Second Place - High School, National

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 15: Life on Land

2023 Youth Design Challenge

This design concept was developed by participants in the Institute’s Youth Design Challenge. The descriptions below are from the team’s competition entry materials.

School: Chadwick School
Location: Palos Verdes, CA, USA
Coach: Dijanna Figueroa
Team members: Baseem Abusneineh, Caleb Rivas

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Innovation Details

Urban expansion threatens the homes of many organisms, displacing them and altering their natural habitats. Inspired to solve this problem, a group from Southern California came up with their “Birdhive,” a modular panel ecosystem that can be attached to the exterior of houses, parking garages, skyscrapers, etc. The goal is to provide habitats for native plants and animals to support and bring back organisms that have been displaced. The design of the panel takes its inspiration from beehives, birds nests, and rotting logs, as rotting logs are often a habitat that supports biodiversity within a relatively small space. The interchangeability of each habitation module allows the user to experiment with different habitats, making it ideal for any location.

The Birdhive group made an impression on the judges with the creativity of their idea and the flexibility of the design, allowing it to be installed in different climates. They liked the fact that the project felt relatable and that the group hopes to increase the well-being of both humans and wildlife by bringing natural elements back to an urban environment.

What is the problem your team solved for this challenge? What is the problem addressed? How is the problem connected to the selected SDG?

The UN SDG we chose to address 15,Life on Land. Specifically, we are addressing the problem of urban expansion and resulting natural habitat loss. As Los Angeles –the city we live in– expands, buildings displace chaparral shrubland organisms like birds, bugs, reptiles, and mammals. Protecting animals and the natural habitat in this area allows for a healthy ecosystem. We used the design process to develop a solution that could provide natural habitat spaces in an urban environment.

How was your solution inspired by nature? What (at least two) organisms did you learn from? How effectively did you combine the biological strategies for the final design?

Our solution was inspired by mechanisms found in nature. We took inspiration from such as bees and their hives, cliff swallow nest colonies, and the extreme biodiversity of a rotting log on a forest floor. Engineering a habitat that can accommodate a variety of species is difficult because each species has specific requirements. We decided to tackle the temperature aspect by using a passive form of thermoregulation that water possesses and which animals use to keep warm/cool. After initial testing, the system works! Plus, we can use the excess heat to run the watering system for the plants.

What does your design solution do? How does it solve or mitigate the problem you selected? How did what you learn inform your design?

Our design solution provides a home for native birds, bugs, plants, and reptiles. Each “habitation module” is interchangeable so the user can mount the backplate on the exterior of their home and swap out modules based on what lives in the area or what they want to attract. The birdhouse module features a planter above, which has a water reservoir heated by the metal plate that brings shade to the birdhouse. Plants get watered through evaporation based on the temperature and the birds stay cool when it’s hot.