Are Inflated Concrete Homes The Answer to the World’s Housing Shortage?
The concept of inflated concrete homes has been around since the 1960s but only now, as the world’s population continues to grow exponentially, is the technique being touted as a very real solution to the chronic housing shortage this century could bring with it.
The ‘Binishell’ building technique, which is used to create simple domed structures, is actually very similar to that of papier-mâché (which you may remember from school) only instead of using wet newspaper and PVA glue to cover a balloon, flexible steel rods and wet concrete are used to cover a much bigger, heavy duty balloon instead. Once the concrete has set, the balloon can be removed and used again.
Not only is this method of building super-quick and low-cost, but it results in strong, sturdy structures that are resistant to earthquakes and volcanic tremors. The Binishell company, headed by Nicoló Bini, son of Dr. Dante Bini who first came up with the concept nearly 60 years ago, thinks that the technique is now ready to change the way low-cost, environmentally friendly residences are constructed:
“Binishells may be the greenest way to build ever invented. Using air as their form work, Binishells are inherently green because they provide highly efficient building envelopes. They are also naturally strong and flexible in terms of shape and size. They are highly affordable because they use less labour and material in construction and also because they cost less to operate. Applications range from high-end residential, to schools, gymnasiums, commercial buildings, low cost housing, emergency shelters, storage and an infinite variety of other typologies.”
Although a little sci-fi in their appearance, Binishells are now being viewed as a viable way to provide low-cost housing to the masses as the population continues to rise. Not only can the basic materials often be found locally but the technique is also quick to learn. The finished buildings are also extremely cost effective to run as their iconic rounded shape is more energy efficient than a traditional box shaped structure.
Criticism of the Binishell technique focuses around the single storey nature of each structure. With land at a premium as the population grows, is the best solution really to cover the landscape with buildings that comprise of just one level? In this regard, Binishells appear to be ill-suited for dense, urban environments. In response to this, Nicoló Bini says that his company are currently working on a system that will allow multi-storey Binishell structures to be built quickly using the same technique.All images courtesy of Binishell