Design with Community
Nature as our model, mentor and measure.
Biomimicry is learning from and then emulating nature’s forms, processes, and ecosystems to create more sustainable designs. It is a shift from learning about nature to learning from nature that requires a new method of inquiry, a new set of lenses and a new humility.
BIOMIMICRY 3.8: VersaTile Homeless Shelters
Our process as a team started with exploring nature and the Biomimicry principles during out class field trips. Throughout the project we have always referenced back to nature’s functions, sharing our learnings with each other. We then narrowed down a selection of the natural functions that inspired us the most with the feather as our main source of inspiration.
Taxonomy of the Feather:
Maintain Physical Integrity, Manage Structural Forces, Modify Chemical/Electrical State, Process Information, Navigate, Get, Store, or Distribute Resources
The needs of people in poverty are very dependent on their situation and cannot be simplified with overarching solutions. Every person has a different story, environment and needs. Most poverty solutions has only been surface level, band aid solutions. We would like to address a deeper impact, design for change not just improvement.
Our scope is to design a textile that provides shelter, that holds one or more of the five functions of shelter: insolation, privacy, security, comfort and protection.
After all of our research and interviews, we determined the best opportunity space for our product would be to design for people in transition periods. They are constantly on the move carrying everything they own. They are subject to the harsh and ever changing weather conditions and the sanitary conditions of their current location. This means our product must be durable, portable, compact-able, self-healing, and sanitary.
As the final solution we designed a hexagon shape modular material, that can be build up, connected and taken apart. The material is multifunctional and can be used for different needs. Seeing every person’s needs is dependent on their situation, the modular hive like structure can be used as shelter cover, flooring layer or building blocks.
The material is grown from mycelium and will be created from local compost. User are incentivized to bring compost to get a hexagon tile. The tile itself is compostable and will be replenished if the previous tile is returned. The community becomes part of the solution.
The VersaTile is units a foot in diameter and a half an inch in depth. In the shape of a hexagon it allows for maximum flexibility in shape when combined with others. It is made out of mycelium by growing the mushroom material in a mold.
It has a system of hooks on the surface of the material at a micro scale. These hooks connect in a way similar to Velcro, allowing units to be overlapped to form larger structures. The more the units overlapped the greater the strength of the connection. They are water resistant, slightly flexible, and durable.