Ikea’s Better Shelter goes from flat pack kit to functioning relief shelter

To help with the growing refugee problem across the globe, the Scandinavian do-it-yourself furniture giant Ikea unveiled what it calls the Better Shelter project. Officially part of the company’s nonprofit branch, the Better Shelter project set out to make easily constructed shelters that were not only more durable or heavy-duty but also cheaper. The finished product, 30,000 are already built and in use, takes four hours to put together and represents a viable solution for the more than 65 million refugees worldwide who find themselves homeless.

A design several years in the making, Ikea debuted its shelter in 2013 as a possible long-term solution to the refugee crisis. After tinkering with its design and required materials, Ikea’s modern day version of the Better Shelter is a flat-packed and weatherproofed home intended to house up to five people. Comprised of just three main components — a base frame with installed panels and a solar energy setup — Ikea backs up its claim of a four-hour assembly process with a published video showing just four people completely constructing one in the allotted time.

Tens of thousands of these shelters are already built and in use around the world, primarily serving as housing, relief stations, and medical tents. Thus far, Ikea has hoped to make its Better Shelter’s cheaper and sturdier than the traditional shelters doled out by the United Nations. Based on this effort, the Better Shelter project nabbed the Beazley Design of the Year prize after being nominated for the recognition in August.

“The Better Shelter team is happy and humbled to be awarded the Beazley Design of the Year prize,” said the Better Shelter team after winning the award. “It is touching to witness peoples’ hard work towards their mission of improving the lives of others. We find it inspiring to see how design and technology are used in the most remarkable ways to make life safer and more comfortable for others, and to witness peoples’ fundamental will to support and help in solidarity with strangers.”

With the award win secured and positive reviews of the shelters rolling in, Ikea has already signed off on ramping up production of the Better Shelter. It reportedly delivered more than 10,000 Better Shelter units in 2015 — a number which should only go up as production follows suit.

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