IKEA Foundation, UNHCR and Refugee Housing Unit announce flat pack home kit in light of World Refugee Day
Following World Refugee Day last month, the IKEA Foundation in partnership with UNHCR and Refugee Housing Unit released a new conceptual flat pack refugee home which mimics the typical IKEA flat pack furniture. The new housing units are proposed to tackle the issues that current temporary refugee camps face with the shelters having a life span of approximately 6 months.
The constant need for tents to be replaced is accentuated by the average time that refugees stay at camps measuring several years. The vulnerable nature of the tents is highlighted when children are seen exposed to the challenging elements of life on a refugee camp. Children often spend around 12 years in a refugee camp which is most of their childhood. This partnership aims to provide safer shelters which children can call 'home'.
The Refugee Housing Unit have used their expertise within design and manufacturing emergency shelters to develop more stable, humanitarian structures for people to live in. “We realised that the plastic sheeting UNHCR was using to build temporary refugee shelters was almost exactly the same material that IKEA used for their bags in stores. We also realised that IKEA had expertise in certain areas - such as logistics and flat packing - that we could learn from,” commented Olivier Delarue, leader of the UNHCR Innovation initiative.
As a result the structures are not only lightweight but packed together in a single flat pack box, easing transportation of the product to the areas which need them the most. The designers have paid close consideration to the needs of the refugees within the harsh environments they have to live in when creating the shed-like structure. Important features have been added to the frame, including a solar panel which powers a single light within the space. Due to the lack of electricity once the sun sets, the camps are plunged into pitch black in the evenings and no tasks such as cooking or homework can be carried out.
A reflective layer has been designed over the roof which reflects the heat away from the house during the hot days whilst maintaining the warmth within the room during the evening. The houses are currently being tested in a camp in Ethiopia and feedback is being gathered directly from families by the designers with which they aim to continue to develop the design of the flat-pack house.
Johan Karlsson, Project Manager at the Refugee Housing Unit has said: “We share a genuine interest and understanding of innovation, and we all bring unique resources and skills to the project. The IKEA Foundation provides funding and management support, UNHCR brings the know-how and field experience, while we and our private and academic partners carry-out the hands-on development of the product.