The Apparatus X project started with an exploration of the architect as an activist in areas of needed intervention.


In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast specifically St. Bernard’s Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana. After many initial recovery efforts have failed and additional rebuilding factors have surfaced, these areas have still not effectively been reinhabited.

     1 Political issues: relief response factors (including the past failure of 

        evacuation and rescue), influence/policies (that sometimes undermine re-

        habitation, including newly enforced FEMA standards)

     2 Housing issues : lack of funds, flood insurance, demolition of home, new

        housing standards, lack of infrastructure

     3 Quality-of-life issues: a decentralized education system that contributes to

        Class segregation, general safety with regards to NOPD corruption and

        inefficient crime response, and the fear of flood recurrence and levee  



The project advocates an engaging and educational rebuilding strategy to be initiated and implemented by an activist architect as a member of the community. This can be a strategy of material reclamation and repurposing, participatory design, and social engagement bringing together tools, knowledge, and hard work to effectively rebuild these neighborhoods.


Click here to view the full Bachelor of Architecture undergraduate thesis written and developed by Aaron Wertman. (NOT AVAILABLE AT THIS TIME)

In order to acheive this long term vision, the initial catatlyst must be discovered or created.  This initial catalyst is Apparatus X, and it's envisioned impact goes beyond that of single community application.


Apparatus X is a recreational vehicle that has been redesigned as an adaptable tool trailer capable of transforming an empty lot into a workspace in communities and areas affected by natural disaster. The trailer will also serve as a mobile design studio for both individual and community design, fostering a collective knowledge and collaborative learning environment. As a third function, the trailer will serve as a micro living unit, which functions at a high level of mechanical efficiency and illustrates a comfortable and spatially efficient living environment.


There are multiple goals and values associated with this design build project:

        To provide an apparatus to provide design build service to communities

        To serve as an example of efficiency of space, material, and lifestyle

        To learn while doing / as a result of the process

        To develop skills as a design builder / problem solver

        To initiate a role as activist architect

        To start a humanitarian effort that promotes self-progressivism

                                                                               // hard work and accountability



"I have come to believe that in order to be an effective enabler you have to be a prudent provider. I have come to believe that there are four integrally related sets of responsibility vital to good practice: PROVIDING, ENABLING, ADAPTING, and SUSTAINING (PEAS). Together these define the ideals, responsibilities, and activities of development practice.


There will always be things and resources that we provide. What we provide to save lives (food, tents, first aid, information) will be different to what we provide for the longer term to build livelihoods (skills, knowledge, land, money, materials).


The question is what and how much should be provided to meet the needs of now; and how much and when so that we can sustain development over the longer term? What kind of catalyst interventions will start a process of long-term reconstruction, rather than

pre-empt it? We also know that change and the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances over time is a resource to sustain well-being, and build a sense of belonging and the resilience of community.


It is a resource for building all sorts of assets, tangible and intangible. How should we think about change and resilience as integral to our planning and designing post-disaster reconstruction?


Providing catalysts, promoting enablement - community as well as market and political enablement - building the capacity for change, the ability to be adaptive socially and spatially, are all integral to sustaining reconstruction as a developmental and not just relief process. Together they define a culture of practice, practical in its objectives and strategic in its purpose and endeavors.


Being strategic, after all, is synonymous with being sustainable."



Building Back Better, forward by Nabeel Hamdi, 2010

Lyons, Michal, Theo Schilderman, and Camillo Boano. Foreword.

Building Back Better: Delivering People-centred Housing Reconstrution at Scale.

Warwickshire, UK: Practical Action Pub., 2010.



Apparatus X: A Social Enterprise


The Problem



There are countless communities that are disrupted annually, either due to a natural or artificial catastrophe. While there are many organization dedicated to helping these communities, many rely on external financial aid in direct response, while only temporarily solving the issue until another catastrophe occurs. While these organizations do positively effect these communities much of the time, they are either not financially sustainable, or attempt to solve the problem in an unsustainable way.


The lower ninth ward is an example of this problem. Many organizations have tried to help build homes for the displaced population so that they can return. Unfortunately, it proved to mainly be a solution to the wrong problem. The largest obstacle is the lack of infrastructure in the area. The most common solution: gentrification.


How can we create sustainable community restoration without gentrification, while eliminating the need for external financial aid and at the same time provide for an immediate more efficient disaster response? A new approach. Apparatus X


Social Goals: The Reason for Apparatus X

Short Term (Immediate Disaster Response)


The philosophy of Apparatus X is embodied in the soon-to-be patented unit Build-X the company specializes in fabricating. This unit is adaptable to various needs from the small business owner who would like to be more mobile, to the large disaster response organizations that would like to more efficient. Our prototype, the Build-X is designed to be a mobile live in toolbox, allowing a team of two to immediately move onto the land most in need of restoration and build the space necessary for a larger team to live, with all the tools needed already on site, eliminating travel time and allowing for a more entrenched experience for the team members.


Long Term (Sustainable Community development


For communities that require a more holistic approach, for instance those that are economically disrupted, Build-X can be moved into the community for a period of years, allowing the team on the ground to integrate with the community in need. This team will give free tool use, design, and entrepreneurial training sessions to the community members. These training sessions will be centered on active learning; teaching skills to the community members by designing and building projects which would increase their standard of living. Any community member who successfully completes all the training sessions would then have the potential to be hired by Apparatus X, creating a revenue flow into the community while integrating further, and while hiring an employee that is emotionally invested in the impact they are having. Community integration and assessment then becomes a consequence of our approach to reaching the goal of a sustainable community by creating a personal presence within the community; eventually having local community members that can then run future projects in the area while the company expands to another area in need.


The truly socially sustainable aspect of Apparatus X is that it is a knowledge based company, giving people the skills they need to overcome adversities they may face in the future.


The Business Model

Our main revenue stream is created by selling customized units. These units are assets to the smaller businesses that want to be more mobile while taking a bit of home with them, (chicken butchers, craftsmen, food venders, etc).  Small business are able to find seasonal customers, or can be on a more frequent rotation, reaching many more customers than the stationary business would otherwise be able to do. Restauranteurs that want to be seasonably mobile, but have a permanent presence throughout the season, can buy a unit which pops out to a footprint more than twice the size of the unit during transport, basically enabling the transport of a restaurant, rather than the product.


Large companies that would like to bridge the communication problems that stem from digital communication can also gain from customized units. Larger companies will be able to mobilize teams in customized units on site, allowing for many more in person communication between team members and separate teams, while supplying all of the tools, design software and internet access necessary for the efficient function of each team. Whole teams that may otherwise have miscommunications will then be connected further with the company they work for by fostering closer relationships as well as giving them a larger picture of the company, eliminating siloed information and further enabling lean construction.


Aid organizations can buy our customized units for the purpose they specialize in. An organization dedicated to eliminate homelessness could buy a customized bunkhouse unit. able to move to the area that is needed most at the time. An organization dedicated to eliminating hunger could buy a customized model specialized in storing and preparing large quantities of food. An organization specialized in disaster response can order a Build X, maximizing the efficiency of their aid efforts.

The ability for the Apparatus X to custimize a unit to the needs of the customer allows the company to approach a broad pool of potential clients.

Additional Information

Build X  is also able to fabricate a copy of itself, or a unit designed for a different purpose, (similar to an idea, it fabricates itself while adapting components to suit the needs of the future)

It has a water collection system, 160 Gallons water storage capacity, a 48V solar cell system, sink, stove, shower, toilet, as well as a design space, a work space complete with all the tools necessary and a relaxing space.


Many aspects of our world are digital and will only become more so. Unfortunately, many problems facing communities in need are not. We can now accrue information concerning disparities in society extremely fast and efficiently. Apparatus X helps solve these disparities.


The application of Apparatus X is countless, attacking national needs that are mobile and constantly changing by meeting them face on with a grassroots approach.




Mechanical & Biomed. Engineering

Agricultural Engineering

Engineering Science

Mechanical Engineering

Energy Engineering










Landscape Architecture

Architectural Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical & Nuclear Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

Aaron Wertman

Joshua Kessler

Nichole Hiel

Erik Shaw

Luke Dickerson

Dylan Humenik

Sam Davison

Cody McKean

Andrew Recco

Nathan Sauter

Tyler Corbley

Stephanie Rakiec

Joshua Horenstein

Brad Pawelczyk

Kyle McAlpin

Jack Hall

Dylan Friday

James McClanathan

Jacob Rosnack

Shail Savla

Jichen Shen

Design Build Thesis - Project Manager

ESW - Engineers for a Sustainable World

ESW - Engineers for a Sustainable World

ESW - Engineers for a Sustainable World

ESW / Independent Study Course

ESW / Independent Study Course

Independent Study Course

Independent Study Course

Independent Study Course

Independent Study Course

Independent Study Course

Independent Study Course

Independent Study Course

Independent Study Course

Independent Study Course

Independent Study Course

Independent Study Course

Engineering Capstone Team

Engineering Capstone Team

Engineering Capstone Team

Engineering Capstone Team



Wired.com Runs Apparatus X Story!

Apparatus X is published on Wired.com:

"This Simple Trailer Has Everything You Need to Deal With Disaster" by Alexander George




College of Engineering, Penn State

Check out the story from Penn State's College of Engineering supporting project awareness and promoting the fundraising campaign.




Local Newspaper Publication!

The Daily Item and The Danville News, Wertman's hometown newspapers published a story on his recent work on the Apparatus X project.






The subfloor is down, the elevated floor is framed, and we are one step closer to completion.


This event took place at the workshop in Centre Hall.


Check out the gallery for more photos!


Penn State News!

The project was recently featured on Penn State's homepage highlighting student work from around the university.




College of Arts & Architecture, Penn State

Check out the story published by the Stuckeman School of Architecture featuring the project patron, Aaron Wertman.






Stephanie E. Wertman

Ted & Rani Blackmon

Terry Schnure

The Byerly Family

The Dobek Family

The Haney Family

Tim Bessler

Tom & Jane Wildoner

Tom Shaw

W. F. Busher

Yoni Rubenstein





Kessler Family

Kevin Wright

Kimberly Jacobs

Laura Broad

Linda Feltman

Liz Kisenwether

Lucien Canton

Makuch Family

Margarete Hahn

Margo Wolfson

Marta Weber



Matthew Daniels

Matthew Emery

Max Klijnstra

Meeten Doshi

Milana Leshinsky

Nathan Grubb

New Artist Project

Rhonda Roberts

Ryan and Becca Bialas


Shaw Family



Aaron Brooks


Alex Beebe

Alex Nastetsky

Alexandra Norpel

Amy Shaw


Benjamin Bucior

Catherine Mosca

Catherine Shrier

Cathy Moon



Cheryl Patton

Christopher Burke


Cody Harrison

D. Humenik

Daniel Tait

Debra Payne

Don & Diane

Donald & Donna McAlpin

Drew Mohoric

E. Thomas Costello



Eli Kessler

Eric Temmel

Erin Lesesky

Gary & Patricia Wertman

Glenn & Cindy Gifford

Jenny & Chris Leach

Joanne Nash

Joseph F. Busher

Joyce Tobias

Juan Emilio Pena

Keith Crockatt