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  • Workers complete the framing of the “Structure” in the Sipong village in Tajikistan’s Bartang valley.
AKAH tests Better Shelter’s “Structure”: a modular, upgradable emergency shelter solution

Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, 1 February 2021 – Better Shelter, a Swedish social enterprise working with the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat on emergency and transitional housing solutions, has launched a low-cost emergency shelter which can be upgraded with local materials.

“Structure” was developed to offer a shelter that provides immediate protection in emergencies, but also the possibility to be locally upgraded at a later stage - thereby increasing its lifespan and resilience among displaced communities. “Structure”, which employs the prefabricated modular steel frame used by Better Shelter, can be transformed into an emergency shelter by draping it in standard sized tarpaulin sheets. It can be made more durable as a longer-term transitional shelter by covering the frame in locally available material.


In Tajikistan’s Rushan district, workers fix the wall frame in place and apply the outer coverings of Better Shelter’s “Structure”.

During 2020, the Better Shelter team piloted “Structure” together with Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) in Tajikistan and Afghanistan and with SEEDS in India. The shelters have been put to the test with tarpaulins as well as different types of locally sourced and adapted materials. In 2021, Better Shelter will scale up the aim to provide “Structure” for 10,000 families.

“’Structure’ combines the dependability of a standardised shelter and the adaptability of a local solution. In an ideal world all emergency response would be local. But when assisting the hardest-to-reach individuals in the most difficult types of situations, prefabricated shelter remains the final safety net,” says Johan Karlsson, Managing Director, Better Shelter.

“Better Shelter is working with the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) to innovate how to shelter people who have lost their homes due to natural disasters in the high mountains of Asia,” said Onno Rühl, General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat. “We want to stop using tents in these harsh environments and instead upgrade Structure frames to provide winter ready temporary shelters. This will enable the communities we serve to have a better quality of life while we work to provide them with permanent homes.”

In parallel, Better Shelter is launching a consumer-focused fundraising platform for the 235 million people who will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021. Currently 80 million people across the world are displaced and the changing climate is expected to displace more people in the coming decades. The fundraising platform is at where contributors can support displaced communities by funding an entire or a part of a Structure.

For more information:

Trushna Torche
Aga Khan Agency for Habitat


Structure is a new initiative by Better Shelter RHU AB – a humanitarian innovation project and social enterprise based in Stockholm, Sweden. Our mission is to improve the lives of refugees by providing temporary, yet safe, homes. The project started in 2010 in collaboration with the Ikea Foundation and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR. Since 2015, Better Shelter has delivered more than 60,000 shelters to refugee camps in over 60 countries worldwide. The modular homes are delivered in flat packages and can be set up in a few hours without tools or electricity. Every shelter is equipped with a lockable door and a solar powered lamp. Today, they are not only used as temporary housing, but also as clinics, classrooms and other community-promoting infrastructure.

The 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.

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.