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Why Is Shelter Important for Survival?

In today’s world, a shelter can be defined as an architectural structure or building under which humans can dwell in safety, away from the harsh elements found in the natural environment. Eons ago, people found shelter in natural enclosures such as caves. In the following centuries, they developed man-made shelters, which is a practice that continues to this day.

Shelter is important because it gives us protection from the environmental dangers around us, be it the blistering sun, rain, strong wind, cold temperature, snowstorms, or other dangers. It also protects us when sudden calamities like storms, cyclones, typhoons, and tornadoes occur.

Shelter can be used as an umbrella term as there are many types and categories that come under it. Let us have a look at the types of shelters, its benefits, and the necessity for shelter in society.

Is Shelter Necessary for Survival?

Shelter is essential and is just as necessary as food and water to survive. It gives you protection from the atmospheric elements which the human body is not designed to withstand, which includes extremely hot or cold temperatures. It is almost impossible to live through a natural disaster without some form of shelter to protect you from it. 

Although a shelter does serve many purposes, its primary purpose is to give you protection and is essential for the survival of the human species. It also protects you from other dangers, such as wild animals and pests, if you happen to co-exist with them in the same habitat. 

Human shelters are like enclosures of protection. Humans need rest to survive, and the only way they can do so safely is if they have a shelter protecting them. In fact, shelters are so necessary that there are charitable shelters to protect those who cannot afford shelter for themselves. 

What Is the Main Purpose of a Shelter?

The main purpose of a shelter is to provide protection to its inhabitants. This protection is necessary for a human being to survive. It is so essential that the governments of countries do their best to provide shelter for those who cannot afford it themselves. 

According to an organization called End Homelessness, more than half a million Americans are homeless every night. For such people, there are buildings known as “homeless shelters,” which strive to give them protection during cold nights.

What Are the Functions of a Shelter?

Having a place of shelter is synonymous with having a place of safety and refuge. The utility value of one’s shelter is ever-expanding as more people are lengthening its functions from more than just a place of protection to escapism from the real, outside world as well. Here is a list of ways in which a shelter functions:

  • Protection: As stated earlier, this tends to be the primary utility value of a shelter, regardless of whether it is a bus stop, a sunshade, or a building. Protection of one’s physical body, as well as mental relief, can be gained from having shelter.
  • Privacy: Human beings function better when they have a place of recluse where they can retreat for personal and private space and introspection. It is also a place where one can find comfort in one’s immediate family and friends, away from the outside world. Humans require boundaries where they can protect themselves from unwanted interferences and interactions. A shelter in the form of a house provides all these factors which are necessary for the growth and development of a person.
  • Individuality: Individualism is necessary for any human being who wishes to be a contributing member of society. It is in solitude where humans generally have time to think and develop their faculties and abilities. 

What Are the Types of Urban Shelters?

There are three main types of shelters that make up the majority of shelters/buildings in the world today. Some shelters are private, some are commercialized, and some more are built for charitable reasons. Let’s have a look at them in detail below:

  • Private buildings: The most popular shelters that individuals and families prefer are separate houses that provide security as well as protection. This gives them shelter from the natural elements and also ensures that their belongings and valuables are safe as well.
  • Commercial buildings: The next common type is commercialized buildings that offer protection to anyone who can afford it. This comes in the form of motels, hotels, and rented buildings. These are also similar to individual houses as they provide the same functions as a private shelter.
  • Charitable buildings: Due to the huge disparity in the economic status of the population, there are a large number of people who cannot afford private or commercialized shelters. In such cases, they depend on charitable shelters built by the government to accommodate the homeless during the night when they require safety and security. 

What Factors Determine the Structure of Shelters?

Over the course of time, people started to build shelters that catered to their needs and requirements. Hence, we see many different types of buildings all over the world that provide shelter for human beings. 

Here are some factors that have contributed to these vastly different buildings that serve the same purpose:

  • Flood-prone areas: There are certain areas that have been deemed as flood-prone due to the repeated occurrences of floods over the years. In such areas, houses are built with the primary purpose of withstanding sudden floods and protecting the individuals who reside in them. The Constructor explains and highlights the requirements for flood-prone building structures in an informative article.
  • Wind resistance: There are places that receive strong winds on a daily basis that are mostly harmless but sometimes can cause serious damage as well. In such places, the houses need to be built in a wind-resistant fashion to ensure that the structure is not torn apart due to the strong winds. By concentrating on the height of the building and aerodynamic pressure, architects design buildings to suit the natural atmosphere of the area.

Apart from the atmospheric factors that play a role in the structure of buildings, it also depends on the culture and economy of the place and the people who build them. In places of low economy, the shelters are generally made of natural resources that are available around them for free such as mud and straw. 

In certain places, people still build houses to uphold their culture and traditions. For example, many houses in Thailand are still made out of bamboo even today, as that was the material used in the previous age due to its availability in large quantities. 


To reiterate the question this article began with, yes, shelter is essential for our survival, and we can absolutely not exist without some form of shelter to protect us, be it natural or man-made. There are still a few tribes around the world who have not come in contact with modern man and his latest structures of shelter, but even these tribes utilize trees and caves to secure themselves through the changing seasons.

Even though many people have been known to go on treks and other outdoor activities for days together where they are out in the wild with no typical shelter to protect them, they still do find temporary shelters in nature itself. There has never been a time in history when man lived for any long period of time with no shelter over his head. Shelter has and continues to unarguably be something that man cannot survive without.

For more, check out 10 Ways to Build a Shelter out of Natural Resources.