‘Concrete Canvas’ Makes Erecting Permanent Buildings As Easy as Pitching a Tent

Drapeable fabric turns into solid concrete when it gets wet

When disaster strikes and permanent structures are leveled, as they were recently by earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand (and more distantly in Haiti), they are usually replaced in the short term by tent cities. Two engineering students thought they could do better and invented Concrete Canvas, a fabric impregnated with concrete that can turn a tent into a hardy, permanent structure in 24 hours. Just add water.

Fundamentally, Concrete Canvas is a clever means to erect a sturdy, permanent structure anywhere. Packed in a crate, the entire building comes ready to erect with a minimum of infrastructure or extra tools. The exterior fabric, the Concrete Canvas, is basically like normal tent canvas loaded with dry cement particles. That fabric is bound to an interior airtight bladder.

When deployed at a site, the shelter is simply unpacked, unfolded, and attached to an air pump that fills it with compressed air like a balloon. Once rigid, the exterior simply needs to be thoroughly hosed down–dirty water works just fine–to hydrate all that concrete embedded in the Concrete Canvas. By the next day, the concrete is hardened and you’re left with nearly 600 square feet of interior space sheltered by a rigid concrete shell.

Since the interior is already lined with the airtight bladder, it’s sterilizable for an easily deployable triage facility. And like any concrete structure the walls can be drilled to install electricity, light fixtures, surfaces, or whatever the situation calls for. All said, two people can put the thing up in an hour (plus drying time), and the units can be organized end to end to create larger interior spaces. When the clock is ticking and manpower is at a premium, it’s a clever way to quickly put a roof over peoples’ heads.

To see an impressive video of a Concrete Canvas tent going up, click through the BBC link below.