Riots in India left nearly 9,000 families homeless in 2013. Winter hit, and around 30 children perished because of the cold. Prasoon Kumar had recently quit his job as an architect to start billionBricks, a design studio dedicated to solving homelessness, and decided to create the reversible weatherHYDE shelter to protect people from harsh weather. Inhabitat spoke with Kumar about how the tent empowers people – read on to hear what he had to say.
As an architect, Kumar noticed homes for the poor were often designed and constructed so poorly no one wanted to live in them. He co-founded billionBricks to pursue quality design that would actually help people climb out of poverty, and came up with weatherHYDE, an all-weather shelter one person can set up in around 15 minutes without tools. Five people can sleep inside. The tent is reversible: one side reflects sun to cool inhabitants in summer; the other traps body heat to keep them warm in winter. There’s even a locking mechanism to afford some safety.
Four principles guided the design of weatherHYDE, targeted for people in southeast Asia. First, Kumar said they viewed the homeless not as beneficiaries, but as consumers. “We were not designing something to give to them but something they would want. Then this whole idea of us being superior and them being inferior who need to be helped is not there,” he told Inhabitat. Second, billionBricks had to provide a product not simply for individuals but entire families. Women with young children often have to shower, change clothes, and sleep on the streets, and blankets just don’t cut it. Third, the tent had to offer heat inexpensively. And finally, the team wanted the recipients to pay for the product somehow, granting a sense of ownership.
15 families received the weatherHYDE in a successful New Delhi pilot project. Kumar told Inhabitat, “I went back after a month to the first family we gave to and they had set it up as their home, including a small bed inside and a few paintings. I had never imagined that a weatherHYDE would be a home. And this lady came to me and said, ‘This is my first home ever. I was born on the streets, I got married on the streets, my one-year-old kid was born on the streets too, and we’ve never had a home.’”
In India, billionBricks offers donor matching because many people there generally can’t afford the full price of the tent, allowing the organization to sell them for $35 to $40. They don’t do donor matching in the United States and Canada, but if a homeless person can’t afford the full price of the tent, $199, billionBricks helps with fundraising, although a person must raise the money themselves.
People interested in helping can purchase a tent right on the weatherHYDE website without waiting for a NGO or government to take action. “We have decentralized the whole system of helping the homeless and empower everybody in the world to take action.”
Not just the homeless, but campers have been interested too, and can purchase a tent for recreational use for $299 here. Kumar said, “It kind of proves the point that if you don’t design something poorly for the poor, everybody would want it.”
billionBricks isn’t stopping with the weatherHYDE. They’re working on a larger version to meet United Nations regulations for refugee housing, along with a showerHYDE to provide refugees with privacy while showering or changing clothes. They’re also working on versions better suited to other climates — like in Africa. They’re also developing the powerHYDE, solar homes that generate more than enough energy to power the dwelling, enabling residents to sell the excess.
weatherHYDE is holding a design competition right now until January 7,2018 to personalize a tent. An artist will paint the winning design on one tent for the designer and one for the homeless. It costs $25 to enter; you can do so here.
Images copyright billionBricks