Clever structures


“Bamboo or steel frame, the ReciproBoo Shelter Kit (RSK) is the only shelter in the world to use a self-supporting reciprocal frame roof.

This simple innovation, with 4 overlapping poles at its centre, results in a shelter that has exceptional strength and versatility for disaster relief. It is also the most efficient means of spanning a roof, using 33% less steel or bamboo and costing one sixth that of a conventional relief tent.”

A reciprocal frame is a simple structural system which has been used to by Reciproboo to supplement the basic emergency shelter kits of tarpaulins, rope and fixings already widely distributed in emergencies.


It should be noted that where funding is available and people cannot supply their own framing materials it is already common to provide wooden poles or other framing materials with these kits, but to procure them locally. The DFID kit has the option of supplying telescopic metal poles, but this is typically only done where framing materials are not locally available.

The reciproboo is a perfectly acceptable way of framing a makeshift shelter, but as with any other frame requires instruction for people to build a strong shelter with it. In emergencies it is normally this, and the ability and resources of the affected people, that determines the quality of the shelters. Both pictures below show makeshift shelters built with typical shelter kits. The ones on the left had intensive support on how to build a strong shelter, with bamboo provided. The ones on the right did not, so people used their own framing materials with the plastic sheeting. Providing support on building shelters, and providing framing materials is a good idea. It is not always possible, especially at the early stages.

Reciproboo seems to have identified a real problem with emergency shelter kits, but I’m not sure the solution is a clever structure rather than providing locally appropriate framing materials with better information and support for recipients.


Makeshift shelters in a small camp in Nepal following flooding in 2014


Makeshift shelters by the road in Nepal following the earthquake in 2015