Our first project was a Neighbour Hub concept for Vancouver, currently in its prototype stages. This first design inspires our work with communities in BC’s Lower Mainland to create more opportunities for unique public infrastructure that fosters resilience by engaging people in the design of their interactive features and the implementation process. The structure responds to the implications of a crisis (such as an earthquake) by offering energy, water and communications – all independent of the city’s existing power and water supply. The Neighbour Hub’s features, accessible for daily use, familiarize residents with the resources available to them and spark conversations in the neighbourhood around disaster preparedness. Neighbour Hubs encourage residents to get involved in their community’s resilient future and offer a valuable shared resource, available both day to day and in the case of an emergency.
The Neighbour Hub addresses the Lower Mainland’s, specifically Vancouver’s, most pressing energy, water and communication post-disaster needs identified through our research and public engagement process. Learn how each component of the Neighbour Hub design addresses one of the region’s strengths or weaknesses in the following sections.
Our hope is not to engage with the neighbourhood once, but to leave implement infrastructure that continually prompts resilient behaviours and attitudes. For this reason, each Neighbour Hub is co-created with neighbours to meet their unique needs and incorporates educational components, such as engaging signage, to raise awareness of local strengths and opportunities to improve resilience. Signage includes prompts to prepare your own emergency preparedness plan with friends and family and to store supplies you might need readily available, as recommended by the Province of British Columbia.
With the possibility of contaminated tap water and the inability to transport resources into the City of Vancouver, the government of British Columbia recommends that everyone prepare at least four litres of water per day, for three days following a disaster. For the three days (72 hours) following a disaster event, a full Neighbour Hub cistern has the capacity to provide three litres per day to over 400 people, or one litre a day to over 1,800 people. While capable of acting as a buffer for those lacking water after a disaster, more importantly the Neighbour Hub’s engaging signage shares the possibility of this risk and prompts neighbours to store their own supply at home.
Disrupted electrical lines mean that entire grids across Vancouver could be out of power for possibly weeks following an earthquake. The Neighbour Hub encourages residents to generate their own electricity through biking, which locals do rain or shine in Vancouver. The cycling component builds on Vancouver’s strength, being known as one of North America’s top bike-friendly cities.
Our research and interviews have shown that the first thing neighbours want to know after a disaster is where their loved ones are and if they are okay. Through educational signage, the Neighbour Hub will encourage friends and family to make emergency plans, including where to meet each other in different scenarios. In the case of an emergency, the Neighbour Hub will act as a familiar gathering place, helping residents find their loved ones and offering decentralized communication methods through a one-way receiving radio and a community bulletin board.