Innovative housing solutions for people in need

Designers and architects are increasingly devoting themselves to find solutions and develop ideas for better housing opportunities for people in need, such as refugees, victims of natural disasters or vulnerable groups of citizens.

There are several innovative ideas on how to create housing space for different purposes. The “Solar Classroom in an Box”, which is a solar-powered, modular classroom serving as a cost-efficient education space for children in Kenya, or a project designed by teenagers to provide shelter for the homeless community in Seattle.

Here are three examples of companies that engage in designing and creating innovative housing possibilities to people in need, especially when the given resources are limited. These examples have been proven to be optimized to meet the high volume production conditions and the logistic demand required to be cost efficient and show positive effects in the long run.


IKEA’s flat-packed homes

The shelter’s textile sheet is designed to reflect sun during the day & retain heat at night

“Better shelter” is a collaboration project between the IKEA Foundation and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to develop innovative and more durable emergency housing for natural disaster victims and refugees.

The temporary shelters are designed with special attention to transport volume, weight, price, safety as well as health and comfort.

The Better Shelter Housing Units come in typically IKEA flat packaging and can be set up without any additional tools. The package also includes a word-free, image-based instruction drawing, making assembly easy for people all over the world, independently of their language and reading skills.

IKEAWhile the packages are light and simple to transport, the shelter is able to withstand harsh weather conditions and climates.

The shelters include details that effectively create livable homes for longer periods of time: A door that can be locked, windows, a ventilation system, and a solar paneled roof that generates electricity for its residents. The frame itself fits together modularly, much like the company’s own furniture.

Prototypes have already been tested and approved by many refugee families in Iraq and Ethiopia.

IKEA has set to produce 10,000 flat pack refugee shelters in 2015 for the UN to use as replacement for tented cities across the globe. Nearly 5,000 flat-packaged homes have already been shipped to UNHCR to distribute worldwide.



DESIGNNOBIS’s pop-up shelter

The “Tentative” shelter is another example of how companies develop highly functional, innovative and scalable solutions for people in need.

Tentative2As a response to a lack of accessible housing after a number of earthquakes in Turkey, the Turkish creative agency Designnobis designed a temporary emergency tent. They recognized that existing tents offer shelter but don’t respond well to the environment and changing weather conditions, and do a poor job insulating. Therefore, Designnobis wanted to provide a smart, flat packed shelter which is easy to transport, and practical to set up.

Tentative3Seeing that shelters are needed as quickly as possible after a disaster struck, Designnobis took this idea as a central challenge in their innovative design. Their flat-packed, temporary shelter can be easily transported and assembled in less than an hour. These small, stable homes can accommodate two adults and two children over a period of at least three to four months.

The climate-resistant quilted fabric walls with thermally insulated perlite and lockable doors are anchored to a lightweight aluminum frame and grant protection, while the fiberglass roof collects water and lets in light and air.

Tentative is still in the prototyping phase, but looking for a global manufacturer to produce affordably.


DIY- Architecture by ELEMENTAL

The idea of an innovative housing project

The Quinta Monroy project was initiated in 2003 and demonstrates a revolutionary social housing project, utilizing architectural tools to solve a non-architectural challenge: how to overcome poverty by fighting against slums and enclaves with the optimal use of resources.

Government-built social housing is generally constructed on land that costs as little as possible, often far away from workplaces, educational institutions, transportation, and healthcare.

The Quinta Monroy project in 2003

But rather than displace almost 100 homeless families who illegally occupied the piece of land for three decades, the Chilean Government hired the Chilean design firm Elemental to design new social housing units.

With a subsidy of only $7,500 per housing unit , Elemental’s designers and architects took an innovative approach and included the residents actively,  through participative workshops to gain an understanding of their needs and resources.
The Quinta Monroy project in 2013

Elemental discovered that in fact, they only needed to build half a house, including plumbing and electrical installations and the features that are the most difficult to construct, such as kitchens, bathrooms and stairs.

The other half of the house was built by the residents according to their personal tastes and preferences. In doing this, the families could become co-producers of their own homes.

Only five years later, each of the 60 houses was valued at over 16,000 euro. This proved the major point ELEMENTAL wanted to make with the project: Social housing can be turned into a profitable investment and a gradual climb towards self-sufficiency for the residents.


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