SI Seed Fund recipients Neighbour Lab’s story

Good Benches Make Good Neighbours

Residents of Victoria are building resilience through shared community infrastructure

On March 31, neighbours of Leonard Street in Victoria, BC will be celebrating the newest addition to their block: a shared emergency supply bench. The bench was envisioned months ago by the Building Resilient Neighbourhoods initiative and local neighbours as a gathering spot to interact and connect, while enhancing emergency preparedness by storing shared emergency supplies. In collaboration with other local organizations, the idea grew into the Leonard Street Neighbour Hub.

The bench design reflects the unique character and needs of the street. Within the bench is an internal storage compartment accessible only by neighbours, which contains supplies such as a first aid kit and water purification equipment. The bench also provides residents with solar powered outlets to charge their phones off the grid and a community bulletin board to share information. Both are accessible on a day-to-day basis and in the case of an emergency such as a power outage. “The bench is multifunctional, acting as a spot to hang out but also showcasing resources like solar panels and the emergency supplies stashed inside. We hope that through its design, the Neighbour Hub prompts proactive behaviour including making emergency plans with neighbours and loved ones.” Says Leah Karlberg, community development lead at Neighbour Lab, the local planning and design studio which led the bench design process.

“We couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming and enthusiastic neighbourhood with which to build our first Neighbour Hub”, says Emi Webb, Neighbour Lab’s creative director, “There is a huge need for communities to come together and prepare now so they can better respond to threats such as earthquakes and extreme weather in the future. By co-creating these unique structures with residents, we hope to make emergency preparedness more tangible, more playful”. 

The creation of this Neighbour Hub shows that resilience and collaboration go hand-in-hand with a number of local organizations working together to make this project a reality. The project was  initiated and led by SHIFT Collaborative’s Building Resilient Neighbourhoods project, supported by the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association, designed by Neighbour Lab, and funded by the City of Victoria’s “My Great Neighbourhood” grant program, with emergency supplies provided by the City’s Victoria Ready program. You are invited to join residents at the Leonard Street Neighbour Hub’s unveiling on Sunday, March 31, 2019 at 2:00 pm, on Leonard Street between Cook Street and Cambridge Street.

Neighbour Lab is a transdisciplinary design and planning studio based in Vancouver, BC that builds neighbourhood-level resilience through co-creation and dialogue with communities. Neighbour Lab works with communities to design unique Neighbour Hubs and to host engagement events that foster emergency preparedness among residents.

Building Resilient Neighbourhoods (BRN) is a collaborative initiative hosted by SHIFT Collaborative that helps to create more resilient communities and neighbourhoods across BC. Locally, BRN partners with the City of Victoria’s Victoria Ready program to offer “ Connect and Prepare”, a unique approach to building emergency preparedness and resilience through increasing connections between neighbours.

The Leonard Street Neighbour Hub, which will be installed on March 31, 2019.
Rendering by Steph Koenig, concept developer at Neighbour Lab.

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