The Concrete Fabric Designed to Save Lives

A concrete material that hardens when sprayed with water to create robust temporary shelters could save lives in natural disaster areas and war zones all over the world. The revolutionary fabric called 'Concrete Canvas' creates fireproof and waterproof structures in just 24 hours.

Concrete Canvas, effectively 'concrete on a roll', is the creation of engineers Peter Brewin and Will Crawford. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this concrete impregnated fabric is the simplicity and speed that it affords emergency humanitarian aid efforts. A flat-pack shelter, effectively a 'building in a bag', made from Concrete Canvas, can be dispatched to a war zone or refugee camp anywhere in the world in a wooden crate. Once in position, the building can be inflated by a simple electric fan. The fan inflates the plastic inner part of the shelter until the structure can support itself. Water is then sprayed on to it and the building is ready to use within 24 hours. A 25-square-foot shelter, which could be used as an emergency hospital or a base for aid distribution can be constructed by two people, without any training, in less than an hour.

Here's how a Concrete Canvas Shelter works...

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Delivery: Shelters are supplied folded in airtight, water and rot-proof polyethylene sacks within ISPM15 heat-treated timber/ply panel crates.

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Inflation: An electric fan is activated which inflates the plastic inner to lift the structure until it is self-supporting. The shelter is then pegged down with ground anchors around the base.

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Hydration: The Shelter is then hydrated by spraying with water. Sea water may be used.

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Setting: The Concrete Canvas cures in the shape of the inflated inner and 24 hours later the structure is ready to use. Access holes can be cut to allow the installation of services.

The surprising strength of these emergency shelters has proven to be a double-edged sword. Although described as temporary or semi-permanent, a building made from Concrete Canvas could survive for as long as 50 years. In the aid sector this can create political tensions, where often the authorities don't want to entertain that a serious problem could go on for any longer than six months.

Screen shot 2015-02-17 at 10.02.57 Shelters can be used for a range of humanitarian purposes including emergency hospitals and aid distribution centres.

Screen shot 2015-02-17 at 10.03.09 Shelters are fireproof and waterproof within 24 hours.

Screen shot 2015-02-23 at 15.36.53 A shelter buried using a cellular geo-textile product to provide force protection.

Each shelter has been modelled to withstand a very high distributed compressive load to allow it to be covered by sand, local fill material or snow. This gives the shelters excellent thermal properties and can provide protection against shrapnel, blasts and small arms fire. The image above shows a shelter buried using a cellular geo-textile product to provide force protection.

The invention of such an innovative material and its application to humanitarian causes has quite rightly caused a stir and Concrete Canvas has won a number of innovation and design awards including the Queens Award for Enterprise Innovation and the MIP Award for Most Innovative Product.