A new model for prefabricated homes, Abōd® Shelters, is making a difference in South Africa, and designers hope that this solution can be made available to people around the world who suffer from poverty, homelessness, or are displaced by natural disasters.

Recently, a community of Abōd Shelters was constructed on the Del Cramer Campus in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, about three hours north of Johannesburg, which is equipped to feed 500 children.


Abōd Shelters have electricity and lighting, in addition to the daylighting made available by the use of SUNTUF® corrugated roofing panels, which have excellent impact strength, hold up to extreme temperatures, are non-corrosive and recyleable. Polygal® Hurricane Panels are used to provide for storm protection. Assembly is performed with the use of fasteners that require only a quarter turn to tighten. Each home costs about US$6,000, is designed to last thirty years, and can be built by one family in one day.

Abōd Shelters were developed in part by Doug Sharp, a West Des Moines, Iowa architect with BSB Designs, who usually works on luxury homes. He wanted to give back and help people in the United States and the rest of the world. The goal was to “offer sound, safe, and easy to build homes to people in need.”


The BSB Designs team set about determining a way to build a home “economically, simply, with materials that were going to last a long time,” as Doug explains in a video interview. “The endeavor is to make a difference.”

The resulting design has been adapted to the global standards and requirements of the United Nations. Abōd shelters are built on a solid, steel structure for durability and adaptability. The concept of the catenary arch is reminiscent of some of the huts that the designers have seen in rural African communities. They are painted in cultural colors, that have some relationship to the community in which they are being built, and natural colors that do not contrast harshly with the environment.

Jerry Messman, Consulting Partner for BSB Designs, says that security and privacy are big issues to people, so the shelters are designed to incorporate a “high quality of character to give people a sense of pride” about where they live. The back of the Abōd opens up to the private community and the front features an opening from which residents can sell and distribute goods that they have made.

The first Abōd community of five homes was built for an orphan community in Limpopo, a small province in South Africa, in conjunction with local pastor, Don Chauke, and Dr. Jim Blessman of Blessman Ministries. Groups of women quickly and easily grasped the requirements of construction and worked together to build the homes.

Donations are being accepted for Abōd Shelters projects, with funds going to The Affordable Housing in the Developing World Foundation (AHDWF), a registered 501c3 that dedicated to providing affordable housing wherever it is needed around the world. You can also get involved by joining a Team or the newly launched Student Program.