IKEA Wins Design Award For Its Innovative Refugee Shelter

Flat packed and assembled in a few hours with no tools, IKEA’s “Better Shelter” places people above profit.

By Jeff Vasishta January 31, 2017
All Images Via

If you thought all IKEA was good for was Swedish meatballs and flatpack bookshelves think again. The Swedish company’s temporary shelter designed for refugees has been named the 2016 Beazley Design of the Year, beating the artwork for “Blackstar”, the final album from David Bowie and a robotic surgeon. IKEA Foundation’s Better Shelter was announced as the winner at an awards ceremony that took place at the Design Museum’s new home in West London on January 26th, design site reported.

Related: Space Age Campus Designs For The Tech Big-Wigs Are Transforming The Concept Of Office Space

The website is the design partner for the awards which has a mission of celebrating design that  “promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year”.

Unlike other temporary accommodation used to house refugees, which last around 6 months (refugees stay in shelters up to 12 years) according to IKEA, their design, under the same elements of wind, sun and rain, lasts three years. Here’s what makes it so special:

It’s a shed-like structure made of lightweight polymer panels, laminated with thermal insulation, which clips onto a steel frame. If you’re a dab hand at assembling IKEA’s products, you should be able to manage putting one together in four hours and like their bed frames and bookcases come flat packed with panels, pipes connectors and wires. However, unlike their store bought products there is a textile sheet with aluminum woven into the material  laying over the roof for heat control in the same way that flat roofs are painted with silver paint. There’s also a laminated solar panel on a film plastic film power built in lights and a USB outlet.

At around 188 square feet, the Better Shelter is double the size of traditional refugee tents, accommodating up to 5 people, with its upright walls meaning that it could be upgraded and reinforced with earth walls or a metal roof. One the best things about the accommodation is its price, around $1100 each if mass produced.

With the refugee crisis showing no signs of abating, Refugee Housing Unit has sent thousands of flat-pack shelters to crisis points around the world in time for freezing winter weather. The distinctive white structures have dramatically improved the living conditions of refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos according to IKEA’s online catalog.

Professor of Design at Kingston University, Daniel Charny, who nominated the project, hailed the flat-pack object in The Independent as a “ground-breaking example for putting values and benefit above profit”.


“Great design responds to needs, and there is no doubt that the refugee crisis is one of the biggest of our era,” he said. “This social enterprise uses flat-pack technology to create more robust and appealing shelters for refugees, with a commitment to continuous improvement as the shelters are used across the world.

“While it will not solve the crisis, it goes a long way to accelerate innovation, challenge unacceptable norms and communicate respect.”

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

    Avocado toasts are the reason why millennials can’t afford a home, says one Australian real estate developer. #AvocadoToast #Millennials
    Five years on since Superstorm Sandy, Queens’ coastal peninsula is in the midst of a development boom. #Development #Rockaways
    It turns out, renters can’t get enough of good ol’ no-doorman-no-frills apartments. Too bad developers aren’t building any. #Doorman #LuxuryRentals
The Housing Market In Shenzhen, The Silicon Valley of China, Slows In 2017
The city of Shenzhen has been on the real estate radar for quite some time. It is known as the Silicon Valley of China. Many…
Developers Jump Aboard The Trend To Revamp Transit Hubs And Remake Cities
Never has the often used marketing term, “close to transportation” been more important when attracting home buyers. These days it’s not just homes that are…
Millennials Are Fueling The Current Sizzling Real Estate Market
Ever wondered why the hosts of home improvement shows seem to be getting progressively younger, along with the fresh-faced couples getting their new properties made…
The Best Cities For Recent Grads To Rent – Without Blowing Their Entire Paycheck
What’s next post graduation? For most, the logical answer is to find a job. After the excitement of finishing your studies and the big celebration,…
Luxury Knows No Limit In Malaysia As A Deluge Of New Developments Hit The Market
The amount of newly constructed high-end real estate in Malaysia is almost as abundant as the lush vegetation which covers the tropical landscape. Despite vacant…
Don’t Call It A Commune – Upscale Co-Living Is Attracting Major Development
What may have once been referred to as a commune is today termed a co-living space. The big news that it’s not hippies with hemp…
It’s Official—New York Is Now The Most Expensive City In The World To Build
As if you didn’t already know, it’s expensive to build in New York City. Not just expensive but now officially the most expensive place in…
An Ultimate Destination For The Most Comprehensive Real Estate Data, Agorafy Prepares To Launch Nationwide
In the coming days, Agorafy will be entering a new chapter. It is the beginning of a new growth cycle in real estate technology with…

TOP 10