IKEA’s flat-pack refugee shelter

This is a project by the IKEA Foundation together with the UNHCR. The target is to produce these refugee shelters for less than $1000 each. Each flat-pack includes a solar panel which powers a built-in lamp and a USB outlet. Each shelter takes 4 hours to assemble, would house 5 people and last 3 – 5 years compared to the 6 months of a conventional refugee tent.

The shelter as a flat pack: image via Fast Company

The Ikea refugee shelter designed to provide refugees with better living conditions

The Ikea refugee shelter via gizmag.com

Fast Company:More than 43 million people–globally–live as refugees or “internally displaced” (refugees within their own countries), having fled home due to “a well-founded fear of persecution” of race, religion, nationality, or socio-political membership. Right now, 3.5 million of them live in UN-provided tents, says Per Heggenes, CEO of the Ikea Foundation. “They offer little comfort, dignity, or security,” he continues. “Further, the existing tents are cold in the winter and hot in the summer. They have no electricity or lighting, limiting refugee families’ ability to lead a normal life.”

Eighty percent of refugees are women and children, and 80% of these end up in undeveloped countries. Many remain in limbo for more than a decade at a time, waiting for tension to cool down in their home countries and struggling to find work in new territory. (Imagine Tom Hanks in that one movie where he’s stuck in the airport, only with dirt floor, no air conditioning, and multiplied by 3,500,000 people.)

Up to this point, the best elemental protection relief workers could often provide refugees have been cheap, canvas UN tents that start to disintegrate after about six months.

The new Ikea-designed shelters are built to last 10 times that long. They’re twice as large as an old-school refugee tent, at 17.5 square meters (fitting five people comfortably) and take about four hours to assemble, which is about how long it took my lawyer friend, Frank, and me to bolt together my giant Ikea bookshelf the other day.

Unlike my bookshelf and other standard, wood-based Ikea fare, the shelters are made from lightweight, Porta-Potty-style plastic mounted on a supersteel skeleton. To make them cost-effective to build, assemble, and ship, the Refugee Housing Unit, which is manufacturing the actual shelter components per the Ikea Foundation’s design, developed a new type of polymer siding called Rhulite that lets light in during the day but keeps light from casting embarrassing shadows outside during the night–a privacy concern with the current UN tents that leads to many refugees extinguishing what little candle- or kerosene-lighting they can afford. …

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