Following up with the pollinator homes

Apr 26, 2017

The homes for bees and bats are under construction this week

Pollinator homes

Back in November, we featured a story about Professor Blair Satterfield’s and Design Media III’s pollinator homes. After the course's conclusion, student researchers continued working with Satterfield and client groups at both the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability and CityStudio Vancouver to refine the houses. New environments for bees and bats are scheduled for installation next week. They will be located at two sites: the roof of the CIRS on UBC’s Vancouver campus and in a “Pop-Up” city park on 5th Avenue and Pine Street.

The homes make use of recycled materials like shredded paper that is broken down into pulp and mixed with a powdered food product that binds with the cellulose. When combined, the substance becomes malleable like clay and fibrous like cotton candy. When dried, it has a consistency somewhere between papier-mâché and concrete. The student researchers are experimenting with 3-D printing the material using a custom made robotic printing arm made primarily of wood and a series of stepper motors.

Pollinator homesVarious consistencies of the decomposable material that the pollinator homes are made from.

The beauty of this material is that it breaks down naturally over time, and being largely comprised of biomass, should create a suitable medium for growing blooming plants. The students will embed seeds into the houses and calibrate the pulp medium to sustain flowers after decomposition. The paper and food product will provide nutrients for the plant to grow, which will in turn provide food for future pollinators.

The students continued the theme of combining shelter and food source in the design of pollinator homes. On a vertical cylinder, they’re placing alternating layers that provide spaces for living and eating. The form of the house simultaneously provides a place for plants to grow and a sheltered area where bees can live.

Pollinator homesWith this orientation, the shape provides a space for a plant to grow.

Pollinator homesWhen inverted, the shape becomes a space where bees can live.

Pollinator homesThe coexistence of these two shapes provides a habitat where bees can thrive.

The students generated their design digitally but are using largely analog processes for production.  One prototype uses pantyhose and string to simulate the shape and the shell is formed with poured cemetitious material.

A prototype of the tulip shaped bee home that uses pantyhose and concrete.

The students are also creating homes for bats. A coated wire mesh frame is coated with a light concrete solution and manipulated to form cave-like spaces that bats will find appealing.

Bat homesThe bat home uses string to manipulate a wire mesh and creates ideal spaces for bats.

The pollinator homes on the roof of the CIRS building are in partnership with the UBC SEEDS sustainability program. The houses in the park on 5th Avenue and Pine Street are in partnership with the City of Vancouver’s CityStudio.