Better Shelter: IKEA and UN deliver 10.000 modular homes to refugee families

With more people forcibly displaced than ever before (a jarring 59.5 million people in 2014 according to UNHCR, the UN’s Refugee Agency), the IKEA Foundation’s Better Shelter program hopes to supply more liveable temporary housing for millions of refugees from Syria and around the world.

Better Shelter

Better Shelter modular homes are 57 square feet and offer twice as much floor space as the typical cotton canvas tents that comprise most refugee camps. One entire unit comes in two(!) cardboard boxes, meaning it is cheaply transported and easily assembled in 4-8 hours. The steel-framed structures feature windows, mosquito nets, lights, ventilation, and a lockable door to keep women and children safe from sexual violence, a common problem in many refugee camps, Yahoo News reports. Incredibly, the shelter also comes with solar panels that can charge batteries and power four hours of LED lighting at night.

A single structure costs $1,150 to produce, three times the cost of a normal UNHCR tent – but according to Better Shelter “the expected lifespan is 3 years and the house can be disassembled and reused when needed.”

  • Better Shelter framework

    Better Shelter framework

Democratic Design

IKEA wouldn’t be IKEA without extensive testing and improving on prototypes. On the extensive trial runs in Syria and Ethiopia, managing director Anders Rexare Thulin told IRIN “the refugees have been involved in the process from the beginning. We have received regular feedback from families living in the structures, and we made sure we incorporated their comments in our design.”

Previously, the IKEA Foundation also provided solar lamps to refugees in Ethiopia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Chad, and Jordan. UNHCR has ordered a whopping 10.000 units, that are being deployed in Syria, Iraq and the European Union.

“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. We are incredibly proud that the Better Shelter is now available so refugee families and children can have a safer place to call home.” Jonathan Spampinato, head of the Ikea Foundation’s strategic planning and communications, said in a statement.

  • Better Shelter prototypes in Ethiopia

The IKEA Foundation and Better Shelter certainly deserve all praise for rising to an unprecedented challenge. By designing a high quality modular accommodation that is not only economical, but also sustainable, they are paving the way for a long term solution to a very real problem.

Organisations and individuals interested can donate a shelter this Christmas. Click here for more information »