Groundbreaking “Concrete Cloth” allows ancient building material to be used in a totally new way.
Concrete Cloth is a pioneering “building-in-a-bag” that requires only water and air for construction: it was named material of the year in the 2011 Material ConneXions MEDIUM Awards.
Concrete is one of the world’s most popular building materials.
It follows a simple, ancient recipe: build a mold to form a desired shape; drop in some reinforcing (steel bars as example); mix cement, water, and rock aggregates; pour the mix in the mold and let it set up. It’s a great idea for housing refugees in Syria.
This new cement-impregnated flexible fabric technology let’s you skip expensive forms, structural reinforcement and time-sensitive mixing routines. We’re talking inflatable concrete buildings. It’s concrete in a roll, just add water.
Developed by Milliken & Company (USA) and Concrete Canvas Ltd. (UK), the product traps a dry concrete powder between two surfaces that are linked together by a 3-dimensional fiber matrix. One surface is completely waterproof. The other is porous and contains hydrophilic fibers, which work with the powder to draw water into the cloth, aiding concrete hydration. Once set, the material forms a three-layer composite with the long linked fibers being held in place by a matrix of high-strength concrete.
The fibers fix the powder in place, it can’t move even when the cloth is bent. They also reinforce the structure, prevent cracking, absorb impacts, and provide a safe “plastic” failure mode (the fibers progressively take up load if the concrete fails).
The fabric can’t be over-hydrated, so the cement-ratio no longer matters. Concrete Cloth is durable, with a wear-rate about double that of conventional concrete. It uses up to 95% less concrete than traditional applications. That’s a tiny carbon footprint.
Entire semi-permanent “tent cities” are rapidly deployable as they require only water and air for set-up. Finished shelters are water proof and fire proof. They come in two sizes, 25 m2 and 54m2, and ship easily, making them perfect solutions for disaster relief or emergency operations. A 25 m2 unit can be installed by 2 people without any special training in under an hour. Shelters are ready for occupancy in 24 hours.
The units have excellent thermal properties, and are structurally capable of being covered with sand or earth for added insulation. They can be fitted with a combined forced air / inflation units, and their hard shell and lockable doors provide a level of security not possible with soft skinned structures, protecting people and possessions within.
While not as attractive as LoftCubes nor as inventive as the 4-foot wide “parasitic house“, these instant-concrete buildings-in-a-bag provide all the benefits of a permanent structure without the associated cost and time delays. Born to serve a military application, let’s see them pressed into civil service soon.
Images via Concrete Canvas Ltd.