With the global honeybee population in decline, Rowan Dunford, a recent Auckland University of Technology graduate, has created quite a buzz with his ‘Urban Beehive’ design, which aims to encourage those living in urban environments to engage in beekeeping as a hobby.

“The topic of the bee population and their importance to the planet first came up in conversation with my dad. I felt that designing a beehive as my graduating university project would be an opportunity for me to do something different, that had meaning and was completely new,” explains Dunford.

With no experience in beekeeping, he set about finding out as much as he could through attending beekeeping meetings, conferences and clubs. “As I hadn’t had any experience with bees before, it was a real learning opportunity and a rich source of research that provided some great insights.”

Dunford identified three key barriers as to why people may potentially be turned off beekeeping. These included: physical barriers such as complexity, cost and aesthetics; emotional barriers such as intimidation and fear of bees; and, lastly, traditional barriers in that beekeeping is seen as being built on old-school traditions.

His aim was to eliminate these barriers by providing an engaging beginner experience that could be seen as a rewarding and environmentally beneficial hobby. “Aesthetics was an important part of this project. Most hives have a very rural or rustic feel, which a lot of people love, but I wanted my hive to appeal to a completely different type of person,” comments Dunford.

Although his Urban Beehive design is built on the traditional Langstroth Hive, it also incorporates the added benefits of the Top Bar Hive, bringing a more manageable approach to hive maintenance.

Designed for flat-pack assembly, the outer assembly consists of two-part plastic moulded ends and treated plywood sides. “Using plastic for the hive ends allowed me to create something different that could also be offered in a range of colours. Choice and personalisation is important to people and I think this could add another layer of investment to the beekeeping hobby,” he explains.

The plastic moulded lid provides a secure roof for the hive, protecting it from the elements. However, this lid can be removed to allow multiple hives to be stacked on top of one another, enabling the colony to grow.

The Urban Beehive project has been exhibited at a number of events, including Auckland’s Better by Design CEO Summit 2012, and at the end of last year it also received a silver award in the product category of New Zealand’s Best Awards, an initiative of The Designers Institute of New Zealand.

“The project began as my graduating university project, but development of the hive has continued and I’m now focusing on commercialising the idea. I am in the testing stage at the moment, and if all goes well I can begin looking at funding and finding a manufacturer,” says Dunford.

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