Dear PDX Shelter Forum:
Toward our common goal of creating a bright and housed future for Portland I would like to share some ideas that may be helpful. I’m now retired, but while working in the corporate high-tech world I was involved in multiple efforts related to fostering
innovation. There are many aspects to this subject, but an important one when tackling complex problems is to invite ideas from as many perspectives as possible, and to be open to those ideas informing solution discussions. Per Linus Pauling:
"The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away."
While our current situation with homelessness is severe, I think the severity of this problem, along with climate change disasters we are experiencing, gives everyone, especially city, county, and state leadership, more license to be inventive, to think
big, about how housing and urban living systems can and should evolve. Below is a list of ‘big ideas’ that I culled from two organizations that have ‘Ideas Challenges’: The Buckminster Fuller Institute – Ideas Challenge, and The Global Challenges Foundation
– ‘New Shape’ Challenge. Both organizations run an annual prize contests that receive many innovative proposals from Social/Design/Ecological Thinkers and Organizations across the world. Many proposals relate to housing and urban systems. The full archives
can be viewed at the respective websites:
While there are other organizations that invite and publish innovative ideas, these are two that I am most familiar with, and find interesting. I went through their archives and pulled out a few ideas that I hope you will also find interesting (they make
for great evening reading).
In the spirit of sharing ‘lots of ideas’, here we go:
Oregon is a world leader in Mass Timber Technology. After we get people off the streets and temporarily housed in shelters and safe camps, a permanent solution will
require lots of ultra-affordable, quality rental units. We need to figure out how to build more efficiently and cheaper than we do today. It seems to me that Mass Timber structures could play a role in this. In April 2022, Portland is hosting the
https://masstimberconference.com/. Perhaps this is already in planning, but it seems to me that a technical work group from this forum, and certainly from the City, County or State should attend
this conference and get into discussions with Mass Timber industry leaders and experts to figure out how to build affordable housing complexes, inexpensively. Very Tall Timber buildings may be feasible, but at 4 stories or less you can eliminate the need
for elevators to lower the cost, and that may be the sweet spot for low-cost complexes – I’m thinking here of some sort of standardized, mass produced ‘kits’, where just about every component is manufactured in a factory and then assembled on site.
Wiki House Commons
On the topic of shelter kits, Wiki House Commons,
https://www.wikihouse.cc/ provides an open-source library of building component plans and various building resources. Personally, I think Wiki House Commons is a great idea. With a relatively modest investment in shop space and tooling, like CNC machines,
local grassroots organizations can feed Wiki House Commons designs into their work system and manufacture housing components that can be hand assembled to create permanent small dwelling units.
Breakthrough Sustainable Urban Living
Built For Zero:
https://www.bfi.org/ideaindex/projects/2017/built-zero Portland recently joined.
LifeArk from GDS Innovation Lab
LifeArk Modular Units: https://lifeark.net/about to build floating and land-based villages.
“Early adopters of modular construction will likely be the construction leaders of tomorrow… As modular players continue to gain credibility and scale, we expect modular construction to
revitalize and help to finally push construction productivity to new heights. To get there, government leaders, developers, investors, and others around the world will need to take stock of the factors that determine the path modular construction takes to
Community Architects Network
Look to Local Materials for Construction
Bullitt Center Seattle
Upcycling Buses for Mobile Toilets/Showers
Low Carbon Footprint Building Materials
https://biomason.com/ Organically created bricks
Inspiration from the Global Challenges Foundation: New Shape Library
League of Sustainable Cities:
That’s about it! While any single idea here may not be actionable, with ‘lots of ideas’ to think about, maybe a combination of these ideas will spark an actionable tangent in our collective