According to Coalition for the Homeless, there were over 63,000 homeless on the streets of New York City last year. Over 23,000 of the homeless were children.

Intractable problems require innovative solutions. Framlab, an innovation studio based in Oslo and New York City, has introduced a method for homing the homeless. It involves placing 3D printed hexagonal pods in honeycomb-like clusters on the sidewalls of currently existing structures.

Vertical space is the last urban frontier.

The global building boom has driven up the cost of land, and the rising cost of land results in higher rents. Because of this, even people who have gainfully employed face homelessness.

Within cities, however, there is a vertical frontier that exists above buildings. What if temporary shelters were erected above currently existing buildings? Since no land is being used, the rent is zero.

Sidewalls, not roofs.

Placing shelters on building roofs would take advantage of vertical space, but it would overload the occupancy capacity of the building’s water, ventilation, and other services. Tenants would complain of elevators jammed with new residents. Knowing tenants would protest, landlords would object to hosting homeless shelters on their roofs.

Framlab’s solution is to build on the windowless sidewalls of buildings. The home pods are securely attached by scaffolding to the sidewall, seeming to hover above the rooftops next door. As the integrity of the scaffolding relies on the structural strength of the sidewall rather than the load capacity of the roof, a much more substantial structure can be safely supported.

Since the pods are external to the building, they don’t stress private building services. Residents access their pods directly from the street rather than using the building elevators.

3D printing empowers flexibility.

3D printers capable of producing Framlab’s pods don’t currently exist, but shortly, the construction industry will demand 3D printers that can rapidly fabricate structures. These flexible printers can be programmed to print Framlab pods. If completed during ‘downtime’ between other jobs, pods can be produced free of all costs other than construction materials.

For thousands of the homeless, Framlab’s 3D printed housing pods offer housing with minimal real estate and construction costs.

More information on this project is featured on the Arch Daily blog entry, 3D Printed Hexagonal Pods Could House New York City’s Homeless.