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Ikea Is Making 10,000 Flat Pack Shelters To House Refugees

Let’s just hope they don’t fall apart as quickly as Ikea’s furniture.

Soon, refugees around the world could live in a shelter designed by none other than Ikea.

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The Better Shelter, an affordable, flat-packed shelter designed by the Ikea Foundation, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and a separate group of Swedish designers, is going into production soon. After testing and iterating on the design with 40 refugee families in Iraq and Ethiopia, the UN has committed to buying 10,000 models this summer.

The shelters, which are a major upgrade from the UN’s typical canvas tents, couldn’t come soon enough. With conflicts raging in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, and many other places around the globe, the world is facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II.


The Better Shelters are being sold by BetterShelter.org, a social enterprise owned by the Housing for All Foundation, which itself was set up by the Ikea Foundation (Profits will either reinvented in the company or go to the Housing for All Foundation.)

The lightweight, steel frame shelter arrives in two cardboard boxes and can be assembled in four hours. With doors that lock, a solar panel for lighting and phone charging, and insulation and ventilation materials for cooling and warmth, the 188-square-foot shelter offers a huge improvement over the canvas tents that the UN uses to house about 3.5 million refugees today. It can also last three years, much longer than the typical tent.

This is far from the only attempt to make a better disaster or refugee shelter. We’ve covered this shelter, which is meant to withstand a hurricane, and this plastic sheet shelter that pops up in two minutes. And here’s a more long-term trailer meant to do better than what an agency like FEMA might provide. All seem to handle slightly different needs related to temporary, emergency types of housing. The biggest accomplishment, of course, would be to need fewer of these designs in the first place.

About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire.

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