Keywords Change this

Shelter, Flat Pack

Project timeline

2013 – 2013



Location Change this

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Also known as Change this

Flat Pack Emergency Shelter, Refugee Housing Unit

Architect Change this

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Ikea Foundation, Refugee Housing

Client Change this

United Nations Refugee Agency

Flat Pack Shelter Change this


1 of 8

Description Change this

Working with Refugee Housing and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), the IKEA Foundation has funded the development and manufacturing of a new modular shelter to be used in refugee camps.

Refugee Housing and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Innovation team have been working to develop a new style of shelter that would be sustainable, durable and ultimately reduce the overall costs to provide a temporary home for displaced people.

Current Issues

A key issue causing the current situation to be rethought is that many of the regions where refugees end up are known for their harsh, extreme climates. UNHCR estimates that nearly 3.5 million, or around 10 percent of, refugees still live in tents. With the average time spent in refugee camps being around 12 years, many children grow up calling these makeshift shelters home. And many of the current shelters used in refugee camps have a life span of approximately six months before the impact of sun, rain and wind means they need to be replaced. These rudimentary shelters are small, provide little privacy for families.

New Design

The rectangular unit is built from plastic panels that clip onto a metal wire and pipe frame—but the hut-like shelters are an upgrade in nearly every way from canvas and plastic tents. At 17.5 square meters, the shelters are about twice as large as tents and can comfortably house five people. Accompanied by the hardened wall panels, its lifespan is expected to be three years, though they could last even longer depending on variances in weather conditions.

The unit’s walls are where much of the innovation took place. Made of Rhulite, a lightweight polymer that was developed specifically for this project, the material needed to be light enough to transport cost-efficiently, but strong enough to withstand the harsh climates of refugee camps. It also needed to address the issue of privacy. The tents currently allow light inside, while living in already tight quarters, this infringes on privacy. Rhulite was designed so that light could get in during the day but shadows wouldn’t be cast at night.

The shelters take around four hours to construct, whereas a tent takes approximately one hour, but the new units require no additional tools for construction, unlike a tent.


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