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IKEA partners with the UN to produce more innovative and durable refugee shelters

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IKEA shelter
IKEA shelter

A few years ago, the IKEA Foundation struck up a partnership with an unlikely ally: the United Nations. However, it quickly became apparent that the furniture designer and retailer could bring something valuable to the UN — the company's experience with flat-packed home furniture made it a good choice to help the UN redesign and update its refugee shelters. The older tent-style shelters used in refugee camps around the world aren't well insulated and could have a lifespan as short as six months thanks to the impact of sun, rain, and wind. But many refugees need to live in them for several years or longer; this need led IKEA to design a refugee shelter that's flat-packed like its furniture and uses a more modular building approach, making it easier to set up.

These new shelters use a metal framework and lightweight but durable panels that IKEA says can last up to three years and better insulation. Even more notable are included solar panels, so refugees can have some power in their shelters after the sun has gone down. The shelters are being tested in Ethiopia, and based on feedback the shelters will be updated and modified to better meet the needs of refugees. The shelters aren't being produced en masse yet, but hopes are that it'll happen soon.