The Neighbour Hub is a structure and public art piece designed to engage the City of Vancouver and local residents in disaster preparedness. The structure responds to the implications of a crisis 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.
The Neighbour Hub addresses the most pressing energy, water and communications post-disaster needs identified in our research. In the following sections, we explore how each component of our design addresses some of Vancouver’s strengths and weaknesses.
Disrupted electrical lines mean that entire grids all across Vancouver could be out of power for weeks following an earthquake. The Neighbour Hub encourages residents to generate their own electricity – through biking, which people do rain or shine in Vancouver. The biking component builds on Vancouver’s strength, being known as one of North America’s top bike-friendly cities.
With contaminated tap water and the inability to transport resources into the city, the government of British Columbia recommends that everyone prepare at least one gallon of water per day, for three days following a disaster. For the 72 hours following an initial 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.
Our research and interviews have shown that the first thing people want to know after a disaster is not where the food is, but where their loved ones are and if they are okay. Through educational signage, Neighbour Hubs will encourage friends and family to make plans, for example where to meet. And, in the case of an emergency, the Neighbour Hub will act as a familiar gathering place to help residents find their loved ones and offer decentralized communication methods through a one-way recieving radio and a community bulletin board.