Housing Studio

Driving innovation for dignified shelter
and livelihood needs around the world.
The Emergency Housing Studio collaborates with refugee-led design teams, urban planners, engineers, entrepreneurs, and NGOs to address housing needs and access to critical resources like water, food, and energy. We support refugee communities to make use of local materials for shelter designs and partner with global teams to integrate technology and new materials attuned to on-the-ground needs.

The studio is a multi-year program currently focused on the rapid prototyping, building, testing, and piloting of new solutions at the Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda. Through this pilot, the Emergency Housing Studio is working on prototyping a sustainable resettlement model that demonstrates how regional and cultural needs, materials, and resources can inform local architecture practices, community development, and economic opportunity.

Newlab has partnered with Opportunigee to develop a Village Pilot—a refugee-driven project to build locally-designed homes. The effort will take into account livelihood needs including access to healthcare, water, food, energy and community support.

Community partner
Community partner

Opportunigee is a community-based organization created by Patrick Muvunga, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The organization provides opportunities for displaced people to realize their potential and thrive. Opportunigee has developed building projects using recycled materials, including a radio station, an amphitheatre, and other community-led initiatives in the settlement.
Inquire about studio partnership

Focus areas
Dignified housing

Testing various materials and building methods for more dignified shelter.

Community and placemaking

Creating gathering spaces, knowledge hubs, and increased placemaking.

Tech solutions for livelihood needs

Applying appropriate technology to addressing livelihood needs with a focus on Ugandan innovation and products.

Skills training

Training and employing community members to support the village pilot build.

Sustainable design

Enabling local supply chains and exploring sustainable and environmentally friendly factors, materials, and structures.

Responsible resettlement model

Proving alternative ways to resettle refugee populations that also benefit host populations.

Key dates
Research and discovery
October 2019 – January 2020
Site visits
October 2019
Testing and implementation
February – June 2020
Village pilot build
July - December 2020


Nakivale, Uganda
Uganda is host to 1.4 million refugees and over 100,000 of those refugees live in the Nakivale settlement in southwest Uganda. By supporting refugee-led innovation in this settlement, the Emergency Housing Studio has the opportunity to redefine dignified shelter and placemaking.