Apparatus X: An off-grid disaster relief vehicle, micro-home, and more


April 23, 2014

Apparatus X is the work of a team of engineering and architecture students at Pennsylvania State University

Apparatus X is the work of a team of engineering and architecture students at Pennsylvania State University

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Inspired by a perceived lack of adequate services for victims of 2005's Hurricane Katrina, a team of engineering and architecture students at Pennsylvania State University have joined forces to create something that can help. The result, dubbed Apparatus X, is a work-in-progress concept that seeks to transform an aging RV into a flexible unit that can serve as an off-grid disaster relief vehicle, a micro-home, and a mobile design studio.

Though it's still in the design stage and thus subject to change as the details are worked out, the Penn State students envision that Apparatus X will be ideally suited to the specific ongoing needs of the Lower 9th Ward, an area of New Orleans that's even now not fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina. Once built, the the disaster relief vehicle will be deployed to the area to help foster a sense of community.

The interior of Apparatus X is split into three main sections: Work Space, Flex Space, and Live Space. Work Space offers work surfaces, tools, and fabrication equipment to aid the reconstruction of a devastated site. Flex Space is a place for social gatherings that encourages collaboration from community members. Live Space contains a kitchen, toilet and storage area – but no sleeping quarters – allowing the emergency relief team manning the Apparatus X to live among the disaster victims and become more integrated, so as to better suit their needs. There's also a porch and elevated work surface.

Apparatus X will operate off-grid once it reaches a given destination, and will include adequate provisions, along with a "garden in the box" that facilitates easier and quicker growing of food. A rainwater collection and purification system, combined with a water recycling system handles all water needs, while a solar panel array is said to produce 2,000 kWh – or enough to power a 2,000 square foot (186 sq m) home, according to the calculations of the students.

The Apparatus X team has turned to crowdfunding website Indiegogo to raise the necessary money to turn concept into fully-fledged design, ready for deployment to New Orleans.

The video below sheds some more light on the project.

Sources: Apparatus X, Indiegogo

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

An admirable effort - but a couple of 'pull down' beds in the meeting space would increase the utility of the design without compromising the ideals. I also can't see what help a fairly tiny growing area would be, better a storage cupboard dedicated to fast-growing useful seeds of different foodstuffs and information for choice for people as they start recovery and reclaim the land when they can manage to use it.

The Skud

I really like this concept, with the adaptability and the great thinking that has gone into it. I have a great interest in disaster relief and feel not enough is being done by governments world wide to alleviate these issues for people who often have lost everything. My only gripe is about the music in the video. Nothing wrong with the music choice, just the volume. Please, lets here the people speak, turn the music down a little. Thank you.


Certainly the claim in this article that "... solar panel array is said to produce 2,000 kWh" must be an error as 2,000 kWh is 2 MWh. I suspect that it is, at best, a 2,000 Wh array. If not, this is the most efficient conversion of solar energy by a massive factor!


The Ninth Ward in New Orleans "was a vibrant community?" No, it was a dangerous ghetto. One of the highest murder rates in the country.

Dave Merriam

Just a tip..... ad a small wind-generator...on a pole and tree mount .... similar to the ones used on sail yachts would make flexible for a very low cost.....

Lasse Liten

I can see this as a small house. I think the design has a lot of potential.

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