Michelle Young

Questions and answers:

  1. What inspired you to take up this course?
  2. I wanted to have a break from commercial architecture but also engage myself in a challenge. I needed to discover other ways that an architect's skills can be used usefully in a different sector. The course was recommended to me by a former university friend, who has successfully managed a career in the humanitarian sector, having started as an architect. However, the SAD or indeed the CENDEP course is not specifically aimed at architects, which also had an influence on my choice.

  3. Do you think that currently, architects do enough to protect from disaster?
  4. Generally where architects or built environment professionals are employed, the hazards encountered within the locality of the project are encompassed within their designs. When buildings are built without the expertise of architects, engineers or indeed adherence to a national building code, then buildings can be prone to the effects of hazards such as floods, eathquakes and landslides. However, protection from disaster includes more than just technical mitigation, it also needs to involve communities in understanding the risks they face and involving them in processes that ensure they understand where to go and what to do when a specific disaster strikes.

  5. What effect do you hope that it will have on architects working in a changing climate?
  6. As stated earlier the SAD course is not specifically targeting architects but what the course will provide is an overview of the issues facing the sector and grounding in the strategic policies governing shelter provision. The practical aspects of providing shelter after disaster are also included in the form of workshops and guidance on the role of the 'shelter practitioner'.

  7. With the climate in constant change, what do you see in our future of building and shelter?
  8. In response to climate changes and rapid urbanisation what needs to be included in any emergency shelter programme is the assurance of 'building back better'. Essentially insuring that anything built after disaster is built with the participation of the local population, with materials that are locally sourced and fit for purpose, and that all hazards encountered in the locality have been properly considered.

  9. Many people have discussed the 'complexities' of shelter, explain what you mean by this.
  10. The complexities are born out of a number of issues. We are witnessing, globally, an increase in urban disasters, a consequence of increased urbanisation, caused by rural to urban migration and increasing population in the cities of low to middle income nations of the world. In an urban environment shelter provision becomes even more problematic. Land ownership issues and property rights can be obstacles to providing rapid shelter solutions to disaster-affected populations. Timescales imposed by media and donors can also further complicate solutions. Governments can lack formal procedures and records that could otherwise smooth the path to effective provision.

  11. What is one of the main things that you hope this course will teach?
  12. An understanding of the practical approaches available through case studies and the experience of invited experts in the field, as well as a realistic view of the difficulties and issues faced by emergency relief and recovery teams.

This interview was published in the July 2011 issue of Architects Choice Magazine 32-33

Michelle Young

Michelle studied PGCert Shelter after Disaster with the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP) in the School of Architecture

I wanted to have a break from commercial architecture but also engage myself in a challenge. I needed to discover other ways that an architect's skills can be used usefully in a different sector.