A Bond student’s new high-tech construction solution aims to provide much needed emergency shelter in disaster hit areas while paving the way for a new approach to building Australia’s cities and urban areas. Nanonest is the brainchild of second-year architecture student Chisomo Banzi who developed the idea from a project in his final assessment, working alongside Bond’s unique Transformer entrepreneurship program.
Mr Banzi describes Nanonest as a dynamic architectural system, consisting of self-assembling aerial robots, or ‘cells’. The cells are designed to respond to changes in the environment and usage through self awareness, mobility and re-configurability.
“Inspired by the decentralised way in which ants self-organise, the cells work collaboratively to form a wide range of architectural spaces... a little like flying Lego bricks,” he says.
The hard plastic frame of each cell would be made from 100 percent recycled polyethylene, with internal electronics comprised of standardised drone parts to minimise cost. Each cell would use an “iris” mechanism to enclose the structure and provide a skin for the structure formed when the cells are combined.
The cells would be solar-powered and themselves generate a small amount of electricity, enough to lessen the structure’s carbon footprint. Mr Banzi confidently believes Nanonest could be used to construct site-specific rapid-deployment shelters for relief in disaster-prone or ultra remote areas. He added that one of the overarching objectives of Nanonest was to help society transform its relationship with the built environment.
“We don’t have much of a choice to keep on going the same way we have been,” Mr Banzi says.
"Inspired by the decentralised way in which ants self organise, the cells work collaboratively to form a wide range of architectural spaces...a little like flying lego bricks."
“In a world where millions are displaced due to climate or weather-related events and urbanisation and rapid population growth are making cities harder places to live for average and low economic groups, it’s no longer enough to think of cities as nothing more than rigid collections of buildings. Nanonest is about prodding that mindset shift of seeing our cities, instead, as timebased systems, which consist of dynamic socio-cultural, economic and environmental processes. Self-assembly is a good tool to explore this.”
Mr Banzi says Bond University was very well-placed to provide the innovative environment that was often needed to help foster transformation.
“To do something truly innovative you have to be willing to fail. Personally, I’ve found that the architecture school here has given me a lot of flexibility to rigorously pursue an idea, the freedom to fall flat on my face and the support to nurture my wins and learn from my failures. It’s given me an opportunity to take genuine academic risks and similarly in the Transformer community, I’ve been able to test ideas out in ‘the real world’ from a welcoming starting point that rewards action over perfection.”
Mr Banzi hopes to have a small working prototype of Nanonest completed sometime within the next few months.