top of page


In 2010, David and Louise Cole left their 9 to 5 jobs in London and embarked on a trip which would change their lives and the lives of untold others forever.

Our Team.

Founders of Building Trust international

Louise Cole - worked as an industrial designer for one of the world’s leading toy companies before becoming one of the founding members of Building Trust.
David Cole - worked on large scale stadia design projects in Russia and the UK before becoming one of the founding members of Building Trust.

2011 - Whilst in Thailand they visited the border town of Mae Sot, there they witnessed the plight of children of displaced, stateless Burmese refugees, being uprooted every few years due to the lack of land rights. They came up with an idea of a school building that could be taken down and transported with the community, perhaps one day being able to be taken back over the border into Burma and starting the regeneration of the countries small rural border towns that have been devastated by decades of civil war. The pair hastily set up the charity and launched an International design competition asking Architects, Designers and Engineers to come up with an innovative design solution for a mobile, modular school which they would then construct for a displaced community of migrants and refugees on the border. There was an incredible response with more than 800 designers and academic institutions expressing an interest and designs coming from over 30 countries. This first competition 'School 4 Burma' was won by Amadeo Bennetta and Daniel LaRossa from Berkeley, CA, USA, and has since gone on to inform the building of numerous other schools and classrooms in the region as well as changing the way the schools leasehold contracts are written.

"After seeing the difficulties children faced in Mae Sot, our main aim was to raise enough money through the competition entries to build the first school and show what could be done with a strong concept and enough local community support. We were surprised when people starting emailing us asking us when the next competition would start and what the subject area would be. In the last ten years we are so pleased to have been able to help communities in need and link them with fantastic design concepts and build multiple projects around the world from education to consecration, healthcare to play." Louise Cole


2012 - David and Louise returned to Mae Sot to help build the winning school design with local contractors Ironwood, international volunteers including students from the university of Hong Kong and local volunteers. The first MOVINGschool001 was built.

The pair turned the tables on humanitarian design with the second design challenge 'HOME' asking the design community to look at the rise in single occupancy housing in so called 'developed cities'. The general poor quality of affordable single occupancy bedsits and shared accommodation alongside the rise in single households as a result of ageing populations and breakdowns in family units and strong communities. The prize went to World Renowned Architectural Office Levitt Bernstein & Partners with their adaptive reuse of parking areas. Building Trust teamed up with the YMCA, Shelter and the GLA to work through the details of delivering the project.  


Since then the couple have grown into a team of like minded folk and have gone on to look at low cost flood resistant housing in Asia, sustainable schools in Africa and encouraging playscapes for all in cities around the world. They have advocated community led design and helped on numerous projects from favela relocations in Brazil to slum upgrading in Cambodia. The latest projects relate to conservation and promoting sustainable design within the field of community led eco-tourism across South East Asia. 

"Design at its heart is about problem solving, in a world full of issues it does not take much to prove the value of design and its role in making the World a better place for us all." David Cole

Unlike other charitable organisations there is no big head office, instead there are a number of offices set up by volunteers looking at issues which are local to them in a diverse list of countries from Greece to Bangladesh and from Cambodia to Mexico.

Since the humble beginnings building trust has shown that design has value far beyond the bricks and mortar of any one building. Our built environment defines us and impacts our health, our relationships with others and our future. Building Trust hopes that together we can build a better future for all of us and future generations. 

We're Building Trust - with every project we support.



Building Trust International was founded in June 2011 with the core aim to provide design and architectural assistance to existing charities, individuals and communities in need.


An important aim at Building Trust international is to set-up international stations throughout the world led by local volunteers. We connect with individuals and give them the ownership of finding local projects which are in need of design support.


Over the last decade our network of volunteers have continued to work tirelessly to promote our charitable work to their local communities.

Charity Structure:

A team of international volunteer engineers, designers, architects, accountants, landscape architects and more make up our enthusiastic, hardworking team. Local knowledge is key to finding sustainable local solutions, we hope to continue to build upon these relationships as we grow and deliver more projects. Creating a stronger network of like- minded caring professionals and students that can learn from one another and share resources.


Toby Maclean - Founder of Allt

Lorna Bains - Founder, Vilo Consulting
Will Postle -Development Director at Design + Industry

Jude Sellen Cole - Founder of Impact Wellbeing


Working With the Best

We work alongside a range of organisations from small communities to large multinational NGOs, such as Free the Bears, WCS, UNICEF, UNDP and The Red Cross. With all our collaborative projects we bring value and improve social, environmental and economic impact.


bottom of page