Maria Velasco

Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of HiveCube

Category of Humanitarian Benefit: Disaster Relief and Recovery

Short Biography/Background of the Nominee: Maria Velasco is an entrepreneur and PhD candidate in psychology who was born and raised in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Velasco is committed to building a better Puerto Rico by providing affordable and resilient housing for families and community-based organizations on the island. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, an estimated 300,000 homes were significantly damaged, with nearly a quarter of them completely destroyed. In an effort to come up with a long-term, affordable solution to this problem, Velasco teamed up with her childhood best friend, Carla Gautier to co-found HiveCube.

Project Name and Description: HiveCube is a modular housing company dedicated to the fostering of a safe, secure & sustainable Puerto Rican community. The "Basic Model" for these housing units is pre-fabricated in Puerto Rico using shipping containers as the base structure. Through this approach, HiveCube decreases construction time to less than 3 months while simultaneously remaining compliant with FEMA and International Building Code (IBC) regulations. The "Basic Model" is comprised of a two bedrooms and one bathroom, all of which are hurricane-resistant and solar-powered. Extrapolating upon this "Basic Model," HiveCube partnered with Libraries Without Borders to completely re-design the organization's pop-up library and makerspace model (known as the "Ideas Box"). This partnership will result in the first completely hurricane-resistant and solar-powered pop-up library and makerspace in the world.

Humanitarian Benefit: The redesigned pop-up library and makerspace will revolutionize the way that communities across Puerto Rico (and ultimately, the world) access life-saving information and critical services. In Puerto Rico, where hurricanes are an all too common, devastating occurrence, developing a structure that is hurricane-resistant and solar-powered will ensure its resilience in the wake of disaster. By re-imagining libraries to reflect local realities, HiveCube will guarantee that future generations of Puerto Ricans are able to access the lifeline that libraries have become in this day and age. Moreover, because Velasco is committed to hiring and manufacturing locally, this project will create an estimated 30 new jobs and bolster the local economy at a time when financial woes are ubiquitous.