Made at UCL


Greener homeless shelters

Students from UCL Engineering Exchange worked with the Salvation Army in Ilford to deliver green infrastructure into a popup homeless shelter design.

Greener homeless shelters

The Salvation Army in Ilford have provided shelter to local rough sleepers during the colder months for several years, but the same individuals return each year. This inspired them to start Project Malachi, a temporary housing scheme which involves constructing an apartment complex from disused shipping containers, and aims to be modular, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly.

UCL Engineering Exchange (EngEx) is a group that helps Londoners improve their communities by using academic research. Together with Salvation Army volunteers, they identified potential benefits of incorporating green infrastructure principles into the design of pop-up homeless shelters, including improving resource efficiency, reducing environmental impacts and increasing public support for the project. The research led to four main proposals for the project involving a rainwater harvesting system, insulation materials, energy efficiency using smart meters, and waste management.

Following this, Dr Manni Bhatti (UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering) supervised three teams of MSc students to meet the brief.

The first team, in 2018, assessed the feasibility of various design options, including waste management; grey water capture and recycling; solar energy; passive heat; and roof gardens. 

Building on their work, and with feedback from Salvation Army representatives, one of this year’s teams worked to improve design feasibility and cost efficiency and a second team assessed how the model could be adopted internationally.

The project is on-going and further shelters are planned following funding from Redbridge Borough Council and development of the shelter design.

Once all 55 the units are ready the occupants will be encouraged to help install the green systems themselves. It is hoped that by doing so they will not only learn how to maintain the systems but learn new skills and see the benefits first hand of lifestyle and behavior change – giving them a stable platform for the transition into more permanent housing and work.

Meet the minds behind this discovery at the It's All Academic Festival on 5 October.



  • Credit/Source: UCL Engineering Exchange