Architecture Program


Date of this Version

Spring 5-4-2012


Social business examples are few in the architecture profession. In fact, humanitarian architecture as a concept is new to the field. Left to non-profits and academics (Architecture for Humanity and Rural Studio respectively), humanitarian architecture is not traditionally regarded as a profitable business.

However, other fields have found ways to combine a social initiative and a profitable business. Grameen Bank founder Dr. Muhammad Yunus not only defined the term, but created the model for social business. Subsequently, many non-profits have followed suit and applied the successful system, increasing the capacity for social change within their fields.

My thesis will aim to find how architecture, as a for-profit business, can increase its work with humanitarian companies (primarily nonprofits) in order to provide design while sustaining a business. My hypothesis is that creating an architectural business with a social cause, rather than relying primarily on donating design time, will increase the quantity and quality of architecture in non-profit and humanitarian capacities.

In order to prove the viability of this business model I will choose a non-profit business client requiring a new facility to test a design solution. This investigation is critical because the business model alone will not support the architectural response. For example, TOMS Shoes qualifies as an example of a successful social business because they produce the shoes in the same country in which they donate them. In order to have a social business, one must increase the strength of the local economy in conjunction with achieving the social impact of the business. The design solution will determine in a specific case if this will be achieved through work with local construction and production of materials, or a new approach yet to be discovered.

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