The Latest from Ikea: Refugee Shelters

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Ikea is bringing its unique blend of Swedish design sensibility and cheap materials to a very different piece of furniture: The refugee shelter.

The Ikea Foundation, the retailer's non-profit charity arm, announced that it's teaming up with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to rethink the traditional refugee shelter. Those shelters are very much stuck in the past, with the UN still relying on canvas tents that provide little shelter from the elements.

The Ikea Foundation wants to change that. Its Swedish-designed shelters draw heavy inspiration from Ikea's mainstream offerings, right down to the fact that they come in a flat box and require assembly. They use metal frames and insulated, lightweight panels, and have solar panels on the roof to provide something that most refugee tents don't: Light after dark.

The organization says the prototype design is currently in use in Ethopia, where it's testing them out with refugees and taking feedback.

"Once UNHCR has gathered input from the families testing the shelter, the team will look at how they can make necessary changes and, hopefully, begin producing the new shelter," the Foundation explains.

As such, it sounds like it will be some time before the Ikea Foundation finalizes the design and starts producing them on a mass scale. And even once they're complete, don't expect to find them at your local Ikea -- on its Facebook page, the Foundation told a Pakistani commenter that since the shelter technically isn't an Ikea product, it won't be available in stores.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.

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JEEP

HI YOURSELF 11
I A M A RETIRED ENGINEER IN FAIR HEALTH
DUE TO INJURIES IN NAM & ELSEWHERE,
TELL ME A BOUT YOU
RSVP

July 08 2013 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
allyndp

There's thousands of unused steel shipping containers that could be transported and easily converted to housing etc. put four of them in a square and the center is a atrium. Why doesn't Ikea make a conversion kit for these containers. Converting them to useful housing and retail stores for storm and war ravaged places.

July 08 2013 at 3:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gleam1946

With the way the US economy is going this my be the new McMansion

July 08 2013 at 11:09 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Lifes a Beach

Solar panel on the roof so you can have light after it gets dark. This either makes no sense whatsoever or there's another expensive component of the refugee shelter they've omitted from their description. But then again, if the only thing it's going to power is a single led 'nightlight', maybe cost is not prohibitive. Since we're thinking about how brains save the world, I wonder how Gates is doing w/his thinktank-inspired waterless toilet, haven't heard anything about that in awhile.

July 08 2013 at 7:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply