Ikea and the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees are joining forces to build a better refugee shelter:
Ikea’s [new tent] design, a cross between a giant garden shed and a khaki canvas marquee, is formed from lightweight laminated panels that clip on to a simple frame, providing UV protection and thermal insulation. Like an Ikea product, the polymer panels come packed in a box, along with a bag of pipes, connectors and wires — and no doubt a cartoon construction manual. “It is designed this way, like an Ikea bookshelf, to be easy to transport and easy to set up in the field,” says Johan Karlsson, project manager of Ikea’s Refugee Housing Unit. “And the panels can last up to three years.”
The kit also incorporates a fabric shading sheet with a metallic layer that reflects the sun during the day and keeps the heat in at night, as well as a solar panel to provide the shelter with power.
The UN is planning to test 50 prototype shelters in Ethiopia, Iraq, and Lebanon. Others have developed novel forms of refugee housing, but the traditional canvas tent remains dominant. Alternatives include the Superdobe Eco-Dome, the Buckminster Fuller-inspired Hexyaurt, and the Global Village Shelter, which is made from water- and flame- resistant paper.