Concrete Cloth Makes Durable, Semi-Permanent Shelters

Following a natural disaster, setting up shelter for survivors is priority one. However, transporting the materials and constructing the shelters can be a rather drawn-out process. Two engineers have come up with a novel way to build permanent shelters that start out as flexible fabric tents, then become sturdy and stable concrete buildings in less than a day using little more than water and air.

Concrete Canvas is fabric impregnated with cement. Before it is activated, the fabric is thin and flexible enough to be folded and packed in a regular shipping crate. After it is sent to a disaster area, a plastic bladder is inflated and the Concrete Canvas laid over it. Then a generous spray of water activates the concrete and it begins to harden in the shape of the underlying bladder.

The water used to construct the buildings does not have to be potable, so even dirty water can be utilized. Then it is just a matter of allowing the concrete to air-dry; within 24 hours the structure goes from a fabric tent to a lightweight but sturdy building made of a thin layer of concrete-infused fabric. The finished product is water-proof, fire-proof and far more sturdy than the typical refugee tent.

The concrete shelters can be deployed by just two people with no training in under an hour, making them ideal for almost any emergency situation. With a minimum lifetime of 10 years, the concrete buildings will last long enough to see refugees and natural disaster victims through the lengthy process of finding or constructing new homes.

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See more in New Materials or under Science. May, 2011.