An initiative by Better Shelter

A new approach

The Structure approach offers low-cost, transitional tentage for forcibly displaced people, capable of lasting the duration of displacement through upgrading with local materials. Its modular metal framework can be deployed with a tarpaulin cover and serve as an emergency shelter in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or conflict. 

Over time, as communities and markets recover, Structure can be upgraded with local materials by humanitarian actors, local government and civil society, and/or residents themselves. In this way, Structure enables incremental upgrading and can be adapted to different climates and contexts, building traditions and cultural norms.

The frame is a proven design with over 60,000 units deployed, as the Better Shelter, which includes additional composite panels that can also be added at any time to Structure shelters.

Made from steel, the frame lasts for ten years and can be reused, repurposed and recycled. Equally, the tarpaulin and local materials used in the Structure approach can, if carefully selected, be re-used in repair and reconstruction, thereby constituting ‘transitional tents’.

The Structure approach considers sheltering as an incremental process, offering inhabitants maximum control and flexibility, as well as minimising both costs and environmental impacts, as all materials used in the emergency shelter have follow-on uses or value.


Check out our initiative Structure here.

Piloting with partners


The Research & Development pilots for Structure have been realised through partnerships with humanitarian NGOs.

Similarly to when we were developing the Better Shelter, we have involved partners and researchers at an early stage, and maintained close collaboration throughout the planning, deployment and testing phases.

Through frequent updates and ideating, troubleshooting, reporting and video assembly courses we have managed to work effectively despite challenges due to travel restrictions this year.


If you work for a humanitarian organization and would like to learn more about piloting the Structure with us, get in touch with our product development team:

David Karpathakis Thalén, Head of Product Development:

Tim de Haas, Head of Technology:

If you are a journalist and would like to know more about the project, get in touch with our Head of Communications:

Märta Aretakis Terne:


Empowering communities displaced by climate change

The emergent climate migrant crisis will be the defining social catastrophe of our generation. Millions of people are expected to lose their homes and livelihood in hurricanes and floods due to the changing climate in the coming decades.

By giving the gift of Structure, you engage in a small act of empathy.

You can offer a meaningful gift to your friends and family, and you can directly provide a home for a family in need of one. By dedicating your Structure to someone in your life, you’re not only creating impactful change in the world, you’re also sharing kindness from community to community.

Check out our initiative Structure here


By Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH)

Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) works with communities to ensure that the physical settings in which they live are as safe as possible from the effects of climate change and natural disasters while also helping them to be prepared to cope with and respond to disasters that do strike. Beyond making them safe, AKAH ensures people have access to services and opportunities to improve their quality of life, wherever they live.  AKAH helps communities not only to prepare for disaster, but to recover and build back better after it strikes. To achieve this AKAH invests in innovation to develop and test practical, affordable and scalable solutions for critical habitat needs, including emergency shelter and permanent housing.

After having been approached by the Better Shelter team with the offer to pilot Structure, AKAH decided to test Structure in two locations: Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

The 15 Structures that Better Shelter donated to AKAH were initially intended to serve as community infrastructure. However, as the pandemic spread across Tajikistan, the team decided to repurpose the Structures to become part of the Aga Khan Development Network’s COVID-19 response, and function as Search and Rescues and triaging centers. The Structures were erected in very remote mountainous regions surrounding Khorough in Eastern Tajikistan. Once the pandemic has stifled, the Structures will be relocated within Tajikistan and upgraded with local material to permanent structures.

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By Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH)

Northern Afghanistan is an area ravaged by natural disasters as well as protracted conflict, and the 15 Structures donated to AKAH were initially planned to serve as part of the AKAH emergency response to families affected by natural disaster or displacement due to conflict. However due to the C-19 outbreak, four of the units have instead been equipped to function as offices and changing rooms for medical staff operating in C-19 clinics (made up by Better Shelter units).

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SEEDS builds the resilience of Indian and Nepalese communities exposed to disaster and climate emergencies by promoting practical solutions that can enhance disaster readiness, response and rehabilitation. Since its beginnings, Seeds approach has involved grafting innovative technology onto traditional wisdom. This includes designing nature-based solutions that can help adapt to climate change in ecologically sensitive areas as well as to invest in skill building, partnerships and advocacy. 

When offered to pilot Structure, SEEDS tested the Structures in the Kerala region in southern India. Here they will become homes that shelter displaced communities and families. 

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By a local team of engineers

This pilot was completed in collaboration with a team of engineers in Rwanda. They were keen to test the Structure in a Sub-Saharan African context. The goal was to explore several local attachment techniques and materials common in the region.

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Collaborate with us!

If you work for a humanitarian organization and would like to learn more about piloting the Structure with us, get in touch with our product development team!

David Karpathakis Thalén, Head of Product Development:

Tim de Haas, Head of Technology:

If you are a journalist and would like to know more, get in touch with our Head of Communications, Märta Aretakis Terne: