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 going to the countless Syrian refugees arriving in various European countries everyday.
The six-foot-tall structures, which come in 57-square-foot model and188-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, over 4,700 units have been delivered in the last half year, with the largest quantities going to Iraq & Iraqi Kurdistan (2,600 units), Chad (1,000 units), Greece (520 units). Smaller batches have been sent 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.
Get a better sense of how the dwellings are put to use with these photos and a video from a Better Shelter settlement in Mytilini, Greece, where 220 shelters were assembled in September and October. According to the UNHCR, an estimated 500 to 1,000 refugees arrive in Mytilini daily, with the majority hailing from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Last weekend, Ikea also launched "Brighter Lives for Refugees," a campaign that will donate Є1 to the UNHCR for every lamp and light bulb sold in stores or online between November 29 and December 19. In a recent press release, the UNHCR says that proceeds from this campaign will go towards building a solar farm that will meet the energy needs of 27,000 Syrian refugees at a camp in Jordan's northern desert. Construction is set to begin within weeks, and the new electricity grid is expected to go into effect by next March or April.
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