An initiative by Better Shelter

A new approach


The Better Shelter is a global shelter solution for relief operations where local building materials are scarce. Yet in many contexts the local market recovers fast and allows organisations and users to access building materials in the midst of an emergency.

Therefore, we have launched a pilot program based on an idea that we have had for long: Structure.


Structure employs the modular frame of the Better Shelter and can swiftly be transformed into an emergency shelter by draping it in standard sized tarpaulin sheets. It can be made more durable by covering the frame in locally available material. This in turn means that we would reduce costs and make shelters available for humanitarian partners with smaller budgets. We will also be better to align with local strategies and let users build shelters which correspond to their cultures and norms.


The objectives of Structure are:


to provide efficient and qualitative shelter during the emergency phase when local alternatives are rarely available, at a price point significantly below a standard relief tent.


to enable a local and user driven upgrade process that transforms Structures into a semi-permanent or durable shelter, and thereby linking humanitarian response programs with longer-term development efforts.


to enable reuse or relocation for other purposes (cafés, schools, workshops, etc.) or recycling if a family moves into a more permanent home.

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:


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: