Shelter is a basic need that is fundamental to human existence. It provides a haven from the less desirable weather elements, as well as safety and security. But not everyone is lucky enough to have a place to call home. This may be the result of poverty, natural disasters or conflict. Whatever the reason, homelessness leaves people displaced and vulnerable. Therefore organisations, such as Architecture for Humanity, are worthy recipients of our admiration and support.

Architecture for Humanity is a not-for-profit design organisation that was founded by Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr in 1999. This humanitarian organisation provides architectural services to those in need. The premise of their existence is to provide sustainable solutions to shelter. After all, it isn’t a coincidence that natural disasters in developing countries are more catastrophic and cause more fatalities than those in developed countries. According to Bryan Walsh, in his article for Time, the reason is usually poor construction techniques, lax building codes, poverty and ignorance. But organisations like Architecture for Humanity are proving that well constructed and sustainable buildings don’t have to be expensive.

The organisation has worked in countries all over the world. They have responded to natural disasters in places such as Haiti, Sri Lanka, India, Japan and even the US. And they have helped to build community centres, schools, health centres and sports complexes in different parts of Africa, Asia and South America.

What sets Architecture for Humanity apart from other like organisations though, is their belief in including their clients in the process so that their projects are more sustainable. They ensure that their clients are involved in the design and construction of the buildings. This helps the client to take ownership of the building and maintain it once it is completed.

In order to provide their services anywhere in the world they have set up a global network of professionals. This global network is made up of local chapters, which in turn encourages local architects, designers and other building professionals to get involved in their own community.

They have also published several books about sustainable housing solutions, most notably Design like you Give a Damn. And in 2007 they developed the Open Architecture Network which is an online database of photos, construction details and CAD files of their projects. This ensures that their work is free and available to everyone.

If you would like to learn more about the organisation or get involved in your local chapter head to

Lorrin Windahl is a Senior Project Designer with CobaltNiche. This article first appeared on Less by Design and is reproduced with permission.


Image: Wikipedia