PREPHub

ORGANIZATION NAME: Urban Risk Lab

LOCATION: PREPHubs are a new kind of urban infrastructure designed to increase natural disaster resilience. Technologically innovative off-grid units are strategically placed to activate public spaces, while encouraging neighborhoods to build preparedness into their lives. Should a disaster occur, they become nodes to access information, resources and connect with loved ones.

SUMMARY: "The Urban Risk Lab has been researching the effects of natural disasters on cities since the 1995 earthquake in Kobe. One lesson, evidenced through multiple research projects, shows that public open space and the infrastructure that supports it are critical for evacuation and recovery. Large parts of the population end up evacuating to open spaces to be safe through aftershocks, to find relatives, and frequently to set up temporary residence.

However, the role of spatial design in planning for natural disasters is often left behind in all levels of disaster preparedness, from the local to the national scale. The infrastructure that provides critical lifelines after a disaster is hidden from view, unused by the vast majority of people. Yet how citizens respond to and use resources and infrastructure following a natural disaster is closely related to how we use and perceive urban space on a daily basis, and as such, the design of the built environment is integral to this process. The fieldwork of the MIT Urban Risk Lab in disaster zones around the world has demonstrated the importance of disaster resources being coupled with amenities used in daily practice. The PREPHub project is a direct outgrowth of this fieldwork."

PROBLEM SPACE: "The Urban Risk Lab has been researching the effects of natural disasters on cities since the 1995 earthquake in Kobe. One lesson, evidenced through multiple research projects, shows that public open space and the infrastructure that supports it are critical for evacuation and recovery. Large parts of the population end up evacuating to open spaces to be safe through aftershocks, to find relatives, and frequently to set up temporary residence.

However, the role of spatial design in planning for natural disasters is often left behind in all levels of disaster preparedness, from the local to the national scale. The infrastructure that provides critical lifelines after a disaster is hidden from view, unused by the vast majority of people. Yet how citizens respond to and use resources and infrastructure following a natural disaster is closely related to how we use and perceive urban space on a daily basis, and as such, the design of the built environment is integral to this process. The fieldwork of the MIT Urban Risk Lab in disaster zones around the world has demonstrated the importance of disaster resources being coupled with amenities used in daily practice. The PREPHub project is a direct outgrowth of this fieldwork."

SOLUTION: "The state of existing infrastructure described above suggests that there is a need, particularly in an era of rapid urban growth, for developing new models of disaster resilient infrastructure that is socially embedded, modular, and provides additional resources in case of emergency. In response, we are developing off-grid systems that supplement disrupted lifelines in case of natural disasters. These PREPHubs are both infrastructures and cultural objects, using dual-function logics to embed disaster functionality into everyday processes. Everyday, they serve as interactive public space architectures, enlivening parks and other public spaces; following a disaster they become meeting and recovery sites, distributing goods and services needed during emergency scenarios.

PREPHubs are composed of lifeline modules that form a flexible kit of parts which can be combined in different ways. Each module performs a dual everyday / emergency function. For example, benches provide a cache of medical supplies, a neighborhood map illuminates evacuation routes, and a pedal-powered phone charger serves as a off-grid generator. PREPHubs, with modules configured as required for each location, are distributed in public spaces across a city. Networked together, they provide a mesh communication system and serve as physical beacons illuminating evacuation routes."

UPDATE (2018): The Urban Risk Lab PREPHub project has partnered with the City of Portland Oregon and is working with Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, Portland City Planning Department, Oregon Solar Trust, Portland General Electric and Portland State University. We are working on three pilot sites for this next phase of the project.

CONTACT: [email protected]

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