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Flat-pack refugee shelters from IKEA

13 April 20150 comments
Flat-pack refugee shelters from IKEA

Family in a Better Shelter unit. Photo: IKEA

The United Nations has ordered 10,000 innovative new flat-pack shelters designed by IKEA for use in refugee and disaster relief.

Designed for optimal shipping volume and weight, price, safety, durability, health, and comfort, the structures represent “a groundbreaking example of democratic design,” and are currently being manufactured for distribution during the northern summer of 2015, according to the IKEA Foundation.

The development of the shelters by IKEA and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) saw them tested by 40 refugee families in Iraq and Ethiopia.

The families’ feedback led to improvements to the design, according to IKEA spokesman Jonathan Spampinato.

“Putting refugee families and their needs at the heart of this project is a great example of how democratic design can be used for humanitarian value,” Mr Spampinato said.

“We are incredibly proud that the Better Shelter is now available, so refugee families and children can have a safer place to call home.”

The structures come with a host of innovations that improve on earlier refugee housing models, aimed to improve quality of life for inhabitants.

Traditional refugee tents only last for about six months, while the new IKEA-built shelters are designed to last for three years, and come equipped with a solar panel and lamp each for providing night time light.

And, unlike a sturdy-but-claustrophobic cargo container shelter, each Better Shelter unit will include windows, ventilation, and “a door that actually locks.

In addition to the ease of transport afforded by their flat-pack form, the shelters can also be quickly installed by residents, if need be, using only the tools and instructions contained in the box.

Shaun Scales, Chief of Shelter and Settlement at UNHCR, described the new refugee housing unit as “an exciting new development in humanitarian shelter,” one that will greatly improve the lives of persons in crisis soon but also provide “a much needed addition to the palette of sheltering options.”

Laurie Nowell
AMES Senior Journalist