IKEA Producing 10,000 Flatpack Refugee Homes

Ikea flatpacks
The shelters have been used by refugees in Iraq and Ethiopia and come equipped with a roof solar panel which powers the internal light or can charge a mobile phone. Ikea Foundation

IKEA is producing 10,000 flatpack shelters to provide accommodation for refugees in war zones and natural disaster sites.

The shelters, which have a three-year lifespan, have been tested by refugee families in Iraq and Ethiopia and come equipped with a roof solar panel which powers the internal light or can charge a mobile phone.

A preliminary order of 10,000 shelters has been placed by the UN’s refugee agency with Better Shelter, a Swedish social enterprise set up by IKEA’s charitable foundation. The units will be distributed by the UN later this year to displaced families and communities in areas hit by conflict and natural disaster.

The UN currently estimates that there are 3.9 million registered Syrian refugees fleeing the country's internal conflict, while in Vanuatu, some 75,000 people - more than a quarter of the population - require shelter after the Pacific island nation was hit by Cyclone Pam earlier this month.

The shelters can be built on-site by four people without any additional tools. Architecture magazine Dezeen reported that they measure 17.5 square metres and can comfortably accommodate five people.

Shaun Scales, chief of shelter and settlement at the UN’s refugee agency, said the temporary shelters would improve the lives of refugees across the world.

“The refugee housing unit is an exciting new development in humanitarian shelter and represents a much needed addition to the palette of sheltering options mobilized to assist those in need. Its deployment will ensure dramatic improvement to the lives of many people affected by crises,” said Scales.

The prototype for the shelters was first revealed in 2013 and have since been tested by 40 refugee families. They are weatherproof and designed to be more hardy than traditional refugee tents, which are estimated to have a six-month lifespan before degrading.

The shelters are made from lightweight foam panels and have a lockable door and four windows protected by mosquito nets. The steel frame can be disassembled and reassembled simply if the occupants need to move location. All components come packed in two cardboard boxes.

According to the UN’s refugee agency, there were 16.7 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2013, with a further 33.3 million people displaced within their own countries.

Correction: This article originally stated there were 3.9 million refugees in Syria. This is incorrect. The UN estimates there to be 3.9 million refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, while also estimating there to be more than 6.5 million internally displaced persons within Syria itself.