Lebanon: innovation to help Syrian refugees

Published on Tuesday 12 September 2017

Milan Kieffer, 24, student at Strate design school (France) has just returned from Lebanon where he set up an insulation project developed in partnership with SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL and VINCI. The issue was to develop a response to the refugees’ thermal comfort. Lebanon welcomed more than 1.5 million refugees, 15% of which are living in more than 4,000 informal camps.


Could you describe your project and its benefits?

We wanted to develop the thermal insulation of shelters. We used wood, cork and bubble wrap to put up a wall on which we installed greenhouses. Far from replacing kerosene lamps, our project helps to keep the heat in the shelter during winter and to preserve freshness generated by plants during summer. We made the comparison between a shelter with our concept and a usual shelter. The highest temperature is the same but in the basic shelter it is only a peak while the shelter keeps the heat much longer with our concept.

Moving from theory to practice must have been a challenge?

Of course. During the first six months we were in contact with the field team. We would update them on our progress and they would explain what was achievable and what was not. This exchange of information was crucial as we planned our project according to refugees’ participation. We wanted them to be able to reproduce the prototype by themselves, from beginning to end. We only worked with materials available locally (cork, polystyrene…). Even so we had complications. For instance in Arka 101 camp, we had planned to saw PVC pipes manually. It did not work. We had to call someone to do it externally. Lora Vicariot the Field Coordinator from SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL really helped me all along the project.

Did you achieve your objectives?

I did not stay long enough to report that our program will be efficient in the long run. However, we provide 44 families (220 people in total) with greenhouses. I trust the refugees to implement the project and expand it. We gave them thermometers and calendars to measure the temperature every hour. They would then be able to say which component to use, either cork or polystyrene.
In one of the camps, the community representative, the Shawish, did a great job. He did not wait to implement the project and try to improve it in any way. He had a lot of ideas and even replaced some materials to end up with greenhouses that are more convenient, more specific to the camp. I trust that kind of people to expand on the project and exceed the target.

What was the most powerful moment of your experience?

It was not a moment, it was a relationship with the three co-workers I was working with on the ground: Icham, Mustafa and Markmoud. We worked tirelessly, shared a lot even though we could not understand each other. That was a wonderful experience.



  • 5.5 million inhabitants
  • 28,6% poverty rate
  • 72nd out of 188 on the Human Development Index
  • 75,000 people helped