Ikea is sending refugees homes. Literally.

The UN Refugee Agency and the Ikea Foundation partnered to develop a solution to one of the most challenging aspects of refugee camps. For many refugees displaced to camps, a tent is the only home they have. They're flimsy and cramped. Electricity in camps is hard to come by, making it difficult to charge phones or do much of anything at night.

Enter a solution that fits into one cost-effective flat shipping box. The Better Shelter is a flat-packed, ready-to-assemble shelter that can be constructed in as little as four hours. The shelters aim to make refugee camps as comfortable and homey as possible, even when resources are scarce.

A temporary place to call home

Once constructed, each Better Shelter can house a family of five. They're safer and more secure than a tent, featuring non-transparent walls, high ceilings (so people can stand inside) and a lockable door. Rooftop solar panels power an interior LED light for night and provide electricity to charge devices.

The strong galvanized steel frame can be anchored to the ground and will withstand rain, snow and strong winds. In moderate conditions, the shelters will last up to three years. Thanks to their modular design, Better Shelters can quickly be deconstructed, moved to a new location and reconstructed.

Design for social good wins over more aesthetic entries

Sound like an ingenious use of design? It is. So much so that Better Shelter just won the 2016 Design of the Year in the prestigious Beazley design competition. It beat out more eye-catching designs such as David Bowie's last album cover, an Adidas shoe made from plastic salvaged from the ocean, and the Tate Modern's new extension. The Better Shelter also took home the prize for 2016 Architecture Design of the Year.

"We accept this award with mixed emotions," Better Shelter interim managing director Johan Karlsson told The Independent. "While we are pleased that this kind of design is honoured, we are aware that it has been developed in response to the humanitarian needs that have arisen as the result of the refugee crisis."

Better Shelters serve as more than temporary homes for refugees in camps. The structures also act as registration centers, medical clinics and food distribution points in camps. Since debuting the structures in 2015, 16,000 Better Shelters have been shipped around the world including to Iraq, Djibouti, Greece and Niger, according to CNN.

Published on: Jan 30, 2017
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