Challenge 3

Protecting the most vulnerable from extreme heat in refugee camps and temporary shelters

Climate change is changing weather patterns, bringing more extreme weather events that push people, and the infrastructure we rely on, to the limits of our ability to cope and survive. 


Climate change
continues to warm the planet

Record breaking high temperatures and dangerous heat waves in recent years have resulted in a rapid increase in heat related deaths, and extreme heat events are becoming more frequent, more intense and longer lasting as climate change continues to warm the planet.

Temporary settlements offer shelter to internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees. Many are in areas that expect to see significant increases in the occurrence of deadly heat waves over the next decade. This is particularly problematic where extreme heat and high humidity are combined.

Currently, the materials used for temporary shelters often increase the temperatures inside these shelters on hot days. This can make the shelters dangerous during heat waves, particularly for people who for physical or cultural reasons find it difficult to leave the shelter. In addition, settlement design, which often fails to incorporate shade or green spaces, can exacerbate these effects.


Communal buildings are particularly high risk. Schools and clinics are where large numbers of people who are particularly vulnerable to heat congregate, for example the elderly and newborn babies are less able to self regulate their body temperature and are at risk of fatality in these extreme heat conditions. How can IDP and refugee settlements, and the buildings / temporary shelters within them, be better designed to protect people from extreme heat events, in particular those most vulnerable.

Make sure your design is consistent with the theme of World Engineering Day 2024: Engineering Solutions for a Sustainable World.


Development Goals

This year, the Hackathon is primarily focused on UN SDG 13: 

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

This particular challenge also connects with UN SDG 11:

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Participants may nominate additional SDGs that are addressed as part of their solution, including but not limited to, for example:

SDG 3 - Good Health and Wellbeing

SDG 5 - Gender Equality

SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation

SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Record-breaking high temperature

Analysis has found that about half the world’s population has seen record-breaking high temperatures for their location at some point over the past decade resulting in significant human impact. For example, in 2023, more than 70,000 people died as a result of high temperatures across Europe. Global temperatures are predicted to surge to record levels in the next five years and one of the next five years will become the hottest on record

learn more

Displaced People Background

At the end of 2022, 108.4 million people worldwide were considered forcibly displaced; this number includes refugees, internally displaced people, asylum seekers, and other people in need of international protection. In other words, more than 1 person in every 74 people on planet Earth had to leave their home as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations and events seriously disturbing public order. 40% of them are children. New and ongoing conflicts continue to force people to flee, and climate change is projected to force an additional 216 million people to move by 2050. Climate related migration is projected to start as early as 2030, with people migrating from areas with low water availability and crop productivity, and from areas affected by sea-level rise and storm surges

Internally displaced people (those who move within their own countries) constitute 58% of the forcibly displaced population globally, and 70% of refugees stay as close to their home country as possible, waiting in neighbouring countries.

These mass influxes of population often result in a proliferation of temporary settlements to meet basic needs, but they are uniquely dangerous environments for extreme-heat impacts. They are often densely populated, located on marginal land with limited fresh water, shading and other natural features that can mitigate extreme temperatures. Whilst international guidelines, such as the Sphere standards, stipulate the use of locally available materials that would normally be used by the local host population and likely be adapted to local heat conditions, plastic sheeting is the most often deployed shelter material. The people in camp settings will also use coping mechanisms such as cutting down trees for fuel, which can further expose them to extreme heat risks.


These temporary settlements are not intended to provide permanent solutions but often remain for years, and in some cases decades. For example Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya primarily hosts Somali refugees, most of whom arrived in 1991 after fleeing Somalia’s civil war. A recent study of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows camp settings are concentrated in areas of severe projected future increases in days of extremely high temperatures, including in sub-Saharan Africa, and West and South Asia.

Examples in practice

Tackling this
issue effectively

Improving conditions in temporary settlements to cope with extreme heat events will result in saving countless lives as people will continue to rely on these places across the spectrum of life, from birth through to old age. Tackling this issue is about protecting human dignity in the most vulnerable of situations where resources, in particular funding, are highly constrained.

  • Early warning systems and heat action plans.


  • Use of green and blue spaces to combat heat.


  • Thermally appropriate shelters.


  • Green roofs.


  • Cooling centres, and mobile cooling centres, in particular for vulnerable groups such as the very young and the very old.


  • Cooling solutions for the extremely vulnerable, such as neonatal and maternity wards.


  • Sustainable and deployable clean and low cost energy.


  • Sustainable, low cost water and sanitation systems.


  • Sustainable food preservation systems.


  • Sustainable systems for storage of medicines and critical supplies.


  • Sustainable transport and supply chain systems.


  • Innovations in the deployment of medical diagnostic and other services.


  • Innovative telecommunication services.

Learn more about SDG 13

Climate Action

Human activity over the last 200 years has led to a current temperature rise of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. This has led to more frequent and hazardous weather events that have caused increasing destruction to people and the planet. Every additional increment in temperature rise will result in more extreme, and more frequent weather events, putting humanity’s future on planet Earth at risk.

There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to change this outlook. The latest UN assessment indicates that to keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C – as called for in 2015 in the Paris Agreement – emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Our actions in the next decade will determine whether this will be achieved, or whether we are headed towards a future climate that is incompatible with liveable and sustainable planetary conditions for all

Significant urgent action is therefore needed across all sectors, in all countries, and at all levels of society. Projected CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure alone will exceed the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C. Therefore, we have to immediately reduce carbon emissions, work towards net zero, and accelerate the transition to alternative energy sources. Simultaneously we have to develop and implement effective resilient adaptation measures for people and communities already impacted by climate change.


Engineers from all disciplines are at the forefront of bringing this vision to life, providing the practical means by which humanity has a chance to survive and offer everyone the opportunity to thrive.


Be part of this call to action and shape a brighter future for everyone.

ready to submit?

Submission Steps

Submissions are due by November 26th 2023 (midnight CET)

You and your team will need to:


Register on the submissions portal


Submission is a 5-min video presenting your solution, along with a short-written element, detailing elements of your entry. English subtitles are required, including for a video in English.


Video file must be MP4. Note – If you need to compress or convert your file you can use Handbrake


We would like to thank our esteemed partners in this Hackathon: Dr Marlene Kanga, Théophane Bélaud, Jacques de Mereuil, Ivan Juiz of WFEO. Indira Ashwini of UNESCO. Katie Cresswell-Maynard of Engineers Without Borders. Firas N Bou Diab of WFEO Young Engineers/Future Leaders. Tennille Scicluna and Adrian Rivera de Domingo of The Big Creative! 

Submission Guidelines

This guideline has been designed to support the development of an engineering solution that demonstrates a considered response to one of the engineering challenges and also how one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are advanced through engineering.

The success of an engineering project depends on much more than just the technical feasibility of the initial concept but also consideration of human factors, environmental context, cost and economic benefits, etc., are very important to the successful implementation of any innovative and ‘technically-sound’ idea.


Below are a series of considerations we recommend you factor into your solution to ensure it is appropriate to the context where it is to be implemented. You might ask yourself these questions a few times throughout the development process – it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers right away! How can you build on your original idea, to improve it each time?


Most effective technical solution for the context


  • Is the technical solution the most appropriate and effective for this context? Take the time to show what alternatives were considered and why you are proposing this solution as the most appropriate. What was the process you went through to determine this idea was the best one? How have you demonstrated the technical feasibility of this solution?


  • How might you construct and/or implement the project? Is your solution one that considers local capacity for ongoing management, repair, and maintenance? As much as possible, does your solution or system proposal align with locally available expertise?


Environmental sustainability outcomes


  • What Sustainable Development Goal does your solution idea contribute to? How? Are there any relevant indicators that might be useful to incorporate into your submission? Have you considered the carbon footprint of your proposed product or system?


  • What impacts, both positive and negative, will your solution have on the local environment? What measures would you propose be put in place to mitigate any negative impacts?


  • Consider the long-term sustainability of your project proposal. What is the life-cycle of your project or solution? What measures could be put in place to ensure either successful continuation into the future or a successful end-of-life process?


  • Have you considered the use of locally available materials that are contextually-appropriate and environmentally-friendly wherever possible? Transportation of project materials and availability of materials which might be required for future maintenance are a significant consideration for projects in many locations. Where might your proposed materials be sourced from?


  • Have you considered the resiliency of your solution to climate change and disasters?


Engagement of key stakeholders


  • Who are the individuals, organisations, or networks who might be impacted (positively or negatively) by your idea? What might these impacts be? Now think again, is there anyone you haven’t included?


  • How would you propose a project implementing team engage and consult these stakeholders throughout the project? Think about the initial solution right through to implementation. What avenues are there for community members to become involved? What form(s) of community engagement might be required for your particular solution?


Are there any ethical considerations – such as adverse impacts to the environment, economy, social inclusion, culture, community, resource use, that warrant consideration?


  • Incorporation of cultural and social factors, specifically the integration of indigenous knowledge or practices


  • Does your solution align with and/or celebrate the cultural and social practices of people who live and work in your project context?


  • If relevant to your proposal area, what might Indigenous-led solution look like?


How has your team utilised digital tools, for example to develop models of your proposed solution as part of the solution. Also how the team has utilised ICT in the process of putting forward your submission.


Cost estimates and economic and non-economic benefits


  • What is an estimated cost of the project? Think about the ‘capital expenditure’ (initial cost to start) and ‘operational expenditure’ (ongoing costs over time), which might include materials, implementation costs, operation/program delivery costs, and maintenance costs. What trade-offs might you be making in your cost assumptions? 


  • Are there are any potential economic and non-economic benefits to community stakeholders which could result from the project?

Based on the International Engineering Alliance Global Graduate Attribute and Professional Competencies Profiles. 


Considering the proposal presented to you, evaluate whether the submission demonstrates the following engineering competencies.


  • 1 Application of Engineering Knowledge for problem analysis and development of a solution:  The extent to which the team has used its engineering knowledge and skill in developing a solution and the thoroughness with which the problem has been researched and analysed.


  • 2 Investigation, research, Design/ development and testing of solutions: The extent of experimentation applied in developing a unique and innovative solution, which also uses new and emerging technologies and ideas.


  • 3 Extent of use of digital tools and new technologies: The extent to which digital tools such as computer modelling, Computer Aided Design and Drawing, 3D printing etc. have been used to design, develop and demonstrate the solution


  • 4 Contribution to UN SDGs and Consideration of broad ethical issues: The extent to which the solution advances one or more of the UN SDGs and addresses broad ethical issues in terms of impact on the environment, different sections of society and the economy and how these have been addressed, by mitigating adverse impacts and enhancing positive impacts.


  • 5 Successful Collaborative, Team work project management and Communication of the final solution The extent to which the team has collaborated successfully and the success of communication of the challenge and the solution developed, successful project management, financial analysis of the feasibility of implementing the solution and plans for its further development.


Graduate Attributes that are addressed in the solution, referencing the International Engineering Alliance Graduate Attribute and Professional Competency (GAPC) Framework

Maximum Score per Category 4

Score: 0 – Not Addressed

Score: 1 – Limited attempt to address

Score: 2 – Some success in addressing the various elements

Score: 3 – Good attempt to address the element

Score: 4 – Addressed very effectively

In 2024, the hackathon has a single submission round. Participants will have the opportunity to make their official submission within 2 weeks of the Hackathon Challenge announcement.

Submission is a 5-min video presenting their solution, along with a short-written element, detailing elements of their entry.

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Hackathon Challenges

Explore the Hackathon challenges. Teams must select a challenge. Click to learn more