The idea behind IKEA’s sudden interest in temporary refugee housing is that refugees now live in badly equipped traditional canvas ridge tents or more modern hoop tents. According to the furniture giant, these tents are not insulated and last only for a couple of months when they’re used extensively. As most refugees have to stay in a camp for years under heavy weather conditions, they need a more solid base. IKEA’s system is extremely flexible. It’s easy to transport, easy to assemble and it can be upgraded when a longer stay is required, for example by adding earth walls of a metal roof.
IKEA’s shelter comes with a textile sheet with aluminium woven into the material that lays over the roof, reflecting the sun during the day and keeping heat in at night. A solar panel laminated on a thin plastic film powers built-in lights and a USB outlet. With a total surface of 17.5 square meters, the shelter is twice as large as a traditional refugee tent. This makes it possible to accommodate five people, which means that a small family can live together in one shelter.
IKEA claims to be able to mass-produce the shelters for €750 each. To test the concept, IKEA’s Refugee Housing Unit is manufacturing 50 trial shelters that will be tested in Ethiopia, Iraq and Lebanon.