• 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
Florida 'mystery knight' dies in Sweden
Michael Boatwright (R) and Medieval knight re-enactors.

Florida 'mystery knight' dies in Sweden

The "motel mystery" American who baffled US authorities by only speaking Swedish when he woke up from a coma last year has passed away, Swedish media reported on Wednesday. READ () »

Swedes open coffin of 850-year-old king
Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Swedes open coffin of 850-year-old king

UPDATED: Scientists pried open the 850-year-old casket of King Erik the Holy on Wednesday, hoping to find out more about the king, his crown, and his eating habits. READ () »

TeliaSonera announces first-quarter profit drop
TeliaSonera CEO Johan Dennelind. File photo: TT

TeliaSonera announces first-quarter profit drop

Stockholm-listed telecom operator TeliaSonera on Wednesday said profits had fallen in the first quarter, but hoped offering customers more data solutions in the future would turn things around. READ () »

'Imperfect EU better than revolting nationalism'
Fredrik Reinfeldt. File photo: TT

'Imperfect EU better than revolting nationalism'

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Wednesday urged young voters to head to the European parliamentary polls on May 25th "to cure the European disease of nationalism". READ () »

Ericsson quarterly profit defies sluggish sales
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg at the first quarter press conference. Photo: TT

Ericsson quarterly profit defies sluggish sales

Swedish telecom giant Ericsson on Wednesday announced a drop in sales but posted a sharp rise in first-quarter profit, which nonetheless fell shy of analyst predictions. READ () »

Fatal Norrköping brawl
Four brothers held as cops fear brawl reprisals
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Four brothers held as cops fear brawl reprisals

Swedish police fear that several people involved in a brawl in eastern Sweden on Monday night may be seeking revenge after two brothers were shot dead. READ () »

Sponsored Article
Beautiful pearls of southeast Sweden
The town of Västervik.

Beautiful pearls of southeast Sweden

Ask a Swede, and they are likely to say that their favourite holiday spot is in the southeast of Sweden. Eastern Småland and Öland offer a smörgåsbord of all the things dearest to the Swedes - from the beloved children's book author Astrid Lindgren to deep forests, long sandy beaches, perfect spots for that all-important 'fika', and a surprising amount of space, peace and quiet. READ () »

Weekend weather to bring summer warmth
Swedes enjoy hot dogs and cherry blossoms in Stockholm's Kungsträdgården. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Weekend weather to bring summer warmth

The sun is set to stick around and temperatures could climb into the twenties over the weekend, Swedish meteorologists said on Wednesday READ () »

'Day-care rapist' admits molesting eight kids

'Day-care rapist' admits molesting eight kids

A 21-year-old man confessed on Wednesday to sex crimes against eight children at a day care where he was working as an intern. READ () »

Swedish cops nab man for having big muscles
An unrelated bodybuilder. File photo: Ann Törnkvist

Swedish cops nab man for having big muscles

Police in Sweden's south who hauled a muscular man in for steroid testing have had their knuckles rapped, after it was ruled that big biceps cannot be grounds for narcotics suspicions. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
TT
Gallery
Inside the 850-year-old king's coffin
Features
Sponsored: South-eastern Sweden offers Öland beaches and more
Gallery
Swedish underwear shop puts staff in front of the camera
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The Local's Property of the Week - Täby
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - India Unlimited
Features
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - A film, food, and finance feast
National
University applications rocket to record high
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 18-20
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
Advertisement:
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
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
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
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 »

712
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