The Need for Research

Imagine a wall in Nepal made of different-sized mountain stones mixed with old cement, contaminated water and in the wrong proportions. How can we test its strength and safety?

We know everything about how to make a high-tech skyscraper earthquake-resistant. But we have no reliable building codes for a simple house made of natural materials in earthquake-prone areas. This is unacceptable.

It is important to use less carbon-intensive materials to fight the environmental crisis. Therefore, we need to focus on natural building materials and learn more about Nature Based Solutions (NBS). With the increase in disasters such as earthquakes and floods, it’s crucial that we find these solutions to improve overall construction safety.

Our in-depth research shows that the available information in national codes, technical regulations, and practical manuals for non-engineered structures around the world is not fit for purpose.

Smart Shelter Research is focused on finding these clear answers through research, development, testing and state-of-the-art calculations. Our scientific approach is unique and has not been studied in such detail before. In our calculations, we include the influence of local building materials and workmanship. With the results, we develop reliable building codes and simplified practical field manuals.

Together we can make a big difference!
Join our research assignments and SMARTnet project.

How It Works

“Our approach is innovative, as we include variables on which only limited research has been done”

With a global collaboration of experts, universities and students, we evaluate, validate, develop, optimize and add to existing knowledge.

To achieve these goals, we’ve launched research assignments in the following disciplines:

Architecture and Materials: researching materials with a low ecological impact, properties of natural materials, passive energy concepts and life cycle assessments.

Earthquake engineering – structural engineering: researching non-engineered earthquake-resistant construction techniques and the effects of local materials and on-site construction quality.

Machines & Products: Research and development of field-testing equipment, low-tech shaking tables, low-velocity wind energy, DIY solar applications, and “One-cent solutions.”

* The assignments are meant for a minimum duration of one academic year (final-year thesis students) or longer (Ph.D. candidates). Shorter durations or group assignments are possible but need to be discussed, please contact us for more options.

* You will work on the assignments at your university or institute within your own curriculum and time frame.

Join our International Research to find answers and solutions to improve safety and sustainability for non-engineered construction that not only help millions of people but also benefit the environment.

SMARTnet project

We also launched a unique and groundbreaking project called SMARTnet.

This international project aims to significantly improve the seismic behavior of traditional and vernacular techniques.

Today, university students from the UK, Italy, Nepal, India and Canada are working on the modelling of our case study buildings in rubble stone masonry. Indian students are testing materials and in Ireland students of mechanical engineering are developing shear testing devices.

You can also be part of this unique international project, see our Call to Action:
Non-Engineered 2.0“. Contact us if you’ve any questions.

Who We Are

In 2005, Martijn started the Smart Shelter Concept. It now comprises three divisions focusing on finding Safe, Sustainable, and Seismic proof structures with traditional building techniques for the developing and post-disaster context. As well as for modern architectural applications and global environmental solutions.

  • Smart Shelter Foundation is our NGO. Construction projects for the poor in developing countries, knowledge transfer, SMARTnet.
  • Smart Shelter Research focuses on collaborations and low-tech construction-related research assignments and SMARTnet.
  • Smart Shelter Consultancy conducts workshops and lectures to universities worldwide.

Martijn Schildkamp, PhD. Founder and Director

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

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 specializes in construction techniques using natural and alternative materials and has developed a keen interest in low-tech earthquake-resistant principles. His activities are multidisciplinary, as he is simultaneously an architect, engineer, estimator, professor, trainer, supervisor, and mason, all at the same time. Over the years, he gained a lot of grassroots experience and practical knowledge that he now passes on to students and professionals around the world.

Since 2021, Martijn holds a Ph.D. on the subject: Global seismic assessment of rubble stone buildings.

You can download his papers for free.

Tessa van Weelie, coordinator.

Tessa joined Smart Shelter in 2007 and has since worked on all projects in Smart Shelter’s various departments. With a strong background in coordination and planning, she supports the overall organisation and is very good at actually getting things done. She’s a good communicator with endless enthusiasm.

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Our Partners, Collaborators and Contributors

We are establishing a fast growing network of professionals, organizations, faculties and professors at universities worldwide. We are currently collaborating and exchanging knowledge with literally hundreds of experts, whom are connected to one or more institutions of the following list:

  • Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI), worldwide.
  • International Association for Earthquake Engineering (IAEE), worldwide.
  • World Housing Encyclopedia (WHE), worldwide.
  • Nepal School Research, group of universities in Japan.
  • Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Switzerland.
  • Earthquake Watch Group, in Iran.
  • Pavia Engineering Commission for International Cooperation, in Italy.
  • Auroville Earth Institute, in India.
  • Engineers without Borders Ireland.
  • Engineers Without Borders Australia.
  • Shanghai Research Institute of Building Sciences in China.
  • ARUP International in Shanghai and London


  • ISISE, Universidade do Minho in Portugal.
  • Structural Engineering, University of Bologna in Italy.
  • Structural Engineering, Nagoya University in Japan.
  • Structural Engineering, University of Pavia in Italy.
  • Earthquake Engineering, IIT Roorkee in India.
  • Earthquake Engineering, IIT Patna in India.
  • Earthquake Engineering, IIIT Hyderabad in India.
  • Structural Engineering, Tribhuvan University in Nepal.
  • Earthquake Engineering, the University of Bristol in the UK.
  • Structural Engineering, University College London in the UK.
  • Civil Engineering, Technological University Dublin in Ireland.
  • Mechanical Engineering, University of Limerick in Ireland.
  • School of Architecture, Taylor’s University in Malaysia.
  • School of Architecture, KMUTT in Thailand.
  • Architecture and Community Design, the University of San Francisco in the USA.

And many more!

For detailed information about how you can collaborate with our assignments, please contact us.

We are a 100% open-source -program, we share, we exchange and we collaborate. We hope you will join.