Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Building, cement, bagged, instant

What a great idea! Concrete Canvas comes folded in a sealed plastic sack. The volume of the sack controls the water-to-cement ratio, eliminating the need for water measurement. You literally just add water.

I can't find any pictures, dammit. (There is one thumbnail of a model, but so far they haven't gone to full-size production.) But these people have come up with a really great idea, a concrete building that can be shipped folded up to anywhere, then inflated and made into a functioning building at the destination by adding water to the cement.

Wired News has the story.
Found via Slashdot.

The idea of a transportable, even temporary building has many possible applications. The recent tsunami disaster offers a recent example of a situation where any kind of shelter would be welcome. Apparently the portable cement structure mentioned in the article can be shipped sterile and used as a surgical operating environment if necessary.

They thought of an inflatable concrete tent after hearing about inflatable structures that are built around broken gas pipes to carry out repairs.

"This gave us the idea of making a giant concrete eggshell for a shelter, using inflation to optimize the structure for a compressive load," said Brewin. "Eggs are entirely compressive structures with enormous strength for a very thin wall."

The idea won second prize in the cement association competition in 2004. Crawford and Brewin, who are both engineers and have worked, respectively, for the Ministry of Defense and as an officer in the British Army, were also inspired by the plaster-of paris-impregnated bandages used to set broken bones.

***********IDEA AHEAD***********

I have a pet idea similar to this that I would love to push: temporary or disposable shelters made of ordinary corrugated cardboard, suitable for sleeping two adults or one adult with a couple of kids. Somebody may already have thought of it, which is okay. The humanitarian aspect of such an idea is far more important than whatever profits may result.

Cardboard houses are already available.

Quonset huts served well during WWII, a wonderful example of how inventions derived from military needs can serve wider, non-military use. Some are still in use in ways that their inventors would never have imagined.

But I would like to set in motion an idea that would be public domain, used by industry to make use of end runs and odd lots of materials, distributed by retail outlets (in order for the idea to work, someone has to pay basic costs) and finally donated through churches, civic organizations or other centers to be reused as shelter for homeless people.

After thirty-plus years in the food business, I have seen plenty of shipping boxes. The potential of cardboard is much greater than most people appreciate. The cartons in which products are shipped are normally more durable than the products themselves. There is no reason that this lightweight, strong material cannot be used for shelter. It can be fire-resistant and water-resistant, light enough that one person can carry it, and spacious enough for one or two sleeping bags.

Think about it.

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