Bringing Warmth: How a Floor Can Change a Home

Part 2, Winterization. See part one of this series for the impact of flooring on shelter WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) .

Millions of refugees and displaced people in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey face cold, harsh winters. They are living in tarpaulin tents and abandoned old buildings without the luxury of switching on the heat when the weather turns cold.

What’s the best way to keep a tent warm in the winter? Current methods primarily include issuing more blankets, insulating two or more walls, and providing a diesel stove. These definitely help but another critical element is still lacking: flooring. If you’ve ever been camping in the winter, you know that the best way to keep warm when sleeping on the ground is…to not sleep on the ground! When our bodies come in contact with the cold, bare ground, a large amount of body heat is lost due to conduction. Flooring serves as a thermal break between our bodies and the ground and has a significant impact in maintaining a safe internal temperature. However, consideration of flooring in keeping shelters warm (called “winterization”) has been largely overlooked and is not included in standard winterization kits, and the common addition of a thin rug or tarp on the floor does not provide a thermal barrier.

In response to this need, Every Shelter’s founders designed a lightweight, insulated modular flooring system called Emergency Floor. It is specially engineered to insulate against conductive heat lost to the ground. All other factors being equal, a shelter with Emergency Floor will stay at least 5-7°F warmer and use 19.29% less fuel to maintain the same inside temperature. This impact is not only for the millions of people living in tents and camps. For the even greater numbers of  displaced people who wind up in urban settings, our floors can help insulate the sub-par abandoned concrete buildings often used as refuge. Emergency Floor can have a great impact on making the home warm and comfortable where traditional methods have little effect.

We worked with USAID, UNHCR, and GVC-Italia to provide flooring to two camps in northern Lebanon in 2016. After a four-month winter with Emergency Floor, 54% of people reported better health and 89% reported better sleep quality due to comfort and warmth. We’ve continued to follow up with families who received the floors, and even now–two years later–they are happier and healthier! Word is spreading around the camps that have not yet received the floors, and people are asking for them!

This [Emergency Floor] is better than concrete. I have concrete in my tent and it is not comfortable. This material is softer and more comfortable. We are comfortable.

We believe providing an insulated floor, like Emergency Floor, is essential to providing adequate shelter in cold climates and should be a standard aspect of winterization efforts.

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