Bubbles of Hope

Bubbles of Hope Flood Response

Bubbles of Hope

Safety, Hope and Relief in Times of Concern and Emergency

Our design solution, Bubbles of Hope, was selected as a finalist for the 2020 Healthcare Design Magazine Breaking Through competition.

This year’s competition focused on “Innovation + Imagination.” A design team based in our Philadelphia architecture studio created the Bubbles of Hope design in response to the competition’s mission to solve challenges anticipated in the future delivery of care by throwing out the usual restrictions tied to budget, schedule, codes, etc.

The team was inspired by the fact that today, bulky and uncomfortable shelters are the standard response for people in need of safety or care in cases of disaster. They also considered that these events lead to displacement, injuries, deaths, and an overwhelming pressure on local healthcare and first response systems. The Bubbles of Hope solution focuses on rescuing people and transporting them to an off-site, centralized facility.

Disaster Response Challenges of the 21st Century

Bubbles of Hope completely reimagines how we respond to the challenges associated with care delivery during disasters.

There are typically two components to disaster response: the field hospital and the temporary shelter. The field hospital puts caregivers right on the frontlines, in dangerous situations. What if, with 21st Century technology, we could employ a cloud-based approach?

The concept of a simple, spherical form — comfortable, malleable and flexible — as a space for triage and first aid can also serve as a "place", or temporary home, where we can spend significant time. Additionally, by integrating drones in the cloud-based system, first responders could manage the disaster virtually, out of harm’s way.

The team began with three guiding principles:

  • Shelter-in-place
  • Lightweight, sustainable and cost effective
  • Loaded with communication tech and artificial intelligence

Then they explored a number of iterations and forms under the lens of these guiding principles and against a variety of disaster scenarios and responses. The final design of the bubble is a comfortable space for refuge in the middle of a troubled area.

Features include:

  • A lightweight, protecting steel structure that unfolds from the smaller wheel capsule and locks together magnetically.
  • A durable, waterproof, self-repairing fabric keeps the inhabitants safe.
  • An AI assistant directs inhabitants with triage and first aid via an interactive screen.
  • Photovoltaics are integrated at the top of the bubble and generate electricity to supplement the bubble’s power pack.
  • A green light integrated into the bubble to indicate it is empty, yellow if partially occupied, and red if it is full.

How the Disaster-Relief Process Functions

In the event of a disaster, the bubbles are quickly packed in their compact wheel form into crates that get transported to the disaster zone and airdropped. People can then either approach the wheel capsule, or the drone navigates the wheel to individuals who cannot easily reach it. AI detects those signalling distress by using voice recognition and motion, heat and GPS sensors.

Bubbles of Hope Diagram

Once an individual and wheel meet, the wheel is activated and the bubble deploys. The process of activation starts when the drone-assisted wheel reaches an individual in need. The drone releases the wheel, turning it over and expanding to reveal the core capsule.

The core capsule further expands upwards along a narrow central spine. The umbrella-like structure unfolds to allow the individual to step in and then deploys the bubble membrane to wrap them. The individual is quickly examined and triaged for potential problems. Drones may be deployed to offer assistance for critical cases.

The two-layer membrane starts with its photovoltaic, protective outer surface that powers devices within the bubble and recharges the internal battery pack. The inner layer then filters the ambient air and purifies it, if contaminated, via the fan at the top. The core in the centre provides supplies, such as food and water. It also contains basic and preliminary diagnostic and treatment equipment. 

The bubble fabric is both malleable and puncture-healing. It is made with cost-effective material for mass production. Varying degrees of translucency can be achieved for privacy using switchable films. Inflatable objects tucked into the wheel can be used as comfortable chairs and bedding for everyday life.  After the disaster response period ends, the bubble material is biodegradable for easy disposal, while the core wheel capsule can be restocked and reused in the future.

The interior within the bubble is first and foremost a place of refuge and triage, but also a temporary home for an extended stay. It serves as a beacon of hope during unsafe exterior conditions.

Distinguishing Process Depending Upon Disaster Type

Disasters such as earthquakes, floods and pandemics each pose unique challenges with the emergency response. Bubbles of Hope provides an adaptable framework for relief with a core set of common features that are utilized differently in each scenario. Our solution would use the same shell for shelter but with a unique, disaster-specific response: scattered in an earthquake, aggregated in a flood, and centralized in a pandemic.

Earthquake:  Bubbles are randomly distributed. The bubbles are comfortable but also malleable to accommodate the rough terrain. A large quantity of bubbles are deployed to avoid congregation and crowds. Coloured lights denote availability inside. Drones survey and manage the disaster zone from the air.

Flooding:  Bubbles aggregate. This stabilizes them and provides anchoring so they do not get washed away. Filtration can take advantage of the abundant outside water. The lightweight quality of the bubbles helps them float and provides a comfortable environment for the individuals taking refuge.

Epidemic:  Bubbles are used both for isolation and supply distribution. They serve as a haven for the homeless, who may not have access to safe spaces to quarantine. They also serve as community supply depots to offer testing kits, protective gear, and food and medical supplies to communities with insufficient resources.

The need for effective disaster response systems will continue to increase. We may not be able to prevent every emergency, but we can control how we respond. The next time disaster strikes, there could be HOPE.

Bubbles of Hope Flood Response