If you don’t book a room in advance, finding a place to sleep at popular, multi-day music festivals can be pretty tricky. Camping takes preparation, and the planning-averse leave it until the last minute. Failing that, there’s always the option to rely on the kindness of strangers, but if that doesn’t work out, the rootless festival-goer might just end up passing out among crushed beer cans in a field.
Social work coordinator and inventor Barbara Vanthorre first considered this problem when she attended Gentse Feesten, a 10-day music festival in Ghent, Belgium, as a university student. How might someone create temporary sleeping spaces that were cheap, didn’t take up much space, and easily deconstructed? When a bee accidentally flew into Vanthorre’s drink at Gentse Feesten, she had the answer: A honeycomb structure of stackable sleeping pods.
Vanthorre’s B-and-BEE colonies can reach up to four floors, but the length of the structure is technically limitless. Within the colony, each space, built of hardy larch tree wood, can fit a king-size bed.
The B-and-BEE has a strong social good component to it, too. Each colony is assembled and maintained by Compaan, a cleaning company and “social workforce” that hires the long-term unemployed. Vanthorre, who coordinates Compaan’s efforts full-time, is also collaborating with a green construction company called Labeur.be, an organization that teaches unskilled laborers how to build with reclaimed wood. Labeur’s workers construct the sleeping pod parts before they arrive on-site.
“We hoped the making of a honeycomb hotel could create extra work for the people who are employed in Compaan and Labeur,” Vanthorre writes by email. “And in the social economy as a whole.”
Vanthorre and her newest collaborators, Achilles Design and business consultancy One Small Step, have also started thinking about how B-and-BEE might be leveraged for post-disaster housing. But they’re not quite there yet. After winning grants from the Belgian government, Vanthorre is now evaluating data from the first public B-and-BEE pilot at this summer’s Gentse Feesten. Once that feedback is incorporated into the final design, Vanthorre and the rest of the B-and-BEE team hope to roll out sleeping sales for music festivals this coming fall.