Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

Architects For Society

What is the name of your solution?

Hex House, a rapid deploy, dignified housing system

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

The home is designed to be sustainable, flatpack, modular, off-grid, rapidly deployable, long stay and dignified home, ready to assemble onsite

Film your elevator pitch.

What specific problem are you solving?

Specific Problem and Scale

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at least 82.4 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes and are displaced either within or outside of their countries. Refugees are displaced for at least 10 to 30 years on average; therefore, this problem is not only massive, but also quite protracted.

Not all refugees or displaced populations live in refugee camps; some populations start to integrate into the host countries’ urban centers over time, in search of work and self-reliance. The initially displaced, however, often have no choice but to settle into camps in which the UNHCR estimates house a total population of 6.6 million people.  

 Current refugee camps and their shelters are beset with a number of social, economic, technical and cultural problems. Displaced populations live in conditions that are uncomfortable, unsanitary, and inhumane with no or very little privacy in spaces such as enclosures with no interior partitions. The shelters also do not provide adequate protection from the climate as they’re often uninsulated, fabric tents which easily flood during rain events.

Additionally, they lack security, windows, electricity, and plumbing leaving the dwellers vulnerable to risks from disease, theft, and mental, physical, and social deterioration which only worsens over time. Camp layouts are constantly cramped, with tents lined up close together with no or little private outdoor space. Quite simply, they represent undignified living.

What is your solution?

The Hex House Solution

Single Hex House - Augsburg Nobel Peace Prize Forum (AFS) (AFS)

Our innovative housing solution, the Hex House, is designed to be sustainable, flatpack, modular, off-grid, rapidly deployable, long-stay, and dignified. It is ready to assemble on-site with very few tools by non-builders. The basic home kits include telescoping tube steel legs, Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) for walls, floor and roof, and can be customized with desired interior and exterior finishes. The inherent structural stability of the hexagonal form and the rigid construction of SIPs preclude the use of added structure.

Hex House Flat-Pack Kit System (AFS)
Interior/ Exterior Finish Options (AFS)

The homes are elevated above the ground by telescoping steel posts that adjust to uneven site conditions, which are then fastened to concrete pier foundations. This feature has several advantages; it minimizes the foundation footprint from the typical concrete slab and foundation walls to seven cylindrical piers. If concrete is not desirable, lightweight steel helical piers can be substituted. It also allows rainwater to run under the homes instead of flooding it as well as provide passive cooling via openings in the floor system that allow cooler air to flow up and through the home. Finally, this elevation reduces the intrusion of rodents, snakes and other pests.

Community Planning Strategy (AFS)

Our site planning layout demonstrates how the hexagonal plan can be combined into various combinations of five-unit clusters to create shared courtyards and semi-private gathering spaces within as well as in-between these arrangements. 

Four Unit Cluster with Courtyard (AFS)

These radial clusters are further multiplied to create large central plazas where community activities like trade, education and various community events can take place.

Hex House Community w/ Central Plaza (AFS)

The goal is to create an environment that supports interaction, exchange of ideas, and a strong sense of community engagement. We want to create homes that are part of a community or neighborhood, and not simply stand-alone shelters, a concept not addressed in most current camp layouts. Whether linear or radial, these clusters can be oriented to allow for accessible drives and pedestrian walkways.

Single Unit Interior Space (AFS)

The single 510 SF (47 SM) Hex House unit is a compact two-bedroom home with all the amenities intended for small families. The home utilizes passive cooling, solar panels & rainwater harvesting. Two single units can be combined into one ‘double’ unit of 1020 SF (95 SM) with three or four bedrooms for larger families.

Single/ Double Unit Floor Plans (AFS)

With an emphasis on flexibility and customization, there are several interior planning possibilities. Three units can be combined to create a much larger 1,530 SF (142 SM) home to accommodate larger, extended families. Should a family need more space, additional units can be added to existing homes over time with minimal disturbance to other units.

Triple Unit Floor Plan (AFS)
Single Hex Unit (AFS)

Construction Documents (AFS)

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

A. The Target Population

The Hex House serves a large proportion of the 82.4 million displaced individuals globally. This includes those displaced for political, environmental, or economic reasons such as individuals or families displaced by war or fleeing violent persecution in their countries, displaced by wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, and other environmental catastrophes and those who’ve become homeless due to mental health issues leading to financial deterioration. 

In all these cases, our solution offers them a stable dignified home which is fundamental to being able to take the next steps in achieving stability in their new environment. Further, The Hex House solution offers them a real community where they can begin to thrive.

As reported by the large aid agencies, administered refugee camps are a huge financial and administrative burden whereby the specific organization must manage all aspects of the refugees’ lives. This leads to the creation of an unsustainable and a degrading situation over time. This has pushed many experts to reconsider the administrative model and start to reframe these communities as “Special Economic Zones” in which residents can become self-reliant by creating financial, social, and educational opportunities for themselves.


B. How the Hex House Serves Their Needs 

Our housing model supports this strategy by offering home kits that are designed to be assembled by low-skilled, local labor. All the components are manufactured in a local factory giving members of the community job opportunities, then transported to site by another group of members, and then assembled by another. This creates an instantaneous local housing economy which later can expand to maintaining the homes. This model also gives the population a sense of ownership of the homes and communities they built for themselves, which in turn increases their sense of responsibility for the upkeep of their homes. These feelings do not always come about with an agency-provided shelter/ tent. This socioeconomic model is fundamental to the displaced population in forging a new home, community, economy, and creating self-sufficiency which become enablers to making the next move, whether to stay in the newly formed Special Economic Zone, integrate into host country, return home or in the case of local homeless populations, reintegrate back into society.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Single Family Unit, Alzaatari Camp, Jordan (AFS)We will discuss three main groups which we’ve engaged and researched to develop our design. We’ll discuss them in order of relative urgency and need. The first is the international refugee population. The second is the local (US) homeless population. The third major group is the world’s informal settlement population, estimated by the U.N. at 1 billion worldwide.

1. Refugees

AlZaatari Camp - Getty Images

Our initial design was developed in 2015 as a response to the influx of Syrian refugees into Jordan and Egypt. Two of our founding members are nationals of these two countries. One of these two, Yousef Oqleh, was in Jordan at the time of the Syrian refugee crisis. Yousef began researching the crisis by making repeated visits to the then infamous Al Zaatari Camp. He conducted interviews with the refugees, UNHCR staff on site, and connected with the local fabricator of the agency-provided shelter “caravans” to understand the entire process of planning, fabrication, transportation, setting up, and maintenance as well as social and cultural challenges on the site.


Manufacturing of bathroom Caravan Units, AlMafraq, Jordan (AFS)
Single Family Caravans, Near AlZaatari Camp, Jordan (AFS)

More importantly, he conducted a number of interviews with the community, who complained of the inadequacy of the caravans which were small (150 SF), uninsulated, lacked partitions for privacy, very insecure, and often broken into.

Single Family Unit, Alzaatari Camp, Jordan (AFS)

Single Family Unit with Improvised Exterior Space Enclosure, AlZaatari Camp, Jordan (AFS)

They complained of the lack of private outdoor space which most Syrian households had, in the form of courtyards.

Shared Bathrooms, AlZaatari Camp, Jordan (AFS)

They complained about the public toilets for which they had to leave their shelters at any time to use, day or night, sunshine, or rain.

Drinking Water Tank, Outside the Alzaatari Camp, Jordan (AFS)

They also complained about the potable water tanks provided by the agency that sat in the open desert sun providing only scalding water that had to be cooled for hours before drinking.

Typical Exterior/ Interior Spaces, Alzaatari Camp, Jordan (AFS)

These visits along with good photo documentation gave us much insight into the dire conditions of the camp. They also informed our building design and urban planning schemes. After our first few design drafts, Yousef revisited the camp to show the families whom he had befriended, images of the designs and gathered their feedback, which we incorporated.

Hex House School, HafenCity, Hamburg, Germany (AFS)
Hex House School Interior, HafenCity, Hamburg, Germany (AFS)

Stephan Wedrich, a board member and a German national, led our next research effort in working with Flüchtlingshilfe HafenCity e.V., a German nonprofit organization that provided housing assistance to refugees in Hamburg. This study and partnership led to the construction of a Hex House unit which served as a school building educating refugees about life in Germany and assisting in their resettlement in the country. 

The school was located in in the "Hafen City" urban development right at the River Elbe and near the famous Concert hall "Elbphilharmonie and the heart of a refugee housing development (HafenCity), and was much welcomed by the community as it was a huge step in helping them integrate into society.

2. Homeless

L.A. Skid Row - Getty Images

The second community identified as a group that could benefit from our design is the homeless population in the United States, personified by the growing issue throughout the state of California. We collaborated with several NGOs working directly with homelessness to address the need for temporary, transitional and permanent housing. We engaged with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Association for Community Design, Thrive LA, Minnesota Design Center, among others, to research their current perspectives on the issues and explore possible solutions from various perspectives.

While the design of a rapidly deployable, sustainable, and dignified housing solution is paramount, homelessness is an issue that needs to be tackled in a collective approach including strategies for mental health therapy, job training, and communal support. Therefore, while we realized that AFS cannot find a solution for the issue alone, it can partner with other organizations to provide a collective and comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness.

We did work with several organizations to develop various schemes of the Hex House to address a number of site conditions from urban parking lots to suburban and rural open lands. We had meetings with municipal leaders in Los Angeles to discuss zoning ordinances and building code issues which need to be addressed at a policy and design level to allow for homeless housing to be established in certain jurisdictions.

Homeless Veteran Medical & Housing Plans (AFS)
Homeless Veteran Housing Block Plans (AFS)
Homeless Veteran Housing collective Schemes (AFS)

We have also been contacted by several Native American organizations who were especially attracted to the radial planning layout the houses created. These planning layouts were quite familiar to the traditional Native American communal way of life. Similarly, we worked with homeless veteran organizations to develop community designs that stressed co-living and collective living arrangements. All these experiences helped inform our design decisions, big and small. We look forward to continuing our explorations and collaborations to further refine our design to address this disadvantaged community.

3. Informal Settlements

Old Cairo Informal City (

While our Hex House solution doesn’t target populations living in informal settlements directly, it was very much informed by the unique designs and socio-economic structures brought about by the architecture and planning processes these populations  embraced to produce viable and enduring communities.

In the near future, we believe we will be able to build on the success of the Hex House solution to address this very critical and large population. We hope to offer similar innovations in designs, sustainable construction materials, business models, systems thinking, and scalable technology to create targeted solutions to improve informal settlements as well.

Our solutions target problems at a systems level rather than provide symptomatic fixes, which may actually exacerbate the problem in the long-term. Our solution, from the beginning, therefore, is a scalable one, that can meet the needs of the refugee as well as homeless populations. At the same time, we are learning and understanding much about the bigger and more chronic problem of global informal settlements which will require the expertise from our architecture group as well as consultants in other fields.

Amro Sallam, Cairo 

Cairo's Informal Settlements (Getty Images)

Amro Sallam, one of the original founders of AFS was born in Cairo, Egypt. David E. Sims, an economist and urban planner, estimates that 40% of the 100 million strong population of Egyptians live in informal settlements. The capital city, Cairo has a population of nearly 22 million according to the UN-World Population Prospects, which means that approximately 8.8 million Cairenes live in informal settlements. 

Ezbet Abu Qarn Study - Amro Sallam (AFS)

Amro’s graduate thesis at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) focused on this phenomenon. He spent four months traveling across Cairo’s assorted informal settlement types, interviewing residents, and researching the socio-economic and political issues which contributed to such migration and settlements.

Embaba Settlement Study - Amro Sallam (AFS)

Since then, he has continued to conduct research on issues specific to Cairo, Egypt and expanded it to others like the favelas in Brazil, shanties in India, and other parts of the globe. The various manifestations of this phenomenon in his opinion and understanding, are solutions, rather than problems. He has since curated architecture design courses at the University of Minnesota to teach students about the ingenuity, social cohesion, economic vitality, resilience and other amazing attributes hidden under the surface, in these communities.

Sonal Mithal, Kochi, India

Revitalization of Canal, Kochi, India, Sonal Mithal (AFS)

Sonal Mithal, another AFS team member, has researched the informal settlements at Kochi, India. She has also curated architectural design studios that center the significance of inclusivity and ecology for a socially sustainable Indian city. At Kochi, her work has focused on identifying and reviving the broken ecological networks and integrating them with social and economic agendas. Neighborhoods of informal housing as well as small-scale economic platforms--dependent on the Mullassery Canal and the adjoining road—now form the edge of the canal. These low-income settlements are most vulnerable during floods, characteristic of the city. People living in these informal settlements are subjected to recurring loss of health, property, and displacements.  

Existing Canal, Kochi, India, Sonal Mithal (AFS)

She has led a team to offer a sustainable design solution that re-establishes hydro-human-phyto interdependencies, building flood resilience, building economic resilience, and offering an inclusive public realm. The proposal received a special recommendation by the jury at the Entekochi competition Organized by the Kochi Municipal Corporation (KMC) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).  The proposal offered a system of integrated light infrastructure, which is mobile, for facilitating integrated vending activity, and buoyant units for flood resilient vending pods. That experience has informed us the way in which the Hex House may be adapted to plug into a network of urban-landscape design as a form of activism that proposes an urban ecology.

Dan Clark, Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro Informal Settlements, Brazil, Dan Clark (AFS)

Another team member and AFS founder, Dan Clark, has researched the relationship between social, political and economic forces in Latin America and the spatial organization of informal settlements in Valparaiso, Chile and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His work was the subject of design studios he led, often collaboratively with a colleague based in Chile, for 4 years in the University of Minnesota's Department of Architecture.

Rocinha Favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Dank Clark (AFS)

Dan's research has focused on the network of public and semi-public space located in the dense settlements of Rocinha and Vidigal, two favelas west of Leblon Beach in Rio de Janeiro. These spaces are very modest in size, often not much more than negative or leftover space between buildings— no bigger than necessary to enable access to other parts of the settlement—and evolved organically as the settlements grew. 

Favelas Interior Circulation/ Open Spaces, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Dank Clark (AFS)

Circulation routes through this urban fabric are often not “routes” at all, but rather a sequence of overlapping residual spaces. Traversing these neighborhoods requires moving through a series of small, interconnected voids or gaps between buildings. 

Rocinha Roof Tops, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Dank Clark (AFS)

Nonetheless, the ability of this urban fabric to accommodate small-scale public activities along passages is exceptional and these have become dynamic social spaces. Larger openings at intersections or other interruptions in the fabric provide openings for light to penetrate deeper into the dense settlements and offer enough space for larger gatherings and small outdoor markets. Rocinha Roof Tops, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Dank Clark (AFS)

Rooftops offer a third type and scale of social space. Most of these are private, inhabited by each home's residents. Families migrate up to these spaces as they cool at the end of the day. Many have long views across neighborhoods, a rarity at ground level, and with buildings packed so tightly together residents are able to talk back and forth between rooftops.

Rocinha Figure Ground Study, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Dan Clark (AFS)

Careful study of the variety of scales, degrees of privacy and types of spaces informal settlements have created to support their socially dynamic communities has informed our thinking on how the Hex House may be organized into small groups and neighborhood configurations. These lessons in creating flexible and dynamic public spaces with limited or no resources are especially valuable on projects where funds for public amenities are constrained and careful consideration of the size, scale and proportions of public spaces is the designer's primary resource.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Enable mass production of inexpensive and low-carbon housing, including changes to design, materials, and construction methods.

Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Minneapolis, MN, USA

Our solution's stage of development:


How many people does your solution currently serve?

One family in the US, and a community school in Hamburg, Germany

Why are you applying to Solve?

1. Financial and Technical Barriers

  • The need to build more prototypes to test, value engineer and distill the design to its most essential parts
  • Research and develop a more sustainable structural insulated panel (SIP) which integrates interior/ exterior finishes, along with providing the required thermal and structural performance thereby eliminating the need to add these finishes later onsite.
  • Redesign attachment details of panels & structure by developing a “click-together” system for easy assembly and disassembly. This requires working very closely with a structural engineer to develop the attachment components and calculate the shear, axial, moment loads which these connections will be designed to resist.
  • Undertake the costly and required testing of the new panel design and click-together attachment methods by testing agencies (ASTM, UL) for structural integrity (seismic & wind resistance) and fire resistance.
  • Vertically integrate the production of the new panels and attachment components described above, by either partnering with a manufacturer to produce the “patented” components or building a production facility of our own, which would also serve as an assembly factory.
  • Build out a robust digital web-based platform that will manage the entire process from design, ordering, production of panels & structure, delivery, and assembly. The platform which will leverage blockchain technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), or mixed reality (MR) which in turn will tap into a network of material manufacturers, transport companies, site assemblers and contractors to streamline the typically fragmented fabrication & construction process. We discuss more specifics of this system in the technology section.

2. Market Barriers

Thanks to a design award and much work to publicize the Hex House system online and other mediums, we have consistently received requests from individuals at every economic level, and groups, companies, and organizations, about pricing for the past five years. 

Since we couldn’t possibly build one-off projects for each of these requests, we decided to simply sell “bare-bones” kits which include the precut structural insulated panel (SIP) walls, floor, roof and the supporting glulam beams, and have them delivered Ready-to-Assemble (RTA). We’ve since automated a response on the Hex House website that responds with the cost and materials list of the kits for single, double, and triple units. The price of a single unit kit, which is now around $40K, however, makes it a challenge to sell them to most interested parties.

We’ve also developed a business strategy whereby we can sell the unit kits to the general public as tiny homes, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), off-grid cabins, and glamping cabins that will allow us to leverage the value of scale, bringing the production cost down, and build our organization’s for-profit and nonprofit capacity. This will in turn allow us to sell the units at a further reduced cost directly to disadvantaged communities or organizations serving them.

 As part of this strategy, we have begun to develop a network of ‘conventional’ SIP manufactures across the US to reduce shipping costs and increase our pricing options. We need a great deal of support in this domain, however, to validate, alter, or completely revamp our strategy towards a broader market distribution. We need expert support in business and investment strategy, supply chain, market positioning, technology developers (see core technology section for more details), impact measurement, legal services, and a broad network of experts in various fields ranging from social science to material science, and climate change.

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Amro Sallam

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

A. Leveraging Innovations in Technology

By leveraging the current state of technology, mainly AI, AR/VR/MR and Blockchain we will eliminate 75%-90% of the manual, tedious, or error prone processes from initial design to final assembly. We will employ AI/ML based technology which augments the human expert to undertake tasks such as, designing for certain climates where the system can advise the designer about thermal requirements, code and zoning issues, and current capacities of the local labor force where the project is being developed.

AI/ ML can assist when changing panel thickness due to climate where the system can automatically calculate structural capacity of the panels/ beams and add additional support if needed. They also advise the designer about specific panel thicknesses to save cost by eliminating additional structure. Such AI systems can advise on sourcing material suppliers with the highest ranking and providing predictive analytics on project scheduling.

Leveraging block chain technology to the current paradigm of contracting, invoicing and payments, and material tracking and receiving, will create a huge shift in transparency and quality of service. Using AR/MR will also greatly speed up and eliminate costly errors typical of the manual transcription of dimension and location of critical building features like foundations, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. 


B. Innovation in Design Approach

We’re building a system to democratize home design and assembly for the general public. We give them the ability to arrange their basic 510 SF modules and help them combine and reconfigure these units in 3D, and then directly assess the cost of their various configurations. We then go a step further to give them the capacity of a general contractor by automatically sending their design, kit of parts, and preliminary schedule to assemblers who will then respond with actual labor cost. Each assembler will have a crowd-sourced rating based on past performance. The homeowner or designer will thus be able to make very informed decisions with instantaneous data at hand.

The Hex House’s kit of parts & modularity essentially industrializes building construction, by creating basic repetitive components that facilitate erecting the basic building shell quickly while also allowing homeowners to customize the homes to their liking. Homeowners can add, subtract, or modify their space with ease as their families or needs grow or contract. Some of the main innovative features of this solution are as follows:

  • Small homes, small carbon footprint, which expand over time as needed.
  • Creating refugee shelters which are dignified homes.
  • Provides the basic shell & structure allowing the end-user to customize the rest of the home.
  • Low-income homes, which are well-designed and built, long-lasting and recyclable or reusable at end-of-life.
  • Quick & elegant design by non-designers.
  • Quick assembly by non-builders.
  • Catalytic for our organization (AFS) to tackle the informal housing issue.
  • Circularity: We endeavor to create a kit of parts which can be used and recused until the end of life at which point it can be sent back to our manufacturing facility and either recycled or reused to create new components.
  • Sustainable process that will change the current siloed paradigm of design, bid, build to a new paradigm of total integration facilitated by technology and innovative business strategy.
  • Sustainable business model by creating a product with a broad customer base that can adapt to various socioeconomic levels, and one that we can scale and offer a competitive low price for groups that can’t otherwise afford housing (refugees, homeless & low-income). 
  • High-end, sustainable design at an affordable price.
  • Catalytic because it creates a system that has broad applicability to housing construction at a lowered cost to the public and environment. A needed solution not just for the no/ low-income, refugee communities but also the public suffering a massive housing crisis.

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

A. Impact goal for the next year

  • Streamline design & manufacturing process, thereby reducing the cost of basic units using conventional SIPs and allowing us to provide a quality product to our end users at a fraction of the cost of conventional housing solutions.
  • Expand distribution throughout the Americas, bringing low cost, easy-to-assemble durable housing to disadvantaged communities; refugees, homeless and low/ no-income populations.
  • Expand global distribution channels, partnering with conventional SIP manufactures in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, SE Asia, and Eastern Europe thereby expanding our impact to global populations, providing them with new options for shelter and supporting their upward socio-economic transition.
  • Develop an online platform that provides comprehensive information to clients and facilitate basic unit arrangements, minor interior wall modifications, 3D visualization, bill of materials creation, material and labor cost estimation and a project schedule. This will democratize housing planning, design, material procurement, and construction/ assembly and bring unrealized value to the end user by reducing their cost, time, and increasing the quality of housing stock available to them.
  • Develop market strategy to expand sales and distribution channels across the U.S. to NGOs, government agencies, communities, and the general public. This will further drive down the cost of production and increase value for our end users.
  • Partner with financial institutions to create new forms of equitable home financing, based on partnership finance models which do not put all the risk on the homebuyers.
  • Begin R&D on sustainable SIP panels and “Clickable” connections; the “new kit”
  • Begin patent applications for novel design/ assembly process 
  • Begin planning for production and assembly plant to develop and display various prototypes and to support R&D of “new kit” 


B. Impact goal for 2-5 years

  • Build a small assembly plant to develop and display various prototypes and to support R&D of “new kit,” allowing us to design and develop an environmentally friendly, very easy to assemble kit, further simplifying
  • Develop relations and partner with suitable raw material manufactures and work towards stabilizing supply chain and material cost. 
  • Begin distribution within the continental US, developing 2-4 manufacturing/ assembly plants in favorable markets and strategically located to insure short distribution routes to other markets throughout the U.S. 
  • Once US operations are proven sustainable, begin plans for international manufacturing/ assembly plants to serve a bigger population of displaced and disadvantaged communities. This will allow us to explore other building technologies and materials and incorporate the learnings into enhancing our product and service offering, providing more value to our end users.
    • Develop local partnerships with raw material suppliers and assemblers
    • Modify design according to local markets
  • Expand assembly, production, and R&D plant to test, further refine new sustainable SIP panels and “Clickable” structural connection designs
  • Further enhance online platform to incentivize material manufacturers and assemblers to participate in an online competitive experience. This competitive marketplace will further reduce cost, time and improve the quality of our product/ service offering.
  • Cement relationships with national and global aid agencies working to alleviate the plight of displaced populations, the homeless, and informal settlement populations. This process will facilitate the constant improvement of product and service to end users.
    • Establish ongoing development programs by which we can address their most pressing needs.
    • Establish cooperative working programs to allow their field experts to work within our organization for a period of time on R&D programs
  • Develop a robust marketing strategy which supports sustainable, targeted, and cautious growth. Focus our efforts on governmental aid agencies, NGOs, community groups and low-income communities. This will provide us and our customers/ end users with the biggest impact, by lower cost, enhancing quality of the homes, developing the essential technologies and honing our customer service capabilities.
  • Expand partnerships with financial institutions to create new forms of equitable home financing, based on partnership finance models which do not put all the risk on the homebuyers.
  • Begin ASTM, UL testing and certification process for new panels and connections.
  • Once certification is achieved, begin the patent process for the entire system including design/ assembly process, new panels, and structural connection designs.
  • Evaluate market needs and ROI of adding another modular, flat-pack house design. Keep it simple, more conventional (rectilinear) & smaller (200-300 SF). 
  • Evaluate a third, larger (700-1000 SF), more conventional (rectilinear) module

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

We believe that the best way to calculate the impact of providing homes rather than shelters is to track the number of refugees that are able to live self-sufficiently (without government assistance) and determine the number of refugees that eventually settle in those countries. If the Hex House could be deployed to the EU alone it would house more than a million refugees. This number jumps to 5 million if deployed in the Middle East and Turkey. The problem of displaced peoples is so staggering that even if the Hex House was deployed to 1% of the population it would amount to helping 600,000 people.

Fundamentally our impact will be measured by the number of homes we provide to refugees, displaced populations, and homeless individuals. Our target is to provide safe, sustainable, affordable, and dignified housing to national and global populations.

  • In the US we aim to provide homes to 60k – 100k people in the first year and growing that number 15% – 25% annually. By year five we target to serve 125k – 208k displaced and homeless people.
  • Globally we aim to provide our homes to 800k – 1million people in the first five years

As discussed earlier, our strategy is to provide a housing model which generates economic opportunities for the communities and spurs a self-sustainable economic structure. By building local manufacturing and assembly plants, local delivery services, local assembly, and home maintenance services, the local community ensures a viable job market. 

Shelter, being a fundamental prerequisite to stability and upward economic mobility, this model has a positive reinforcing system dynamic. Spurring growth of other local markets, such as extraction and harvesting of local raw building materials as well as others part of this value chain. This will eventually spur other local industries to flourish within the community.

We will measure our impact through providing safe and sustainable access to green and public spaces to displaced communities. Additionally, we will effectively provide them with resilient and sustainable buildings and communities constructed with local materials.

Another important measure will be reducing the number of deaths and further displacement of communities due to climate change related disasters, flooding, fires, earthquakes, etc., by engineering homes and communities which can resist these forces and reduce their devastating effects.

What is your theory of change?

There will, unfortunately, always be displaced populations. Whether citizens are seeking justice, escaping torment, or resettling from a region made unlivable by war, disease, or (more and more, the result of) climate change. It is an injustice to consider these populations ‘temporary’ as many are never able to return to their home nations. Host countries are in need of a framework for the efficient, effective, and humane absorption of refugee populations into their culture, economy, and society. While housing is not the only thing needed by these populations, according to UNHCR,

As well as being a fundamental human right, safe, secure and affordable housing plays a critical role in determining overall health and well-being and provides a base from which resettled refugees can seek employment, re-establish family relationships and make connections with the wider community.

 Therefore, the better the transitional housing solution, the better community support it creates which in turn is a strong indicator of future success by the displaced communities in their new host countries. The same approach holds true for homeless and low to no income populations.

We understands that there has been a historical aversion toward the housing of these populations due to the high financial costs and lack of political will--both of which paint the picture of refugee settlements as burdens to host nations. Our Theory of Change is based on transforming this paradigm so that housing displaced populations is not just an obligation of our basic humanity, but a phenomenon that benefits both the host countries and the relocating populations and can be viewed as a success of the globally-integrated community.

The end goal of host countries is to assimilate the newcomers into the host’s cultural, economic, and societal systems so that they can become productive members of the systems. However, incorporating populations unfamiliar with the new location directly into urban centers can be disorienting, counterproductive, and, in some cases, dangerous. In fact, Chinedu Temple Obi, A Fellow at the World Bank, conducted a case study of Syrian refugees at Jordan in 2021, and discovered the following results:

Although living outside of the camps can increase refugees' freedom, integration, and likelihood to participate in economic activities, the safety nets enjoyed inside the camp disappear, as does the sense of belonging and community spirit among the refugees. In urban areas, refugees may struggle to pay rent and end up living in substandard dwellings. Despite these constraints, where policy allows, most refugees often choose to live outside refugee camps.

And who can blame them? In most cases, the camps are cramped, unhealthy, and lack any vibrancy of normal life. If the settlement camp could truly act as a transitional community that provides safety, a sense of community, social services and education, economic well-being, and a sense of self-value, then the phenomenon of refugee settlements can start to be seen as advantageous to the host country and, ultimately, the global community. In fact, the Obi study

sheds new light on the importance of understanding Quality of Life (QOL) differences for refugees based on where they are living.  This has important policy considerations in targeting assistance and programs designed to create sustainable settlement and shelter using the multidimensional QOL indicator as a guide. The study shows that camp-based programs need to promote life skills to improve refugees' success once they move away from the camp. These programs are particularly needed for female-headed refugee households living in camps.

Slow integration into urban areas should, therefore, be supported by safe, self-sustainable, dignified housing developments or self-sufficient “Special Economic Zones” which will provide the migrants with a strong socio-economic base to make the move and lessen the burden of housing discrimination by landlords generally experienced by new refugees. They will be moving from a productive, self-sustainable, stable, vibrant community where they would have been able to secure jobs, build wealth, learn the local language, and are better suited for integration. 

While our approach to housing and neighborhood building will be integral to the shifting of this paradigm, we realize that partnerships with the host nations’ governments in addition to organizations specializing in economic development, social support services, and educational training will also be paramount in the success of this endeavor. Assistance from MIT Solve in helping us establish these partnerships is one of the key reasons that we are seeking to become Solvers. We understand that our ideas will only be successfully implemented if we are part of a larger team of experts focused on creating a new refugee community framework for integration.

Anna Ziersch, Moira Walsh, Clemence Due, and Emily Duivesteyn, in their 2017 publication Exploring the Relationship between Housing and Health for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in South Australia: A Qualitative Study revealed that

Housing is an important social determinant of health; however, little is known about the impact of housing experiences on health and wellbeing for people from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds. In this paper, we outline a qualitative component of a study in South Australia examining these links. Specifically, interviews were conducted with 50 refugees and asylum seekers who were purposely sampled according to gender, continent and visa status, from a broader survey. Interviews were analyzed thematically. The results indicated that housing was of central importance to health and wellbeing and impacted on health through a range of pathways including affordability, the suitability of housing in relation to physical aspects such as condition and layout, and social aspects such as safety and belonging and issues around security of tenure. Asylum seekers in particular reported that living in housing in poor condition negatively affected their health. Our research reinforces the importance of housing for both the physical and mental health for asylum seekers and refugees living in resettlement countries. Improving housing quality, affordability and tenure security all have the potential to lead to more positive health outcomes. 

The direct correlation between stable, dignified housing, community planning and layout and the overall health of the displaced community is paramount. Our design aims to create sustainable, dignified homes, and well-conceived and planned community arrangements with access to green space, public/private exterior space, and focuses on integration with the entire system that creates and sustains a true community. Working alongside other organizations that provide support to these populations, this approach will result in security via social order, economic opportunities by job creation, equitable access to community amenities such as education, vocational training, language classes, and access to transportation. It is critical for our housing system to tap into existing socio-economic conditions. Until a settlement can prove its ability to successfully create a pipeline of well-prepared, productive new citizens, the paradigm will remain un-shifted and the deplorable conditions will remain the status quo.

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

Technology, an essential element

We will build a web-based platform to manage the entire process from design to delivery to final assembly of the Hex House units. The platform will allow the builder/ planner to easily select units, add modular units together to make larger homes, visualize the finished homes in 3D, and produce the subsequent digital bill of materials showing every single component coded with a number. These numbers will then be automatically arranged into an assembly sequence using a construction logic algorithm and the Critical Path Method of project management which involves determining tasks essential to the completion of a project and the amount of flexibility available. 

Each component will be assigned an installation duration, effectively generating the project schedule. This digital bill of materials will then be automatically sent to participating raw materials manufacturers where they can provide their cost estimates. The estimates will assist the planner/ designer in making the most economical choice, place the order, make payments, and arrange for transportation through another crowdsourced network of transportation companies.

System output of plan, coded bill of materials and coded assembly schedule (AFS

Once transportation has been finalized through the system, this will automatically send the project information along with coded assembly drawings and project schedule, to a network of assemblers so they can provide their cost for the labor required as well as other associated information, payment structures, number of crews, etc. Again, the designer/ planner will be able to select and award the project to the best bidder and set up payment schemes on the system. All these transactions will be maintained via blockchain technology maintaining secure, transparent ledgers of the entire process for all stakeholders.

This system will speed up the process tremendously allowing the builder/ planner consisting of an individual, NGO, government agency or community organization to build quickly, efficiently, and with a high level of quality and transparency. This in turn will shorten the time between one’s displacement from the community and securing housing. 

Since construction and materials industries are highly fragmented and inefficient leading to high costs, and error prone processes, this approach is critical. The combination of the simple modular design with repetitive building components and the ability to digitally manage the design, procurement, manufacturing, delivery and construction process with one, web-based platform system that taps into the various decentralized networks of the construction and material industry, make this solution quite robust.

Further, for onsite assembly we will employ AR/ MR technology to assist the assembly crew in site localization of the foundation system, exterior and interior walls and essentially all the major building components. Traditionally this process is done by contractors looking at paper or digital drawings and then physically transcribing the locations and dimensions with a tape measure on the ground followed by staking out the critical edges and features of the structure. This is a time consuming, iterative process of checking and rechecking dimensions which is susceptible to errors and often leading to costly rework especially when dimensional discrepancies are discovered later, upon installation of subsequent components.


AR/ MR Onsite Digital Model/ Reality Localization (

Our solution will place the georeferenced digital design Building Information Modeling (BIM) project into the AR/MR set at full scale and overlaid onto the construction site, thereby allowing the assembler to see and locate the exact location (x, y) and elevation (z) of critical features like centerlines of foundations piers, beam placement locations/ alignment, floor panels’ locations, exterior and interior wall locations. Using this method, they can essentially locate any building element in the model in true space without having to use a tape measure, pencil, or stake.

Assembly sequences, safety warnings, professional shortcuts and best practice tips can all be presented just the same in AR/ MR glasses or systems as the assembler moves along. Additionally, the progress of the assembly can be captured in the same AR/ MR environment by noting which elements have been installed directly in the digital model, encoding an element number and a time stamp of installation which can be checked against the predetermined assembly schedule. Deviations from the assembly schedule noted will be handled by an AI-based re-scheduler or schedule optimizer to make suggestions on how to get the schedule back on track. 

Our goal is, therefore, to apply many technology solutions which will completely change the home building paradigm. We don't, however, intend to apply all these solutions at once; our strategy is to build the basic online platform and integrate the remaining features over time in response to market demand. We also aim to maintain a balance between what’s possible and what’s practical with current industry practices until we adopt the solution completely, before innovating further.

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices
  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Big Data
  • Blockchain
  • Crowd Sourced Service / Social Networks
  • GIS and Geospatial Technology
  • Imaging and Sensor Technology
  • Manufacturing Technology
  • Materials Science
  • Software and Mobile Applications
  • Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  • 7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 15. Life on Land

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Canada
  • Germany
  • United States

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Canada
  • Germany
  • India
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States
Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit

How many people work on your solution team?

12 Partime

How long have you been working on your solution?

2 full-time members for 2 years, 10 part-time members for 6 years

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

AFS was founded as a global organization from the very beginning. Our members are based in U.S.A, Canada, Dubai, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Italy, and India, representing a total of 8 countries. All of us come from a variety of social, economic, education, and work backgrounds. Some of us are also immigrants who identify with multiple cultures.  Our exposure to the conditions of disadvantaged communities across the globe drives us towards our common goal of finding innovative housing solutions for these peoples. Our collective contributions are critical to our success, and each member is given a voice that is acknowledged and heard with respect. They can freely express their opinions and engage with their peers on issues important to them.

With the privilege of free speech, however, comes the responsibility of respecting others and their points of view, even if that may be far removed from one’s own thinking. We are mindful of these guidelines during our discussions. In our precedent studies for new or ongoing projects, we consciously include national and international design examples that feature the work of a diverse body of design professionals. We are acutely aware of how individual personalities, abilities, and backgrounds influence learning. We, therefore, believe in the creation of an inclusive environment not only for the communities we serve, but also for ourselves and our partners in various projects.

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

AFS plans to use an Integrated Business Model by selling Hex Houses at market rate to users to help advance design and delivery strategies and to help fund projects that address social needs. The Hex House is suitable in the domestic, for-profit market as a small home for empty nesters or those who are downsizing, for those desiring second homes, as hospitality vacation rental units, and as off-the-grid communities. The same basic unit (likely with less luxurious fixtures and finishes) can also meet needs to serve refugee communities, homeless populations, and to provide affordable housing solutions for working low income, elderly, or marginal groups.

Our primary customers, however, will be governmental and nongovernmental relief and aid agencies such as:


  • FEMA
  • HUD
  • Habitat for Humanity (HFH)
  • State Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs)
  • Islamic Relief USA


  • United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
  • The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)
  • Refugees International
  • US Committee for Refugees (USCR)
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Relief International
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  • Mercy Corps (MC)

Our beneficiaries are the displaced and disadvantaged communities these agencies serve by providing housing assistance either due to natural or manmade disasters. This includes refugees, homeless and low/no income populations worldwide.

Our business strategy is to be a product and service provider to aid agencies in providing safe, affordable housing and dignified homes, whether transitional or permanent. We will likely have several Hex House models depending on the foreseen duration of stay of the displaced community and the needs of the agency. Our service will include providing an online digital platform for the agency to layout the homes, configure the units into single or multiple units, providing cost estimates for the units, delivery and onsite assembly and sourcing the delivery and assembly services to complete onsite erection.

Most aid and disaster relief agencies relay on preselected service providers, where each will provide a bid/ tender for the work and the agency will proceed to making a value-based selection and award the project. Often this process is fragmented and opaque leaving the agency at the mercy of the bidder, who will source all the subcontracted services, adding a markup then finally providing a lump sum cost for the project.

Our system gives the agency full control of the entire process, from planning & layout design, sourcing the materials, to delivery and assembly. Every aspect of the process can be tracked online and critical issues like supply chain, assembly and construction risks can be hedged. If a material supplier, or assembler becomes delayed, another supplier can be sourced to keep the project on track. Our system will provide the agencies with analytics about the performance of each material supplier, delivery services and assemblers and rank them according to past performance. All this will simplify and greatly reduce the work of the relief agencies in coordinating with many providers and managing logistics.

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Organizations (B2B)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

It is paramount that AFS develop a project delivery method that can successfully meet requirements of market-rate buyers in an efficient and rapid manner. We need to have a robust and trustworthy manufacturing and distribution network and a service mechanism to provide support for these buyers. If we can establish a market for the Hex House with market-rate customers, capital can be raised and maintained with an ongoing program. 

In addition, the design, logistics, and delivery methods can be refined and modified to create a streamlined social program approach. By parlaying our market-rate experience, we can create an even more cost-efficient service subsidization model to deliver disaster and social housing solutions. However, we will need to successfully adjust delivery methods and scales to meet the new requirements and we look forward to working with the Solve Team to achieve this goal.

For the first few years of operation, we will need to raise capital to build, sustain and scale our operations to both relief agencies and market rate housing. We will target grants and donations for seed capital as well as sell the homes on the market. Once this model has been refined and financial stability proven, we will target government and NGO service contracts to further scale operations and expand globally.

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

We are currently developing a network of manufacturing and distribution partners in North America in order to create a market-rate delivery strategy. While the process is underway, it is still in its beginning stages and has yet to result in financial sustainability. However, as supply chain and material price volatility stabilize, we hope to start our inroads to this phase of the process. Networks such as the one that MIT Solve with offer us access to will invariably help us to perfect our strategy and move forward into a successful disaster and social housing development.

Solution Team

  • Dan Clark Design Director, Architects for Society
  • Altaf Engineer Architect+Assistant Professor, Architects For Society
  • Yousef Oqleh Chairman of the Board at Architects For Society, Architects For Society
  • Amro Sallam DIRECTOR, Architects For Society
  • Adam Whipple Board Member, Architects for Society
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