundi’s central province of Mwaro to the eastern Ruyigi province in a move aimed at consolidating camps across the country. In May 2011 around 4700 refugees (most of them from the Banyamulenge ethnic group from Congo) lived in Bwagiriza. UNHCR and implementing partners have built circa 1300 shelters here. Each house stands on a plot of approximately 14 x 8 meters and has access to a shared latrine and shower. Currently the camp is being expanded to host up to 7320 persons.

PERMANENT SHELTER In permanent shelter, we identify the ‘final’ phase of living place and conditions, after implementing new living space due to a disaster or conflict related displacement. The term ‘permanent’ is more related to the user’s intention of long term settlement than to the longevity of the material. A permanent shelter is a place where people actually find a ‘home’, and retake pre-disaster activities of life.

See BI001

See BI023

See BI005

See BI004

See BI002

Most of the shelters recorded in the Burundi Mapping Experiment are permanent shelters. They have either been built by the users themselves or by implementing agencies and have been built with the purpose of creating a new living environment for the users. Those that have been built by NGO’s or agencies follow the UNHCR standard for refugee housing in Burundi. Those that have been built by the users themselves do not necessarily follow these criteria, either because of cultural preference (e.g. Twa-Hut), the inhabitant decided to build it differently through ancestral knowledge (e.g. the use of a hipped roof instead of a gable shaped roof) or because of economic reasons. BI009 and BI011 for instance do not differ from the UNHCR standard house for returnees. The only change that has been made was the room parceling.

This house owner decided to build his roof not gable shaped as the regular UNHCR Model but hip roofed. Upon asking him why he did this, he responded that it was an old habit and that it was good against wind. See BI012

This house is built of wattle and daub and without foundation. The house owner claims that he was in a hurry and would have preferred to have built it out of CGI Sheets but they were too expensive. See BI014

As already indicated, the Twa hut is dome shaped and built completely out of organic material. The whole construction is held together through a central pole. See BI017

UPGRADING TRANSITIONAL TO PERMANENT SHELTER Transitional shelters can be categorized into four transitional shelter types, depending on the modality of ‘transitioning’: Upgradable Reusable Re-sellable Recyclable Upgrading: While being inhabited, transitional shelter is improved over time to become a more long term shelter solution. This is achieved through maintenance, extension or by replacing original materials for more durable alternatives.

Process of upgrading Transitional shelters to permanent shelters Step 1 Planning and settling the camp for transitional shelter

Step 2 Erecting the wooden frame for the plastic sheet shelter

Step 3 Cladding of the walls with plastic sheets and the cladding of the roof with CGI sheets, the shelter is ready for use

Step 4 Removing the plastic sheet and using the wooden frame to erect wattle and daub walls

Step 5 Using the wattle and daub method to substitute all the plastic sheet walls

Step 6 Adding plaster to the wattle and daub walls

Step 7 Installing house sanitary facilities

Step 8 Upgrading the house by adding for example a shower or a floor.


Step 9 Expanding the basic two-room shelter by joining it to other constructions or building new rooms

For examples see BI015 & BI016, BI025 & BI026

Step 10 Using a part of the newly obtained space to ensure a permanent income source, for instance as restaurant.

ISSB ISSB means soil stabilized interlocking blocks. These are a special form of the known Stabilized Compressed Earth Blocks (SCEB). This technique was first used in South America. It consists of mixing earth with a stabilizing element like cement, lime or other and then pressing this earth into a form using a special press, in order to create regular blocks that are then dried and cured over a certain period of time and used in construction in the same way as normal blocks or bricks are used. The ISSB technology is a further development of this technology, producing blocks that can interlock and therefore need less mortar during construction because the blocks grip into one another. During the Burundi study, no shelters were documented using this technology and it seems that this technology is rarely used in the Burundian context. Nevertheless successful field studies have been carried out in Uganda, which is a similar context and presses exist in Burundi. The stability of the houses is improved through the regularity of the produced blocks and the adding of cement. The stabilization of the soil through the cement also increases the water resistance. All these improvements have a direct impact on the lifespan of such a house. For using the ISSB Technology a founding investment has to be done through buying a press.

RESTRAINTS TO THE USE OF ISSB: Even if 3 people can produce up to 600 blocks a day, they need at least 3 weeks training to learn to handle the machine. Additionally people need even more time to achieve the expertise necessary to reach a production level of 600 blocks a day. Either there have to be a group of experts following the press around and producing the bricks without involvement of the beneficiaries or the production time has to be expanded with one more month. The training is so important because the soil type has to be analyzed and the right mixing formula has to be calculated depending on each soil type. The cement found in Burundi is of varying quality and there is only one cement plant in the country barely satisfying the local demand. Cement is imported and expensive. This means that the cement must not only be bought but also transported to the different communities or sites where building takes place, which would result in higher expenditures on logistics and associated costs. The press has a weight of 140 kilos and has to be dismantled and transported to the different sites through all Burundi. The dismantling and assembly of the press again requires, expertise and transport means. This means that the logistic and financial effort needed would grow again. If blocks are produced by skilled workers, the contribution of the community could disappear. Through the lack of involvement by the beneficiaries during the construction process, the sense of ownership may be lost and the responsibility taken for the house is reduced. One way of solving the problem of the low community involvement is to implement « community contracting ». The increase of logistics, administrative work, time investment, financial means and controlling efforts related to the approach would raise the costs per house to a level that is quite unaffordable for the moment where other cheaper methods can be used instead. To render the ISSB method practicable in the reality thus, some thought and facilitation will be necessary. Some of the above highlighted issues count much less in densely populated areas than for a ‘colline’ setting for example. Another check that would have to be done is cost. If the application of ISSB technology is comparatively too expensive, it may be better to consider it for only foundation improvement rather than the whole house, or it can be made cheaper. For more information on the different interlocking block presses an the production process, consult:

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE STANDARD BLOCK HOUSE These recommendations are made in order to improve the shelters built according to the UNHCR standard. They are related to issues observed during collection of the data in the field.

STRUCTURE FOUNDATION In regard to flood resistance it is very important to have a good foundation. Plastering the foundation to prevent dampness weakening the walls is only effective if the foundation is made of stones or baked bricks and mortared with a sand/cement mixture. Otherwise the plaster will capture the humidity inside the foundation. Even if some sites are not exposed to flood risks, the dampness emanating from the ground, weakens the stability of the wall. ROOFTRUSS If gable shaped, the angle should be 30째 and the truss should have the structure recommended by the UNHCR Habitat Guide. Most important in this regard are the cross bracings, namely that they should not be left out, even if the number differs The truss may not be placed above windows or doors. Each truss has to be tied down with binding iron or metal straps and has to be fixed to the truss with nails. Trusses placed attached to the outer wall have little structural purpose (if at least the roof is attached to the walls). All these measures should increase the wind resistance. The use of hipped roofs for a better wind resistance must also be considered. BLOCKS If the load bearing walls are made of manufactured adobe blocks, they have to be regular and not contain impurities such as pebbles. All impurities and irregularities diminish the stability of the load bearing walls. The masonry also has to be regular, and the walls have to be finished up to roof level. SKIN ROOF CLADDING CGI sheets need to be fixed properly to the roof structure elements. SITE PLAN If a kitchen is provided for the beneficiary it should be placed outside, Outside kitchens are more hygienic and do not bring smoke into the living/sleeping room, knowing that respiratory diseases are the second source of death for children under 5 in Burundi. If there is an inside kitchen, there have to be ventilation holes, and no cracks should be visible around these. The planks of the doors and windows should be fixed very tight and no spaces should be visible between the planks. Cross bracing has to be fixed. Hinges and bolts of the doors and windows have to fit the purpose. Lintels above door and window openings have to be strong enough to hold up the structure above.

Conclusions Three main conclusions are possible in the Burundian context, out of this documentation and analysis word; regarding the standard house design implemented by the UNHCR; the possibility of upgrading; and the use of ISSB as new technology. The fourth conclusion is more a hypothesis about the way forward than an actual conclusion.

THE STANDARD UNHCR HOUSE DESIGN House design for shelter assistance in Burundi is highly standardized, especially for the returnee assistance. Most agencies use the design as specified in the Habitat Guide 2010. Also, most of these houses are built with the same building techniques, i.e. with sun dried adobe blocks. Small differences in design and material usage exist throughout the country. Agencies also sometimes opt for use of other materials (e.g. BI002 with fired clay bricks as walling material). It seems that in the North the diversity of used building materials is bigger. The standard design for returnee housing ties in well with the local building practices and seems to be well accepted among local communities with regards to size, layout and used materials. On the other hand it also seems that local people construct their houses in wattle and daub, more likely. This may be related to only cost, to maintenance, self-built, tradition or a combination of those. Note that using different techniques and creating different shelter solutions for different settlement options could be considered. However, at the moment the standard design is broadly accepted. By creating diversity among housing solutions, one might create differences in standard and that might in turn result in grievances between communities.

HAZARD RESISTANCE With regards to hazard resistance, more diversity in technical design could result in more appropriate construction adjusted to local circumstances. In wind prone areas a hipped roof could be constructed and maybe more tie downs are needed. In flood prone areas a stronger foundation could be the answer. Returning technical problems observed are mainly focused around the foundation, the roof structure and the quality of adobe blocks. Future research for product development ideally focuses on those areas.

THE PROCESS OF UPGRADING For most settlement types the same standard design is used. Most houses that are meant for permanent occupation follow this design. The house design in camps differs from houses for returnees. For example the design is slightly smaller and instead of adobe blocks, a wooden frame is erected and clad with plastic sheets (see BI025). This shelter design is quite ingenious as it allows for easy upgrading into a house that would be considered as permanent construction (see BI026). In transitional shelters, one way of thinking about improvement is the considerations of upgrading transitional shelters to permanent shelters. We have evidence for that upgrading process in Burundi. See BI015 and BI016, or BI025 and BI026.

THE ISSB TECHNOLOGY Depending on the type of settlement option technical and logistical requirements differ. The supply of building materials to houses dispersed in the hills is much more complicated than for houses in the peace villages. Lightweight materials would be ideal for construction in the hills. On the other hand, in peace villages a more industrialized approach, resulting in slightly more durable houses, may be a good idea. For example soil stabilized blocks might be a good technology to look at in this context. The use of ISSB as it has been done in Uganda could represent a way of assuring a better quality of buildings. Through stabilizing the earth with cement and making the blocks uniform, the stability of the load bearing walls can be impressively increased. The better resistance against floods and water in general is another positive aspect of this building material. ISSB Blocks can be produced the whole year round while adobe blocks are only producible during the dry season. For better flood resistance of the foundation, considerations can be made towards using the ISSB method only for the foundation. Through community contracting an independent way of work within the communities could be achieved. However, the financial and administrative effort that has to be done in that way is too high for that purpose. There are still a lot of restraints and technical requirements that make this technology unusable in actuality, but further research and new production method can make this technology affordable and usable in the future. For further information on the ISSB method please consult the ISSB Sheet of the publication.

FUTURE PERSPECTIVES As the country moves from post-conflict to a development phase, the period of mass production of houses for returnees may soon come to an end. Shelter assistance in such a transition phase could be geared more towards skills dissemination and supporting sustainable building materials production, instead of direct provision of houses. Shelter approaches like owner driven housing or cash-for-shelter could be adopted in this changing reality. Specifically, a greater focus on livelihood strategies and income generating activities related to the construction industry would be welcome. It seems that the conditions for such approaches, as the presence of a functional building materials market and construction skills among local communities are right in Burundi at the moment. Further research into the feasibility of these approaches is needed.

LITERATURE BURUNDI SHELTER SECTOR ASSESSMENT Agency for international development-office of housing August 1983







How buildings learn - What happens after they're built Stewart Brand Phoenix Illustrated 1997

IFRC PLAN 2009-2010: BURUNDI IFRC 2009








STANDARDS ET ENVIRONNEMENT 2007 UNHCR Burundi/Réintégration-Bureau de Construction Edition 2007

STRATEGIE NATIONALE DE REINTEGRATION SOCIO-ECONOMIQUE DES PERSONNES AFFECTEES PAR LE CONFLIT Ministère de la Solidarité Nationale, du Rapatriement des Réfugiés et de la Réintégration Sociale Mai 2010



IFRC SRU Shelter Solutions Burundi - 1  
IFRC SRU Shelter Solutions Burundi - 1  

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