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Sussex student invents rapid deployment shelter for disaster-hit communities

Kerem Yilmaz with a scaled-down version of his rapid deployment shelter that will help people in disaster-affected areas.

A University of Sussex student who lived through a destructive earthquake has invented a lightweight shelter for people made homeless by war or natural disaster.

Kerem Yilmaz’s Rapid Deployment Shelter was displayed alongside other student inventions at the University’s Design Show last week (14-17 April).

Kerem, a final-year Product Design student, was woken up in the middle of the night by an earthquake that rocked his family’s home in Turkey in 1999.

He described holding his father’s hand and praying as the earthquake, which resulted in a death toll of over 17,000, shook the apartment where he was staying in the city of Düzce. 

“We stood by the door and it felt like the ground was bubbling”, he remembers. “We were on the third floor of the apartment block, and I said to my dad, ‘This is the end.’  I closed my eyes and waited to die.”

Kerem and his relatives survived the earthquake, yet four of his uncles had their homes destroyed; overall, around half a million people were made homeless as a result of the quake in northern Turkey. 

Kerem’s design aims to solve several problems with the shelters used to house people who have been displaced by war or by natural disasters like the one he experienced.

He explains: “Most shelters need five people to erect them and take around two hours to put up, while my design can be put up by one person in 10 minutes.

“A lot of shelters come with written instructions, which can create language barriers for people who come to a country to help after a disaster.  My shelter comes with pictures instead of written instructions, to remove these barriers.”

Kerem has also come up with a novel way of helping emergency workers find people in need of medical treatment: “There is a solar-powered recovery light on top of my shelter that can be activated by pulling a cord. 

“This makes it easy to see who needs help, even in a camp with 10,000 shelters.”


Notes for editors

For information and photographs, contact the University of Sussex Press Office, Ben Steele or Jacqui Bealing.  Tel: 01273 678888, email:

Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Thursday, 30 April 2015


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