• Switzerland's news in English

UN agency tests Ikea refugee shelter

AFP · 29 Jun 2013, 18:00

Published: 29 Jun 2013 18:00 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The first prototypes of the new shelters — which come in flatpack boxes and which can be assembled in just four hours without tools — will soon be rolled out, the agency said on Friday.

"We will set up 26 (ready-to-assemble shelters) which have already arrived in Ethiopia," head of innovation at UNHCR, Oliver Delarue, told AFP.

"Twelve will soon arrive at the Iraqi border for Syrian refugees and 12 in Lebanon, also for Syrians." 

Refugee camps today often consist of overcrowded tents that can be sweltering hot during the day and freezing at night, with no electricity and thus no light or heat after nightfall.

UNHCR hopes that could become a thing of the past, as it prepares to roll out 50 cottage-like shelter prototypes with flexible solar panels on the roofs for power and specially-made walls that can deflect heat during the day and retain it at night.

Ikea's philanthropist foundation has funded the project to the tune of $4 million, while a Sweden-based group called the Refugee Housing Unit has been working with the UN agency on the design.

The prototypes, with their semi-hard plastic walls and roofs made from composite material and with room to house five people each, have cost $8,000 a piece, and UNHCR wants to wait for feedback from refugees before giving a green light to more wide-scale production.

Over time, the UN agency expects the unit price for the new shelters to come down to around $1,000, which is still double the $500 it currently pays for each of its refugee tents.

The prototype shelters were all made by hand in Sweden, although not in Ikea factories, Delarue said, insisting that the Ikea Foundation's participation in the project was not commercially motivated.

One of the main advantages with the new shelters is their durability, he said, pointing out that UNHCR's traditional canvas refugee tents rarely last much longer than six months in climates like those found in countries like Jordan or South Sudan.

The new shelters have been guaranteed to last three years and will likely remain standing for longer than that, Delarue said.

Story continues below…

That is a big plus considering that refugees on average live in their UNHCR shelters for 12 years.

Transport remains a challenge, though, since the shelter kits weigh 100 kilos each, compared to just 60 kilos for the average tent.

More than 15 million people were living as refugees around the world last year, while another nearly 29 million were displaced within their own country -- the highest combined number in two decades, according to UNHCR statistics released last week.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Could Montreux host the 2026 Games? Photo: Ivo Scholz/Swiss Tourism

Montreux is to put itself forward as the host city for the 2026 winter Olympics as part of a potential bid by the cantons of Valais and Vaud.

Geneva car share scheme could help reduce city traffic
Catch a Car is aimed at short hops within a city. Photo: Catch a Car

Catch a Car, already in Basel, launches in Geneva next month.

Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Female employees in Switzerland earn 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues. File photo: Randy Kashka

Switzerland's gender pay gap means from today, Friday October 21st, women in the country will effectively be working for free for the rest of 2016.

Swiss luxury watches stolen in Paris raid
Police outside the Girard-Perregaux watch store on Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

The 10 Girard-Perregaux watches are worth half a million euros in total.

Brother-in-law arrested over murder of Swiss teacher
The victim worked in a school in Stabio, near the town of Mendrisio. Photo: Oliver Graf

The primary school teacher was found dead in Ticino earlier this week.

Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Designed to house 20,000 people, the bunker was built in and over two motorway tunnels. Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben

The Local takes a tour of the Sonnenberg bunker in Lucerne, opened 40 years ago at the height of the Cold War.

Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
File photo: Renato Bagattini/Swiss Tourism

Skiers in Switzerland pay the highest prices for their ski passes of anywhere in Europe, according to research.

Eco group fights Bern over wind farm plans
There are currently more than 30 wind farms in Switzerland. Photo: Alpiq

Wind turbines are “gigantic and destructive” machines, says Paysage Libre Suisse.

Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Antoni Da Campo will now carry out his military service. Photo: Antoni Da Campo

A Swiss man who was told he would not be accepted for military service because of his strict veganism has finally succeeded in making the army change its mind.

Geneva terror suspects to receive compensation
File photo: Emran Kassim

The Swiss public prosecutor has dropped the case against them.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
Photo: File
Bern argues over passports for 3rd generation foreigners
Photo: Broad Bean Media
Muslim pupils must shake hands – ‘no ifs and buts’
jobs available