If there’s any company on earth with an expertise in designing things that are easy to transport and assemble, it’s IKEA. So it makes perfect sense that the Swedish furniture manufacturer would team up with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — or the UNCHR for short — to redesign the temporary shelters that millions of refugees around the world call home.
The tent-based structures currently deployed by the UN are not only time-consuming to assemble, but lack insulation against the heat and cold. What’s more, the tents usually only survive for about six months, which is a huge problem since refugees often have to call these shelters home for years. So the engineers working for the IKEA Foundation came up with a simple four wall structure that’s an improvement in every way.
At roughly twice the size of current temporary dwellings, the new shelters are built around a simple framework of poles and connectors covered in lightweight insulated plastic panels that reflect sunlight in the day, and retain heat in the evening. And while assembly only takes about four hours, the completed shelter will last for almost three years, even in harsh conditions.
It goes without saying that electricity is a luxury that most refugee camps are lacking. So as these shelters are being tested in Ethiopia next month, IKEA and the UNCHR are looking to further advance the design with netting that not only blocks heat, but also works as a solar panel to charge a battery that can power lighting throughout the night. And since IKEA’s involved, here’s to hoping some of these shelters even come already furnished. [