IKEA’s research lab Space10 has developed a series of open-source bee homes that anyone can design themselves for free before having it made using a CNC machine.
Created in collaboration with Bakken & Bæck and designer Tanita Klein, the Bee Home project lets anyone with a computer and internet access design their own insect habitat using Space10’s online platform.
The user can then download the design files and forward them to their local CNC machine-owner, where it can be built using digital fabrication.
Space10 and the team designed the home specifically for solitary bees, as they are essential for pollination – with a single solitary bee providing as much pollination as 120 honeybees.
These bees, however, are under threat of extinction, despite nearly 90 per cent of the world’s flowering plants depending on pollination, including a third of the world’s food supply.
“The solitary bee is friendly,” said Space10. “They don’t produce honey, so they have nothing to protect, which makes them great guests that can easily be around your kids and pets. The males don’t even have a sting.”
Launched today to coincide with the United Nations International Bee Day, the open-source design is available for free on the Bee Home website.
Space10 and the team hope the Bee Home project will encourage people to protect these “much underrated” animals.
“For almost 80 years, IKEA has enabled people to create a better everyday life at home,” said Space10 director Kaave Pour. “But our home is more than just four walls – our home is also the planet we live on.”
“That is why we launch Bee Home: we want to enable people everywhere to help rebalance our relationship with the planet and ensure a sustainable home for all of us,” he added.
The project makes use of digital fabrication technologies and parametric design in a bid to offer a “fully democratic” design process.
First, the user designs their own home based on preset guidelines, selecting the size, height and visual style, as well as the location of their structure – on a rooftop, in a garden or on a balcony.
Then the design can be fabricated, and the user can download the design files instantly and for free, before finding their local makerspace where they can have the bee house made on demand.
“To reconnect with the many bees in our environment, we need to give back what we have taken from them: their homes,” said Myles Palmer, project lead at Bakken & Bæck.
“By designing new interactive experiences, we can create a more sustainable manufacturing process for doing so: one that is truly open-sourced, informed by local living and customisable for many contexts and uses,” he added.
The third and final step is then to collect your bee home and place it in the desired spot, planting some flowers in the surrounding area to provide the optimum environment for its yellow and black inhabitants.
Once placed, the bee house should be largely left untouched, aside from a quick cleaning every third year.
“I want people to design a dream home for bees that provides the perfect environment for their offspring, while at the same time being incredibly easy to design, assemble and place,” said Klein, who is based in Copenhagen.
“It was important for me that Bee Home is aesthetically pleasing and almost feels like you’ve added a sculpture to your garden or your balcony,” she continued. “This project really exemplifies how design can do good for both people and their environment.”
Much of Space10’s work is centred around sustainable design. Previously, the research lab has crafted a miniature wooden village to demonstrate how communities could create their own circular clean energy system using solar panels and blockchain technology.
It has also created a cookbook filled with foods of the future, including mealworm burgers and algae hotdogs, which aim to offer meals that are both healthy and eco-friendly.