A while ago we reported that IKEA was collaborating with the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) to create an easy to construct and affordable refugee shelter. The result was the so-called Better Shelter unit and IKEA is now getting ready to start producing the first 10,000 units to those in need. IKEA is in a unique position to produce these shelters en masse, which is what makes this project so promising.
The Better Shelter ships flatpacked in just 2 cardboard boxes and can be assembled in about 4 hours using the included tools by a group of four or five people with a small amount of basic training. The design has not changed much since the prototype we reported on previously. The shelter has a metal frame of pipes and connectors with stiffening wires, which are used to support walls, while the roof is made of plastic panels. It’s quite lightweight and has an anchoring system to keep it in place. According to IKEA, it is rated to last around three years.
Better Shelter measures 188 sq ft (17.5 sq m) and basically features one large interior space. It is capable of offering safety, if not exactly comfort, even to a large family. To prevent solar heat gain, they added an aluminum shade serves to the roof, while the shelter also features four windows. However, it would probably still get pretty hot inside this shelter in hotter regions. Each shelter also features a small rooftop-mounted solar panel, which provides enough electricity to power an interior lamp, which turns on automatically once the sun sets. Small gadgets can also be powered inside the shelter using a USB port.
The shelters are going into mass production now and the UNHCR will begin shipping them to refugee camps worldwide in mid-2015. While not the perfect living solution for all the poor people displaced by armed conflicts around the world, Better Shelter is still able to provide them with a more dignified way to live.