Building Trust International's MOVINGschools serve displaced refugee and migrant communities on the Thai-Burmese border. The schools, which can easily be built, disassembled, and relocated, provide an apt solution for communities in this region that do not have land rights.

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Mae SotMae Sot and Mae RamatRural

On the Thai-Burmese border, many communities don’t have access to land rights to establish permanent schools or are subject to landlords suddenly raising rents, which disincentivizes investment in infrastructure, so many children are taught in poor conditions in classrooms that are dark, unsanitary, and unsafe. Thus, in 2011, Building Trust International launched the MOVINGschools project and hosted a design competition, which Amadeo Bennetta and Dan LaRossa won, to address this issue. Bennetta and LaRossa's winning design allows for schools to be constructed and disassembled as many times as necessary, so they can easily be moved and rebuilt, which saves materials, time, and energy, when compared to repeatedly constructing low-cost structures. The first MOVINGschool was built with this design in 2012. Two other MOVINGschools were designed and constructed by Atelier COLE, Building Trust International, and Jan Glasmeier; construction on all three schools was provided by Ironwood Studio. These buildings now serve numerous refugee and migrant communities on the Thai-Burmese border: as of 2014, about 1,000 children between the ages of 4 and 16 attend the three MOVINGschools.

In addition, the schools' interior walls move, allowing teachers flexibility in determining room size depending on the desired function; with this feature, the buildings can also double as boarding houses when necessary. The structures are designed to minimize the detrimental effects of flooding, maximize natural light, and ensure passive ventilation, providing a safe, light, and clean environment for all community members who utilize the space. 

Participants in Building Trust's international design competition paid a small fee to enter, which provided the necessary funding for the construction of the first MOVINGschool, and the second and third were funded by a private donor from Australia and the Japan Association for Mae Tao Clinic, respectively. 

To encourage the spread of sustainable projects that support those in need, Building Trust has made the design of the mobile schools available for download for free on its website


Initial funding was an issue, but the donations from the international design competition helped to launch the project. In addition, finding the right materials and the right size and dimensions of steel for the designs was a challenge at first.

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