Better Shelter’s RHU Structure

  • 2023

  • Social Impact

Commissioned By:

Better Shelter

Designed In:


The RHU Structure is a temporary shelter developed for humanitarian response. Its load bearing, modular steel frame can be built and wrapped in tarpaulin for immediate protection. Once local building materials become available, residents can upgrade walls and roof with various techniques to create a more long lasting shelter.

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Image: Christian Gustafsson/Better Shelter
Image: Sameer Raichur/Better Shelter
Image: Sameer Raichur/Better Shelter
Image: Better Shelter/Frida Ström
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  • Due to conflicts and disasters, the number of people forced to flee has reached over 103 million. Adequate shelter is a fundamental need that not only contributes to survival but to mental and emotional well-being. While many displaced individuals can live with relatives or rent accommodations, millions end up in makeshift settlements or camps where permanent buildings are not allowed. NGOs must provide low-cost and low-volume shelters that can be quickly and easily assembled anywhere. These must withstand harsh weather and allow for residents to make adaptations, repairs and improvements until able to return home or rebuild their lives elsewhere.

  • RHU Structure is a flat packed, 17.5 m2 modular temporary shelter, made of robust steel framework which can be clad with tarpaulin to provide immediate protection in an emergency. Overtime, the framework may be upgraded with local material to transform it into a more longlasting, sustainable shelter. Residents may apply their expertise and building traditions, which fosters independence, creates livelihood opportunities and control. RHU Structure is culturally and climatically adaptable as it can serve many purposes and be combined with a range of materials and techniques in different types of humanitarian responses and contexts.

  • Many RHU Structures have immense impact on people’s lives. The shelters have played a roll in the fight against covid: as vaccination and information hubs in rural India, as triaging units, covid clinics and offices for doctors in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In a Delhi slum, 200 children attend school in a Structure, which functions as a community space in the evenings. The project commissioned local vendors, some of which survived during the pandemic thanks to it. In India, families that lost their homes in disasters, live safely in Structures today, which they upgraded using their own skills and local material.

  • The RHU Structure was developed for contexts where local building materials can be obtained. The metal frame can be wrapped in standard sized tarpaulin for deployment in emergency response, while the walls and roof may be upgraded with locally sourced building materials and attached to the frame with various techniques. The lifespan of the RHU Structure is strengthened by the incremental approach to build upon multiple shelter usages according to local climate conditions and cultural traits. By embracing local contexts, resident families and NGOs can adapt the RHU Structure to their specific needs over time, through multiple project cycles and in the duration of displacement.