A young Argentine’s invention could save millions of lives around the world
By Andrea Joseph –
Nicolás García Mayor lived in the ruins of an abandoned clinic, but he is now the creator of a unique venture in humanitarian aid that led him to be voted one of ten outstanding young people in the world by a prominent international youth organization.
Mayor knows about poverty and the effects of natural disasters. He grew up with his mother and brothers, working from a very young age. He is from the city of Bahía Blanca, in the south of the province of Buenos Aires. While studying industrial design at the University of La Plata, he lived for two years in the radiology lab of an abandoned clinic because he had no money to pay rent. In addition to his personal experience with poverty, he and his fellow Argentines have suffered several natural disasters: earthquakes, landslides, floods, forest fires and the consequences of volcanic eruptions.
To complete his degree in 2001, Mayor’s thesis was based on an emergency shelter to implement in disaster situations. The shelter is modular, transportable, and can be assembled on any surface without tools. Each module can provide shelter and food for ten people. Now, more than a decade later, he is making his thesis a reality and was recently invited to present his shelter, called CMAX, to the Assembly of the United Nations.
CMAX is a box structure made with polypropylene, aluminum, and polyester with drop-down side wings that allow it to quadruple in size, creating enough space – about 14 square meters (150 square feet) – for as many as ten people can live. The interior has telescopic legs that separate the floor from the ground, reducing the passage of cold and dampness. The modules are assembled in just eleven minutes and can be modified to create hospitals or schools in addition to living spaces. They can include an additional three bathrooms placed between three modules and a survival kit with food, blankets, water, pencils, and notebooks.
When reality surpasses dreams
After receiving a bachelor’s degree, Mayor’s story changed. He was offered the opportunity to travel to Spain where he worked in leading companies to design hotels. Despite his success, he longed to return home. “I had a house facing the Mediterranean, but I could not be away from my family and from Argentina.” So he decided to give up his life in Spain to move back to his home city, Bahía Blanca. There he founded a design firm, Ar Studio, which grew rapidly. The CMAX project was “asleep” in a drawer for a decade, until 2013 when Mayor was able to present it to the Assembly of the UN, as well as to Pope Francis who summoned him to explain his vision.
For this project, Mayor was honored by the Junior Chamber International, a large international nonprofit for young adults who want to make a positive difference globally. JCI chose him as one of ten outstanding young people of the world for his “contribution to children, world peace and human rights.”
Today, CMAX is an ambitious initiative. Mayor worked to repurpose an auto parts company, Plascar that had hit hard times. Plascar became CMAX System operates in the town of Tortuguitas and employs more than 300 people who are developing prototypes. Mayor estimates that the company will have an output of 500,000 units per year. The buyers will be the UN, humanitarian foundations, and national governments. Mayor’s dream could soon change the future of millions of victims of armed conflicts and natural disasters around the world.