• Sweden edition
 
Ikea refugee homes are 'cheap and tough'

Ikea refugee homes are 'cheap and tough'

Published: 28 Jun 2013 13:55 GMT+02:00
Updated: 28 Jun 2013 13:55 GMT+02:00

With Ikea set to send flatpack refugee homes to war-torn countries, The Local chats to Swedish designer Johan Karlsson about why a flatpack house is cheaper, more durable and above all a better home than a tent.

The project, set to be trialled in July for a six-month run, began three years ago in an attempt to improve living conditions for people in refugee camps.

The Ikea Foundation joined forces with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to make it possible, with the team deploying flatpack style shelters to areas in desperate need of temporary housing, with the aim of replacing the commonly used white canvas tent.

With 28 of the units already shipped out to Ethiopia, The Local chatted to Refugee Housing Unit designer Johan Karlsson to find out more.

The Local: How did the project come about?

Johan Karlsson: We started as a small design team working on industrial design and product development. The opportunity arose to work with the Ikea Foundation so we decided we should look into the issue [of improving refugee housing] together with the UN and their knowledge of the field. The Ikea Foundation provided funding and put muscle behind the project.

We developed a series of prototypes. There have been a lot of trials along the way so now we have something to take to the field.

RELATED STORY: Refugee homes as 'easy as an Ikea bookshelf'

TL: When designing the housing units, what were your main considerations?

JK: Our design scope was very simple: to create a housing solution that provides significantly better comfort and safety at a lower cost than the current tents. Many of the tents 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.

Long-term refugee situations mean that, on average, refugees stay in camps for twelve years. This made us realize that pushing down upfront costs was not as effective as providing a more durable solution, which is a small package and lightweight enough to be distributed and assembled in remote locations without trucks or machinery.

TL: What are the main features of the design?

JK: We would say it is the safety and comfort that you can expect of a house. The Referee Housing Unit (RHU) is built in coherence with European building standards and designed to withstand tough climatic conditions.

Furthermore, it is modular, meaning that you can extend the house for big families, and also, in event of failure, repair or replace broken elements, either with new elements or local materials. This can't be done with a tent.

TL: After the tests are finished, what then?

JK: I'd hope to be scaling the project up within a year if there are no big surprises along the way. It's easier to predict problems with the construction than what people think.

We're awaiting confirmation with the government in Lebanon to test a further twelve units in Lebanon and then in Iraq in August. And we'll be working closely with the [people living in the units] to gain feedback to help improve the units further.

TL: How much do the units cost?

JK: We would be working on an industrial scale, so $1,000 per unit but long-term we would expect the units to cost around $500 each.

Also, we will be outsourcing the construction of the units to lower the costs. Ikea is the main source of funding, in fact around 95 perfect of funding comes from them.

TL: How many people do you hope to be able to help with this project?

JK: A definite number would be hard to say but the number of units would be on an industrial scale, between 10,000 and 20,000 units so that's 100,000 and 150,000 people.

But the need is much greater.

Victoria Hussey

Follow

Victoria on Twitter here

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Police probe after Easter ferry smash
A coastguard vessel involved in the rescue operation. Photo: TT

Police probe after Easter ferry smash

Stockholm police are investigating criminal negligence in connection with a crash involving a small taxi vessel and a giant Finland-bound ferry on Friday which left three people needing rescue from the icy waters of Stockholm's archipelago. READ () »

Ikea to introduce 'green' vegetarian meatballs

Ikea to introduce 'green' vegetarian meatballs

Swedish furniture giant Ikea is planning to put vegetarian meatballs on the menu in an attempt to cut down on its carbon footprint, the company has announced. READ () »

Students to keep paying off debt beyond 67

Students to keep paying off debt beyond 67

The Swedish government has proposed scrapping the 25-year span for repaying student loans, by suggesting those who attend higher education should keep paying the money back well into retirement. READ () »

Drowned puppies found in crayfish cage
The crayfish cage in the picture is not the one mentioned in the story. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Drowned puppies found in crayfish cage

Police in eastern Sweden have launched a preliminary investigation of animal cruelty after two puppies were found drowned in a crayfish cage. READ () »

Three rescued after cruise ship sinks boat
Rickard Rundgren Björk of the coastguard services speaks to the media after the rescue operation on April 19th 2014. Photo: Maja Suslin /TT

Three rescued after cruise ship sinks boat

Three Saturday morning sailors had a lucky escape after their small boat collided and sank after it crashed into a cruise ship whilst sailing in the Stockholm archipelago. READ () »

Missing Swede found alive and well in UK
Sofie Marie Jansson. Photo: Metropolitan Police

Missing Swede found alive and well in UK

British police have found the missing Swedish girl Sofie Jansson in London, exactly a week after she was last seen, with authorities saying she is doing well. READ () »

Social Democrats make tax pledge to elderly

Social Democrats make tax pledge to elderly

Sweden's opposition party has stepped up its efforts to secure the pensioner vote by pledging to lower taxes for the elderly and make higher earners pay more. READ () »

Malmö Nazi attack victim on the mend
Showan Shattak pictured in Malmö before his attack. Photo: Facebook

Malmö Nazi attack victim on the mend

The 25-year-old man, whose stabbing by neo-Nazis sparked mass demonstrations across Sweden, has made a strong recovery in hospital and took to social media to thank supporters for campaigning against fascism. READ () »

Police seeking missing Swede in London

British police have issued a plea for tips in the search to find Swedish national Sofie Marie Jansson who hasn't been seen for almost a week. READ () »

University applications rocket to record high

University applications rocket to record high

Swedish universities continue to draw vast amounts of applicants with the number of prospective students seeking a third level education increasing for the seventh year in a row. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
TT
Society
Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
Shutterstock
National
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
Advertisement:
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
TT
Society
Aussie choir member wows Abba in Sweden
YouTube
Society
Stockholm magic a surprise YouTube hit
Fastighetsbyrån
Society
Gallery: The Local's Property of the Week
Private
Society
Swedes find 200-year-old gravestone in living room
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Deepti Vashisht
Features
Deepti Vashisht dissects the magic of Sweden's personal ID number
Shutterstock
Society
Ten signs you've been in Sweden too long
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

722
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com