Windows designed by Cambridge student ‘make homes liveable’ in war-torn Ukraine

Plastic windows designed by a Cambridge PhD student are transforming uninhabitable houses in war-torn parts of Ukraine into habitable homes, local residents said.

Engineer Harry Blakiston Houston created the Insulate Ukraine project to replace bullet- and bomb-damaged windows with plastic windows of his own design, taking a break from his studies to concentrate on the initiative.

According to the United Nations, millions of people in Ukraine are “living in damaged houses or in buildings inadequate to provide sufficient protection”, particularly in the winter when temperatures can plummet to -20C.

Houston said there was a woman in Mykolaiv, in southern Ukraine, who had been sleeping in her bathtub for two months because it was the warmest place in her house before the plastic windows were installed.

He added: “We were able to get him back to normal after the windows were closed. The house immediately became warmer and brighter; he was able to rearrange everything and live in his house again.”

Fedor Tikva, from Izyum in eastern Ukraine, told the PA news agency that Insulate Ukraine replacement windows have made his house habitable after his original windows were destroyed by nearby shelling.

The 64-year-old said: “After the workers built windows and now it is possible to live in that house.

“Before it was impossible to live in that house because there were no windows and it was very cold and humid there. There was no heating, the heating was also destroyed”.

“All the windows were broken, even the frames were partially damaged,” he said. “The walls were also damaged a bit with bomb parts.”

The retiree added: “It is a great help, I am very satisfied with these windows and now I am happy because after the installation of all the windows, the house became cosier, warmer and brighter.

“Before the installation…it was too dark and cold inside.”

He continued: “We were as happy after the windows were installed as we were when power and gas returned to our homes after the occupation.

“So we’re cheering and saying hurray.”

Tikva shares a house with her sister, whose flat on the other side of town caught fire during the Russian occupation.

He told the PA news agency that he has two houses and had been staying in a different house that suffered less damage until the new windows were installed.

Izyum was occupied by Russian soldiers between March 1 and September 11 last year, according to Tikva.

Insulate Ukraine staffer Helen Demchenko, who translated for the 64-year-old, told PA that new windows have been provided to more than 200 clients in Izyum.

She said residents are given materials to build the windows themselves or staff and volunteers will install them if customers are vulnerable.

The project is operating in the liberated areas of Ukraine that “have suffered the most” at the hands of Russia.

The concept uses triple-glazed polyethylene to protect against the cold, costs around £12 per square meter of window, and can be built at home in quarter of an hour with basic materials.

Houston said: “The level of destruction that the Russians left in their wake is staggering. There is hardly a house in Izyum without bullet holes. In peacetime, the city was home to 50,000 people, now there are 10,000.

“It’s just the most extraordinary image of destruction everywhere, but now it’s safe.

“Part of Putin’s war is about making people in Ukraine cold and miserable. It’s about breaking his resolve to keep defending himself.

“We have found a solution that makes a real difference.”

The PhD student came up with the idea while queuing to see the late Queen at the funeral last year.


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