Architecture students build beehive-like polystyrene construction to tackle refugee crisis

According to a report conducted by Grand View Research this September, the global polystyrene market is thought to reach 12.97 billion by 2025.

A waterproof, odourless and relatively affordable material, there is a rising demand for polystyrene not only in the automotive, packaging and takeaway industries but also in the architectural sector.

Polystyrene has excellent insulation qualities, reducing the need for heating and cooling appliances. The simple production of the material has lead to the development of Lego-like bricks, for example, ‘Zego’ that is predicted to save organisations thousands on building material costs. Consequently, other organisations are using polystyrene, due to its resilience and speed at which designs can be constructed. The development of the material has created an excellent opportunity to construct short-term architectural projects- particularly useful in humanitarian crises where buildings need to be constructed immediately.

In the last decade, dramatic political changes worldwide have generated an ever-growing demand for temporary structures, striving to temporarily relieve upheaved communities; providing safe spaces essential for human survival and wellbeing.  

In recent years, one event which has resulted in architects quickly altering their methodologies in the creation of quick designs solutions is the refugee crisis, which has uprooted a large number of people from their permanent residences.

An ongoing issue at the heart of global politics, architects continue to have a pressing matter of quickly developing effective and practical solutions to provide shelter for communities in need. One example of such developments is Oculus- a project devised by students in the Architecture and Urban Design Material and Detail Master’s Programme at the Chalmers University of Technology.

Designed to address the current humanitarian crisis, Oculus is a beehive-like construction predominantly made from expanded polystyrene. Oculus is a prime example of the advantages of utilizing polystyrene, and critiques how useful (and sustainable) the current refugee camp tents are while challenging what modern architectural principles can be used for.  Expanded polystyrene, also known as EPS is a solid foam-like material, which has a unique array of material qualities including durability and insulation. Consequently, it is an excellent material to insulate buildings at a reasonably cheap cost.

Using a combination of digital design, architecture and robotic manufacturing, Oculus is a single-family unit consisting of 29 rings constructed from high strength polystyrene. Each of the 29 rings is set inside each other forming a stepping shell structure. The design appears similar to the traditional beehive-like buildings in Syria, and consequently, Oculus is architecturally familiar, promoting comfort and wellbeing.

Designed to be constructed and deconstructed quickly, Oculus can be reused and recycled. Additionally, the EPS results in the structure being effectively insulated while providing a temporary safe space for Syrian refugees. Oculus gives families separate spaces for privacy in a structure which is architecturally similar to traditional Syrian buildings; promoting wellbeing in a familiar space.

Images courtesy of the Chalmers University of Technology

 
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