Ikea Innovation Improves Refugee Shelters

Retailer Teamed With UNHCR to Solve a Big, Old Problem

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Ikea innovation isn't just about helping people organize their homes -- it's also about helping people have homes, period, as can be seen in the brand's latest effort in partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Over the last few years the retailer's CSR division, The Ikea Foundation and Ikea designers have been working with the UNHCR to improve the refugee camp shelters, which typically have been tents that last for just a few months and provide little in the way of heat, electricity and other basic amenities. Yesterday, at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference & Exhibition, they provided that better solution with the unveiling of the flat pack "Better Shelter."

The new shelters, like other Ikea goods, come disassembled in boxes and are easy to put together. Compared to the short lifespan of tents, they can last up to three years (refugee families remain in camps for an average of twelve years).

They are framed like typical homes and feature walls that insulate against both the cold and the heat. They also feature built-in solar panels as well as a lamp, allowing for electricity and light. They're a remarkable, and moving example of Ikea's principle of "democratic design" -- "form, function, quality and sustainability at an affordable price."

The UNHCR just agreed to purchase 10,000 shelters from BetterShelter.org, the organization that will ultimately be producing the shelters. Prototypes have already been tested with 40 families in Ethiopia and Iraq (see more images here), and by summer, the UNHCR plans to deliver the real thing to thousands more refugee families.

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Mar 25, 2015
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