Last week, it was paint-on solar. Now another high-potential U of Toronto student effort: a blueprint for a deployable disaster relief system using standard shipping containers.
Michael Donaldson's thesis describes how field hospitals, workshops, shelters, schools, barracks, security units and even offices can be packed into the standardized containers. As he says, I was looking at something that can help with the re-building of social infrastructure such as hospitals and schools after war or disaster...There needs to be something that takes over after disaster response teams such as the UN or military leave which is typically about 30 days.
We've previously covered the use in developing nations of shipping containers as residential and commercial building modules, and Cameron Sinclair points out this great resource with many examples of shipping container architecture.
There are certainly drawbacks to the use of shipping containers in this way -- they are rarely made with local materials or expertise, for example -- but this is another small response to the challenge to use all our engineering experience to build large-scale 21st century rapid reaction forces for disasters and refugee crises. Given sustained vision and funding, it would not be unrealistic to extrapolate these and similar efforts into a positive answer for Alex's question: What if relief and reconstruction efforts aimed not just to save, but to improve the lives of the victims of [disasters]?