Arup civil engineer Anthony Peter, 26, landed in Sri Lanka last week to help with the reconstruction process. In this extended extract from his diary for Building he looks at the task ahead.

The headquarters of my aid agency, Goal, is situated within a beachside suburb of the capital Colombo. The capital city was affected only minimally by the Tsunami and life appears fairly normal. The only evidence of the disaster here is a few smashed beach huts and a large amounts of flotsam along the shore. However every taxi driver and restaurateur will tell you stories if prompted; many have friends or family who were directly affected.

The real damage starts a few kilometres south of the city: it forms a strip 200m wide, 800km long and includes over 100,000 destroyed houses. I will be visiting some of these areas next week for the first time, to coordinate with our staff who have been based there for the last three weeks. The affected people are staying in camps based at schools and community centers or staying with host families. We want life for them to return back to normal as quickly as possible.

Our task is to coordinate, design and build 2,500 semi-permanent shelters - due for completion within 16 weeks. Even by designing simple and basic shelters the rebuilding effort is likely to use more than the entire countries resources for wood and steel. However, what this shelter programme will offer to some of the 500,000 people now homeless is an opportunity to return to some degree of normality before permanent housing is completed - something expected to take up to four years.

During this last week I have been attending meetings with the UN and other aid agencies to agree a way forward with the shelter so that we work to a common strategy, and developing a shelter design based on this. I now look forward to turning this into something made of timber and steel.