Better Shelter, the green portable house for refugees

Feb 01, 2017 | written by:

What will these years be remembered for? Certainly for their innovations, the medical and technological discoveries, but also for the great and sad refugees’ problem. Escaped from a land impossible to be considered anymore as a home, escaped from wars and terror regimes, forced to face the closure of their neighboring countries and borders erected to keep them away. But certainly these years will also be remembered through the stories of those who managed to help them. Among all the Ikea Foundation, the social arm of the Swedish giant, which in collaboration with UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) created Better Shelter, a portable green house designed by Johan Karlsson who won the Beazley Design of the Year, dedicated to the best design projects.

At the beginning - it was 2009 - they were just prototypes, tested in collaboration with the Iraq and Ethiopia refugees. The production itself set off only in 2015 and since then, more than 16 thousand houses were delivered to provide temporary accommodation, but safe and built in a short time, to all refugees in the world.

Better Shelter has been created with the same design philosophy that has made Ikea a colossus: easy to transport, reduced costs, minimal design and DYI installation. In fact, the little house which reproduces a hut’s shapes and volumes, comes in two boxes that can be individually lifted by four people. With the help of three other people in less than eight hours it’s built (without any additional equipment), ready to take up three years or to be disassembled and reused in any another location if necessary.



Each module, made with recycled plastic and absolutely green, is composed of three parts: the main structure, panels and the photovoltaic system. The latter provides energy for lighting LED or charge a smart phone. The available surface is almost 20 square meters, so they can accommodate up to five people, allowing movements and daily actions.

This year in line for the prize awarded by the London Design Museum there were 70 projects, all marked by their ability to deliver change, capture the spirit of the year, enable accessibility and have a developed and innovative design responding to the modern needs. Better Shelter is full all of these features. Moreover, it’s a social enterprise aiming to achieve social change at scale in a financially self-sustainable way. Every dollar generated in profit is reinvested within the company in order to improve the quality of these life-saving houses

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