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Last edited 24 Nov 2020
Very broadly, shelters provide physical protection from something that is potentially harmful.
Remains have been found of simple structures constructed from animal skins draped between sticks dating back over 40,000 years, and it is likely these were the first type of shelter constructed by humans.
Simple tents suited a nomadic lifestyle. Lightweight and easy to carry, they could be moved from place to place in harsh environments where it was necessary to keep on the move to stay alive. Where resources were more plentiful, it was possible to settle down and build permanent shelters in the form of huts. In intermediate environments, a whole range of composite structures developed, part tent, part hut, most notably the Yurt, a demountable hut, still in use in places such as Mongolia today.
This combination of a fundamental requirement for shelter, moderated by practicality and resource availability, still drives the design of our buildings today, and can be seen in as varied typologies as the Troglodytic architecture of sculptured hillside landscapes in Morocco, to the Eskimos’ igloos, to Malaysian tree-dwelling, African courtyard houses, and the English thatched cottage.
Very broadly shelters might be required to provide:
- Cover from the sun, rain, wind, snow and so on.
- Control of temperature, air movement, humidity, air quality, noise and so on.
- A status symbol.
- A meeting point.
- Permanent or temporary accommodation.
 Other types of shelter
|A bothy in the Scottish Highlands.|
- Air-raid shelter: used for protecting civilian and military personal from bomb attacks. They may be improvised from existing structures eg, London Underground tunnels or be specially designed.
- Animal shelter: provides a home (usually temporary) for abandoned or lost animals.
- Bivouac shelter (British: ‘bivvy’ for short): this is usually a temporary shelter of any lightweight construction used by mountain climbers or scouters. They may construct a bivouac shelter from branches and leaves. A bivouac sack often used by mountaineers and army personnel is a small, lightweight, waterproof bivouac shelter that may comprise a simple covering over a sleeping bag and can fit easily into a backpack.
- Blast shelter: provides protection from blasts and explosions from weapons.
- Bothy: a small shelter that has been restored from a ruinous condition to provide basic, temporary accommodation to passers-by, such as hill walkers. Usually unlocked, they are typically made of stone, have a pitched roof and are particularly common in the Scottish Highlands and other upland areas of the UK.
- Bus shelter: provides protection from wind and rain while awaiting the arrival of a bus.
- Canopy: An overhead roof structure that has open sides. Canopies are typically intended to provide shelter from the rain or sun, but may also be used for decorative purposes, or to give emphasis to a route or part of a building.
- Emergency shelter: provides temporary shelter for people when their homes have been partially or permanently affected by various phenomena including floods, earthquake, explosions, avalanches, social unrest, war and so on.
- Fallout shelter: provides protection from radiation such as that which might occur as a result of nuclear explosions or nuclear accidents.
- Homeless shelter: provides a temporary bed and washing facilities to those who might otherwise have to sleep on the streets.
- Refuge: a special cabin used in underground construction into which workers may retreat in the event of an emergency, eg a gas leak or rock fall, where they remain until help arrives. Refuges are usually stocked with oxygen, water and other basic provisions.
- Rock shelters: natural formations in cliffs where softer rock has been eroded over time to form a type of cave that may provide shelter from the elements.
- Ramada: a shelter with roof and no walls that is constructed from branches or bushes for the sole purpose of providing solar protection. Ramadas may be temporary or permanent and are found mainly in the southwestern USA. Modern varieties may also be built with commercially available construction materials.
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