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The cardboard of the 21st Century

May 22 2009
The bed is a foil-insulated, waterproof cocoon, containing a canvas hammock suspended from the floor via steel rods The bed is a foil-insulated, waterproof cocoon, containing a canvas hammock suspended from the floor via steel rods
Sheffield student designed her Urban Caterpillar for need not greed A university design student has created an innovative new portable bed for rough sleepers. Abby Brazier, 22, developed a fold-up weatherproof bed called the Urban Caterpillar (pictured) as part of a third-year project at Sheffield Hallam University. The bed is a foil-insulated, waterproof cocoon, containing a canvas hammock suspended from the floor via steel rods. Ms Brazier, who is studying product design, wanted to develop a product that would help keep homeless people keep warm, dry and - most importantly ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ off the floor. "Designing products to help homeless people is not an attractive proposition for most designers, as there isn't any money to be made in it," she said. "But I really wanted to help. I visited the Salvation Army and talked to people who were sleeping rough. I discovered that a huge problem is the use of sleeping bags. They are handed out by shelters and although they keep you warm, they get wet when they are on the floor and constantly need to be dried out. "I was told that one of the worse things about sleeping rough is sleeping on the floor, which can make you very cold. My design, therefore, keeps you off the floor on a canvas hammock, with the foil outer-shell keeping you dry and warm. "From visiting homeless shelters, I also discovered that there is a real shortage of beds for rough sleepers. So I thought that maybe the Urban Caterpillar could be handed out as a short-term solution to this problem." Ms Brazier came up with the idea as part of a project she called 'Designs For Need Not Greed.' She hopes to get sponsorship which will enable the Urban Caterpillar to be produced and then handed out at homeless shelters. She said: "I just couldn't stand the idea of designing something like a kettle that would be mass produced. I wanted to create something that would meet a need and do some good. I hope that my product can help make the lives of homeless people a little bit more comfortable. At the moment, the Urban Caterpillar has steel rods, but I would like to see it developed with something lightweight like fibreglass, so that it would be easier to carry. I kept taking my design back to the Salvation Army and asking them for guidance to see if I could make it better in any way. And with their help, I came up with the final prototype." Ms Brazier's creation has won her a place as a finalist at this year's Northern Design Competition, a competition for students at university, college and school. "I really hope that my product will be picked up and developed," she said. "Homelessness can happen to anyone, and so many things could be done to help. But there just isn't the money or inclination for designers to create products that could help." A recent Simon Community headcount found that 241 people were sleeping rough in London alone (official Government figures say there are just 548 in the entire country). On the same night, the Simon Community phoned round 66 hostels in central London to discover the number of vacant emergency bed spaces. Of the 3,072 beds, 30 were free that night - this is one bed for every 12 people.