Solar Powered Sleeping Pods: Winter Safety For The Homeless 

March 11, 2021

German city Ulm has recently rolled out a new benevolent concept as a means to keep its homeless safe during harsh weathers. With solution focused determination, experts manufactured highly technological weatherproof nests powered by renewable energy. Currently in the second year of trials, they have been called ‘Ulmer Nests.’

Homeless sleeping pods

Though the nation is Europe’s strongest economic system and the fourth-largest around the globe, statistics still show a recurring issue of 860,000 homeless German nationals, particularly increasing in 2014 when a large number of refugees crossed borders. As temperatures sink down to negative degrees, life threatening conditions such as hypothermia are posed to those without shelter. Luckily, competent German citizens did not fail to recognizably address the matter.

The initial project was submitted into the city of Ulm by a group of experts whose roles were to point out problematic aspects that called for specific attention. Solution was then proposed by another brainstorming collective of designers and technologists, gathering to create a waterproof, windproof and inexpensive prototype. The team managed to do so in an impressive time frame of under 48h .

Members of the project state having ‘’spent a good deal of time improving insulation and climate management, to be able to keep humidity and temperature at the best possible levels while operating on a limited budget of energy” (BBC). 

The results? Pods composed of resilient materials such as timber wood and steel, with solar power managing ventilation, sensors and alarm systems. A heat exchanger provides fresh air and sustains circulation. They are straightforward and easy to use, with the capability of housing two individuals and clear displaying signals of when pods are occupied. Sensors track inner conditions such as humidity, temperature smoke and carbon dioxide levels. 

‘’It is also connected to a radio network so the person using the pod can get in touch with the team managing it if needed. Ulmer volunteers clean the pod each day to make sure hygiene is maintained and also why powder-coated metal was used in the design to make it easy-to-clean. These pods take safety seriously and are protected against fire, it includes an electronic verification system that enables the person to lock it from inside.’’ (Ruchi Tukral from Yanko Design)

The team additionally discovered that many homeless prefer not to stay in indoor shelters as they are intimidated by potential violence and crime, and such locations would also force them to leave dog companions behind. Though this is a reasonable consideration in the project creation, nests are not ideally meant as a replacement for indoor shelters, but rather as emergency solutions for the occasion of unavailable alternatives. When the winter is over, the structures are removed from site and brought back in the next season.

For now, only a few pods have been placed throughout the city, however the group has confirmed further manufacturing development to be under growing plans. Ulm has demonstrated upstanding action, serving as an inspiring example of community care and attentive development. The news has been spreading all across the globe as multiple locations aim to replicate the concept.


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Julia Arguello Busch

Julia is originally from Brazil and is fluent in English, German, Portuguese and Spanish. She is a journalist and professional music producer.

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