In 2013 the furniture giant IKEA, in collaboration with the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) developed the so-called Refugee Housing Unit (RHU), a flat packed shelter for housing refugees, which is much easier to assemble and a lot more durable than other such shelters currently in use. Since then, the shelters have been tested in areas like Iraq and Ethiopia and have been deemed a huge success.
The Refugee Housing Unit by IKEA is a shed-like structure, which is made of lightweight polymer panels, laminated with thermal insulation that are clipped onto a steel frame. Each shelter is delivered to the building site in a flat packed package, which is filled with panels, pipes, connectors, wires, etc. just like any other piece of IKEA furniture. Once delivered, it takes about four hours to assemble.
The package also contains a textile sheet with aluminum woven into the material that is meant to cover the roof. This material works to reflect the sun during the day and keep the heat in at night. The shelter also comes with a solar panel that is laminated onto a thin plastic film and provides enough energy to power the built-in lights and a USB outlet.
When erected, the shelter measures 57.5 square feet (17.5 square meters) in height, which is twice as large as the refugee tents currently in use. The units are about 10 feet (3 meters wide) and just under 20 feet long (6 meters long), and feature four windows and one door. Each of the units can house five people. Also, the sturdy walls make it possible to upgrade the structure, such as reinforcing the walls with earth or fitting the structure with a metal roof.
Each unit costs about $1000 to prefabricate in mass production.