IKEA's Innovative Solution for Refugee Shelter Can't Keep Up with Demand

The brain behind these shelters is Industrial Designer Johan Karlsson, designing what he described as an “incremental modification to existing refugee shelters.”


How are we housing millions of Syrian refugees?

The question is easily answered. A quick Google image search reveals tent houses — hundreds of rows of these flimsy tents. IKEA may have a better solution.

The IKEA Foundation is helping Syrian refugees in their major transition by building easy-to-assemble shelters.

“I mean they’re really people running for their lives,” said British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie. “And, of course, I think they need to be not left to starve and die in various no man’s land, you know. They do need to be accommodated somehow.”

The brain behind these shelters is industrial designer Johan Karlsson. He worked with Sweden’s Refugee Services abroad in 2010 designing what he described as an “incremental modification to existing refugee shelters.” He noticed how tent shelters provided little security from the elements or any semblance of privacy. So he built something better, and the humanitarian branch of IKEA backed Karlsson's Better Shelter project.

“The average stay in an UNHCR refugee camp is 17 years,” Karlsson told The Globe and Mail in an interview. “The tents fall apart after a few months so they needed something that was built to last. Our shelters last three years at minimum. Obviously the situation is complex and goes far beyond shelter. This is just a tiny part of humanitarian aid, but it’s an important one when it comes to allowing displaced people to live with dignity.”

The finished product stands six feet tall and comes in two sizes: 57 square feet or 188 square feet. The structures are held up by a sturdy steel frame and held together by polymer panels. The roof comes with solar panels, which can power lights or a phone charger inside the housing. The shelters even come with windows and a door that locks. And, in typical IKEA fashion, no tools are required to assemble these shelters, which takes four people around four hours.

Watch one get assembled in Greece:

The good news is camps across Europe — in Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden — are demanding these shelters. However, according to Karlsson, demand has been out-pacing their ability to supply. His foundation is only able to produce around 2,500 units a month. But with millions in Syria fleeing, it's becoming difficult to keep up.

“What started as a humanitarian project for people far away in distant, war-torn countries is now right on our doorstep,” he explained.

***

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

Photo Credit: Better Shelter

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Steven Pinker's 13 rules for writing better

The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Steven Pinker speaks onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on July 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Media)
Personal Growth
  • Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
  • When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
  • Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
Keep reading Show less

Want to age gracefully? A new study says live meaningfully

Thinking your life is worthwhile is correlated with a variety of positive outcomes.

YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that adults who feel their lives are meaningful have better health and life outcomes.
  • Adults who felt their lives were worthwhile tended to be more social and had healthier habits.
  • The findings could be used to help improve the health of older adults.
Keep reading Show less