Sanjana Paramahans
A full-scale prototype of Sanjana Paramahans refugee shelter.

NEW YORK (Diya TV) — Indian designer Sanjana Paramhans has developed an emergency shelter for refugees that can be assembled in less than an hour, and provide housing to those using it for months at a time.

Paramhans, who graduated from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn with a degree in interior designing, created the prototype while working on her undergrad thesis last year.

The structure of the shelter is made from fiberglass-reinforced gypsum, which contributes greatly to it being ultra-lightweight, while at the same time not compromising its structural reliability. It can also be easily packaged and shipped. Paramhans, who was born in Lucknow, India, said her design offers “a sanctuary for those who are temporarily displaced.”

“It is an emergency shelter, for refugees to settle in before the legalities take place,” she said.“Although it is intended to last a few days, sometimes the refugee settlement processes can take months, leaving the refugees in extremely temporary dwellings. My idea was to design a shelter that will provide comfort to refugees while they wait for permanent resettlement.”

The shelter’s bed can also be converted into a chair, and it also has storage space, too. “To enforce permanency, I tried to pay attention to privacy, not only for the inhabitants, but also their goods,” she said.

Paramhans works at the UK-based Smallbone of Devizes, a firm that specializes in providing high-end interior decorating. She said she was inspired after being “deeply affected by the situation and conditions of the refugees” and “really wanted to do something in my power” to help them out.

“I first thought of donating money, but I felt like I wanted to do more than that,” she said. “I wanted to use my knowledge and skills to design a solution that would be more permanent than simply donating money.”

She said the structure can be constructed in less than an hour, and without the aid of power tools. Asked whether she intends to patent the invention, Paramahans said she hadn’t thought about it, “But I think it is the direction I want to head in, and seems like the next step.”

“I would love to collaborate with an NGO and push this design forward, and try to reach it out to as many people in need as possible,” she said.

Deborah Scheniderman, Paramahans’ thesis adviser, said her student’s emergency shelter is an example for how design can be used as “an enabler of social change.”

“I think what is so great about this initiative is that Sanjana has shown us that, Innovation and Design can be used to solve some of the most trivial as well as life and death problems of the world,” Scheniderman, a professor of Interior Design in the School of Design at Pratt Institute, said via email. “Design stimulates people to behave a function a certain way — it can condition and control their actions and reactions. Design is not just pretty lights and wallpapers, it is an enabler of social change.”