About Smart Shelter Foundation

What we do

Today more than a billion people in this world are living in total poverty. Most of them live in developing countries, without a decent roof over their head, in unsafe houses and harrowing conditions.

Smart Shelter Foundation is a non-profit organization, which builds in smart ways in developing countries, and transfers its knowledge of building technology to the local people.

Smart Shelter Foundation contributes to improve the living standards of the poorest in the fields of safe and affordable housing, and provides on-site training to the local construction workers. This way we help the recipients in improving their living conditions themselves.

Safe building principles, for instance cyclone and earthquake resistant construction, and improving the overall construction quality are key factors in our work. We document our projects thoroughly and we are completely transparent to our donors.


Goals and Aims

Our mission is simple: to create safe and protective constructions, which respond to the direct needs of the poorest. We believe that safe and affordable housing should be available to everyone.

It is about making changes in which the people are directly involved, in which they participate actively, and which gives them a feeling of responsibility, ownership and a higher self-esteem.

We promote low-cost & low-tech materials and techniques, while respecting the local needs, customs, habits, influences and the environment. Our solutions must be simple and easy to replicate, in order to cause a positive snowball-effect and durable change.

Currently our main focus is on researching the seismic behavior of so-called ‘non-engineered’ building techniques, and on creating improved building solutions for the developing context.


How We Work

After 10 years of grass root and on-site experience we know how to make a project successful. We follow just a few, but very important rules of thumb. When any of these vital factors is missing, we will not join the project. Please note that the following points do not apply to our research projects.

  • The initiative for a project has to come from the people, and not from us. They know best about the situation in their village or area, and they must tell us about their real needs.
  • We expect full participation and cooperation of the beneficiaries. They will be involved from the very beginning until full completion of the project. We expect a certain percentage of People’s Participation, usually around 25% of the total budget. This contribution is mainly the provision of local materials such as wood and recycled stones, and the villagers donate time and labour.
  • We work closely with strong local partners who are responsible for all the communication and administrative matters during the execution of the projects. Which makes sense, as they speak the language, know how to deal with the local people and their habits, and understand their way of doing things.
  • Smart Shelter Foundation is responsible for the remaining funding, and all the technical aspects of the project. Drawings and calculations are made according to the local parameters and actual prices and wages. Generally our budgets are 20 to 30% lower than the local tenders, which makes our projects affordable to the people.
  • We do not compromise on safety and quality. Throughout the building process we give extensive construction training to the local masons and carpenters. This is essential to ensure the quality of the workmanship and to create durable buildings.


Our Team


Martijn Schildkamp – Founder and Executive Director

Martijn is an architect and building engineer from The Netherlands, with a passion for alternative materials and experimental construction.

During his travels through Asia he was shocked by the harsh conditions in which so many people have to live. He started to dedicate his expertise and time to people across the globe, who are in need of better housing and improved living conditions. Since 2005 he founded three Smart Shelter divisions and researched, designed and built numerous projects in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Indonesia.

Martijn is specialized in building with alternative materials and methods, and developed a great interest in low-tech earthquake resistant principles. His activities are multi-disciplinary as he works as an architect, engineer, calculator, trainer, supervisor and mason all at the same time. Over the years he gained an enormous amount of grass root experience and practical knowledge, which he now transfers to students and professionals worldwide.

His philosophy and way of working has resulted in being a finalist for the largest design award in the world; Index Award. The theme of the award was ‘Design to Improve Life’.


Tessa van Weelie – Coordinator

Tessa joined Smart Shelter in 2007 and has been helping with all the projects of all different Smart Shelter divisions ever since. With a strong background in coordinating and planning she supports the overall organization and is very good at getting things actually done. A good communicator with endless enthusiasm.

Smart Shelter Foundation Core Team

Our enthusiastic core team consists of the following persons:

Chairman: Martijn Schildkamp Architect
Secretary: Dennis Hofman Architect
Treasurer: Noël Voskuilen Financial Manager
Reference Group: Erwin de Maar Architect
Frank Schildkamp Educational Specialist
Robbert Bouman Fundraising
Judith Stoop Public Relations
Tessa van Weelie Coordination


Smart Shelter Concepts

In 2005 the Smart Shelter Concept was started. It now holds three divisions, which all focus on finding durable and alternative construction solutions for the developing and post-disaster context, as well as for modern architectural applications.

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Since 2005 SSF has successfully designed and built a large number of houses and schools, as well as a day-care center, a regional animal and agricultural center, and a multi-level hostel for 20 blind students, in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Indonesia. All projects in Nepal are built earthquake resistant and have survived the 2015 earthquakes without any significant damage.

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Smart Shelter Research has identified the need for in-depth research to find clear answers and better solutions. This research will focus on alternative and unconventional materials, their properties, limitations, sustainability and usability; in the developing context, but in contemporary architecture as well.

A huge and still growing network has been established of experts, professionals and professors at institutions and universities worldwide with whom we exchange knowledge. For the Smart Shelter Research website please click here. And don’t forget to join us on Facebook and Twitter to get regular updates.

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Almost 10 years of grass root and on-site experience have laid the foundation for our educational programs. Smart Shelter Consultancy transfers its knowledge to students and professionals worldwide. Our many activities include long-term engagements at universities, keynote speeches at conferences, and consultancy work for other NGO’s and INGO’s.

Please follow this link to Smart Shelter Consultancy and see more about our workshops and teaching programs.