Hackert0wn: The World’s First Eco/Hacker Village?

Hackert0wn: The World’s First Eco/Hacker Village?
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Alpha One Labs co-founder Sean Auriti and a group of like-minded hackers have launched a campaign to build Hackert0wn, a Brooklyn hackerspace the likes of which the world has never seen.

As planned, Hackert0wn will be an  entire hacker ecosystem complete with retail shops stocked with spare parts, sleeping pods, a gym that feeds power back into the building, a co-working space, private offices, a cafe with a coffee dispensing robot, a dumpling shop, an aquaponic farm that raises fish and produce for nearby residents and restaurants, and a state-of-the art CNC machine shop. Oh, and all the buildings will be built out of recycled shipping containers.

“It’s never been done before,” says Sean, who is also known by his hacker handle Psy Tek.

That’s for sure.

Sean and friends have launched a $1.5 million campaign on  IndieGogo to pay for the first phase of the project. They’ve got a steep climb. So far they’ve raised $1,318 with 18 days to go. The cost of the lot is $950,000 alone. The total project is estimated at $5 million. Here’s a description of the project from Indiegogo:

Hackert0wn meets the demands to drive innovation forward by taking the magic of hackerspaces to the next level. Hackerspaces are physical spaces where people come together to work on projects. Hackers today are not just guys on laptops pouring over code; they are the tinkerers and inventors who can break it, then fix it, then add another feature to it and make it do something else. We’ve noticed that when you need a part, it holds up your project. Hackert0wn offers a solution to this problem by providing a retail marketplace where hackers can pick up supplies like circuit boards, hardware, chemicals, fasteners and all those special pieces.  There is also the option to print out what you need on one of our 3D printers, or cut it out with one of our CNC mills.

Using recycled shipping container architecture, Hackert0wn provides a modular, eco-friendly place to hack, play, learn and grow food. We’re looking forward to a successful crowdfunding with your help.

The designs for Hackert0wn are open source (natch) and available on Github.

“Every floor is planned out, right down to the chair position,” Sean said.

The idea for Hackert0wn came from a desire to open a hackerspace closer to a train stop. Alpha One is about an eight minute walk from the nearest subway station. At first, Sean was planning on renting a new space, but then then he and his partners decided to buy a place of their own.

“We said ‘let’s just buy this outright.'”

The triangular, 5,000-square-foot parking lot they’re eying for Hackert0wn is a short walk from the Graham Avenue L-Stop in Williamsburg. But if successful, I think the real appeal of Hackert0wn won’t be its easy access, but its all-in-one/one-of-a-kind hacker community.

The business model for the project estimates that more than half of its income will come from sales of produce and fish from the aquaponics operation. The rest will come from renting out spaces to retail shops and membership fees. Members will have use of all of the project’s common buildings (a “town hall,” a community space with tools, a co-working space, a gym), but access to the 1,000-square foot CNC shop will be on a pay-per-minute basis –$1/minute.

The project is ambitious to say the least, but Sean is committed to seeing his vision come to life. He hopes crowdfunding, grants and possibly city funding will get him there.

“If there’s a will there’s a way,” he said. “I’ll just keep pushing forward with it.”

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Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.

View more articles by Stett Holbrook


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