Better Shelter, the award-winning flat-pack refugee dwelling developed by the IKEA Foundation and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, finally went into production this past spring, and the UNHCR ordered 10,000 units right away. With the global refugee crisis at an all-time high, it’s encouraging news that thousands of Better Shelters have already been deployed, many of which are going to the countless Syrian refugees arriving in various European countries everyday.
The 6-foot-tall structures, which come in 57-square-foot model and 188-square-foot models, take four people four to eight hours to assemble. Built to be safer and more durable than traditional canvas or plastic tents, these steel-framed dwellings feature lightweight polymer panels, lockable doors and windows, and rooftop solar panels that can power interior lamps or phone chargers. They currently cost $1,150 each, but the number is expected to go below $1,000 as production volume increases.
According to the Better Shelter website, thousands of its units have been delivered this year, with the largest quantities going to Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan (2,600 units), Chad (1,000 units) and Greece (520 units). Smaller batches have gone to refugee camps in Switzerland, Germany, Djibouti and Nepal.
In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Johan Karlsson, the Swedish designer who helped conceive the Better Shelter, says that a refugee camp is also being planned for Sweden—65 feet from his Stockholm office, in fact. “What started as a humanitarian project for people far away in distant, war-torn countries is now right on our doorstep,” he says.
IKEA also recently launched the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, which will donate 1 euro to the UNHCR for every lamp and light bulb sold in stores or online through December 19. In a recent press release, the UNHCR says that proceeds from this campaign will go toward building a solar farm that will meet the energy needs of 27,000 Syrian refugees at a camp in Jordan’s northern desert. The new electricity grid is expected to go into effect by next March or April.
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