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Modular for a cause: Giving refugees much-needed space

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Modular for a cause: Giving refugees much-needed space

Williams Scotsman | January 5, 2015
Photo: The IKEA Foundation

Two years ago, the global flat-pack furniture giant IKEA tasked its philanthropic arm—the IKEA Foundation—with an important initiative. The goal was to design adequate modular shelters for people in refugee camps throughout the world.

With a nearly $5 million investment, the foundation partnered with the United Nations Refugee Agency to develop and deliver secure and energy-efficient modular shelters to children and families in refugee camps around the world.

Dwell magazine recently shared pictures of the new structures in Ethiopia and Northern Iraq. The panelized products—officially named a Refugee Housing Unit (RHU)—are much more durable than typical tent structures often seen in refugee camps. The modular units are also more comfortable, providing more ventilation and security than tents. Each unit also has a renewable energy source powering a built-in light and a USB outlet.

The units benefit from the repeatable manufacturing process inherent with most modular space units. The RHU can be quickly shipped and assembled on site without any tools. These units are expected to last several years, whereas the lifespan of a tent is typically three to six months.

Similar to other modular units, these modular shelters can be combined to form larger structures. If there is a need for a medical clinic or group worship space, the structures can be easily connected and arranged to provide an expanded footprint. 

As we begin a new year, we want to commend the IKEA Foundation for its efforts. As we say here, it’s not about the space—it’s what the space makes possible. In this case, the space provides a better temporary home for people displaced by conflict or natural disasters. To learn more about this effort, check out the project brief here.

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