Architects around the globe are exploring “vertical land” to solve homelessness

homelessness vertical space alternative solutions homeless pods

In an example of truly thinking in three dimensions, architects around the globe are beginning to envision housing in a different way. Dubbed “vertical land,” developers are essentially utilizing scaffolding and three-dimensional printing to build homeless shelters on the windowless sides of existing buildings. It’s a controversial and drastic step towards attacking the homeless crises gripping some of the world’s most populated cities.

One of the newest project proposals is called “Homed,” and it’s already been designed and modeled by New York and Oslo-based innovation studio Framlab. The project, if embraced and enacted by the City of New York, would employ hexagonal-shaped pods with a steel and aluminum exterior and an interior composed of 3D-printed polycarbonate wrapped in wood. Each individual pod would then be stacked in honeycomb-style clusters, supported by the type of construction scaffolding that New Yorkers have been used to for decades.

“This is a response to a host of factors that the typical shelter spaces are unable to provide, many of which are crucial for acceptable qualities of life: privacy, safety, individuality, self-esteem, among others,” writes Framlab on a project overview.

The concept is the brainchild of New York-based Norwegian architect Andreas Tjeldflaat, who began investigating the idea after a conversation with a homeless man on the subway about the conditions in city shelters and the man’s choice to live on the streets instead.

homelessness vertical space alternative solutions hong kong

“The idea of using vertical space struck me as I was walking through lower Manhattan one afternoon, pondering how the idle vertical land around me might be utilized,” Tjeldflaat said. “Knowing how land is one of the main drivers of cost when building in New York City today, I thought it would be interesting to challenge what ‘land’ might be.”

One interesting design challenge was the intention to give occupants a view of the outside, while simultaneously protecting their privacy inside. When someone enters or leaves a pod, they can lock the door. However, Tjeldflaat designed the front face of the pod from a smart-glass assembly with a layer of thin film diodes. Translucent particles provide privacy from the outside, while the exterior modules can transmit digital content, be it public artwork, civil information or commercial content, which could potentially offset the cost of the pods.

While Framlab is already assessing a potential cost per unit of around $10,000 and talking to potential partners, investors and city constituents, the company recognizes that their concept is just one small step towards a larger goal.

homelessness vertical space alternative solutions pods 5

“Homed is a stop-gap solution to alleviate the situation,” said Tjeldflaat. “Then again, the traditional shelter offering is very much a stop-gap solution, as well–and one that comes with a set of challenges. As large groups of people often must share spaces, privacy can be a rare commodity, and many struggle to maintain their dignity because of it. This project’s most significant departure from the current offerings is the fact that these are individual spaces.”

In the United States, homelessness is a major challenge. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development keeps a figure called the “Point in Time” count, which reflects more than 554,000 homeless people across the country, including nearly 200,000 with no access to nightly shelter. But local factors can also come into play in major municipalities.

New York City, similar to many other cities around the globe, has been impacted by its own growth and evolution. Its woes have included a widening housing affordability gap, a steady decline in housing assistance, and the post-1955 disruption of the city’s robust portfolio of single-room occupancy (SRO) units.

Other designers have caught on to the potential of vertical space as well. In San Francisco, home to more than 8,000 homeless people, researchers and designers are taking a broad approach to potential solutions. One vertical solution by housing firm Panoramic Interests is dubbed the “Micropad,” an unconventional prefabricated shelter that is stackable, easy to manufacture, and versatile.

homelessness vertical space alternative solutions micropad

In 2015, British architect James Furzer of Spatial Design Architects proposed an award-winning project called “Homes for the Homeless.” The design involved parasitic pods made of materials similar to a “host” building, providing comfort for those used to “sleeping rough” in London while blending in with the aesthetics of the neighborhood. The project won money from Illinois-based architecture firm Fakro for its “Space for New Visions” competition and raised more on Indiegogo but remains more conceptual than practical.

homelessness vertical space alternative solutions london 2

A design conceptually similar to Homed emerged in Hong Kong earlier this year when studio James Law Cybertecture unveiled a prototype for low-cost, stackable micro homes housed in concrete pipes, designed to fit into gaps between city buildings. The units, called OPod Tube Housing, uses wide concrete water pipes transformed into liveable housing, with doors that can be unlocked via mobile devices. While not specifically designed for the homeless, studio founder James Law thinks the design would appeal to younger residents who can’t afford private housing.

Whether it’s tiny homes, parasite pods or a solution that hasn’t yet emerged, experts seem to agree that an important part of any solution remains: give homes to the homeless.

Emerging Tech

NASA wants your help developing autonomous robots to explore other worlds

NASA is asking for the public's help to create the robots which could one day explore the moon, Mars, and beyond. It has launched the second phase of its Space Robotics Challenge to develop autonomous functionalities of the robots.
Movies & TV

Skip the sunshine this summer and watch the best shows on Hulu

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best movies streaming on Hulu right now (August 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

Here are the best shows on Netflix right now (August 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Smart Home

Foxconn interns reportedly work long hours to produce Amazon Alexa products

A recent report from the Chinese Labor Watch said that student interns are forced to work long hours without rest in order to meet Amazon Echo production goals at the Foxconn factory in China.
Smart Home

New Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo models vacuum and mop with multi-floor mapping

Ecovacs Robotics launched two new robotic home floor care models. The Deebot Ozmo 920 and Deebot Ozmo 950 add new laser-based navigation and multi-floor mapping capabilities combine robotic vacuuming and mopping for total floor cleaning.
Smart Home

Google Assistant’s reminders will soon nag your significant other for you

Let Google take the heat for all that nagging: Google Assistant will soon allow you to assign reminders to others. The feature will roll out to Google Assistant-enabled phones, speakers, and displays over the next few weeks.
Deals

Locate a runaway pet with the Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker, now $64 on Amazon

A good way to monitor your pet’s movements is through a GPS tracker. A great option is the Whistle 3, which is available on Amazon for only $64 as an early Prime Day deal. It’s normally sold for $80, so you get $16 savings.
Buying Guides

Back to school smart home gadgets under $50 for your dorm

Today’s students are accustomed to a high-tech lifestyle, which they'll want to maintain when they start college. But they're also strapped for cash, so these back to school smart home gadgets under $50 for the dorm are perfect!
Smart Home

Startup Camect is on track to deliver a private, unified smart camera hub

It's not every day you run across a crowdfunded startup that has raised nearly three times its goal but startup Camect has done just that to fund the development of a secure smart camera hub expected to launch in 2020.
Smart Home

Smart thermostats explained: How they work and how they save you money

Thinking of buying a smart thermostat, but don't know exactly what you're looking for? We explain how smart thermostats work, the features they offer, and how they can save you money.
Smart Home

The best pet tech products on the market for dog and cat owners

Pet-centric tech has come a long way in the past decade. From self-cleaning litter boxes to DNA tests designed to trace your pup's ancestry through the ages, here is some of the best pet tech available.
Smart Home

Amazon and Walmart match lower prices on Echo Dot and Google Home Mini

Amazon and Walmart resumed their price competition on the entry-level smart speakers for the Amazon Echo and Google Nest Home smart home ecosystems. The price cuts have started with 40% discounts on the Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini.
Smart Home

Alexa’s Custom Interfaces hope to augment gadgets, games, and smart toys

Alexa is growing smarter again with a new feature for developers called Custom Interfaces. The feature is aimed at augmenting interactivity between users of Alexa-powered devices like Amazon's Echo and developer's newest products.