UTILITY: Living in a box

By Shannon Brien

Gillis Lundgren, a Swedish draughtsman, needed a table to fit in his car so he unscrewed the legs and reassembled it at home. He discussed this idea with his employers and in 1956 Ikea launched their first piece of flat-pack furniture.

Since then, Ikea has been making the lives of Europeans easier with their flat-pack furniture that can be transported in even the smallest car.

After successful trails in Ethiopia and the borders of Syria, Ikea will produce 10,000 ‘Better Shelters’ as temporary homes for refugees around the world for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). These flat-pack homes can be built without tools in four hours and are made to withstand harsh climates. The walls, roof, floors, door and windows all come in cardboard boxes, flat packed in Ikea fashion.

IMG_7761Assembly of Better Shelter prototype, Hilawyen Refugee camp, Dollo Ado, Ethiopia, July 2013. Photo: © R. Cox

Kawergosk_150311_7449Interior of a Better Shelter prototype in Kawergosk Refugee Camp, Erbil, Iraq. Photo: © Better Shelter

Flat-pack has been the most affordable option in furniture, with millions of customers turning to Ikea for affordable furniture solutions.

Now customers can turn to the iconic Swedish brand for housing solutions. In conjunction with Skanska, Ikea introduces the Boklok concept, affordable housing communities in cities in Europe. Although not a flat-pack house, they aren’t far off with most parts of the house prefabricated and practically sold in Ikea stores. Every Saturday buyers meet in an Ikea store to register for a chance to buy one of these homes and if selected home-buyers are given a £250 Ikea voucher and an appointment with an interior designer.

Ny skorsten. Redigerad fasadfrg.

Vit lmhult retusch gavel

In a city like London, finding a house with enough living space and a garden for a good price is almost impossible. Ikea’s housing solution allows customers the chance to buy a house within their budget without having to sacrifice room.

The big brands aren’t the only ones working on the idea of affordable, prefabricated houses. Dr Mike Page has built a low carbon living space for two people. QB2 is a completely sustainable home with a full sized double bed, bathroom with composting toilet, fully functional kitchen, a dining table which can become a four-seater sofa, a two seater sofa and low energy appliances. Solar panels provide the power to illuminate the LED lighting of the three-storey house and run the low energy appliances. QB2 is ready to buy at £10,000 for the structural shell and £50,000 fully fitted out.




In cities like London where renting seems to be the only option, flat-pack housing not only offers a sustainable and affordable option but also a sense of stability.








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