Engineers Benjamin Kromoser and Johann Kollegger from the Vienna University of Technology have come up with a cheap and simple building method that could help construction in impoverished areas, creating slabs of inflatable concrete that join when they rise up. This technique could enable the swift construction of inexpensive buildings, domes, pavilions and highway underpasses. The process begins with a form of concrete that involves several segments. Next, they poured liquid concrete into segments, which areseparated by wedge spaces. As the concrete hardens, an air cushion below, made of sealed plastic sheets, becomes inflated. Steel wire is tightened around the segments to ensure they rose in unison. The empty spaces allow the inflatable concrete segments to fit together perfectly when the structure was raised. Once the building is erected, it is then plastered.
In the experiment, the two engineers created a 9.5 foot dome in under two hours. A concrete dome is notorious for being very costly and difficult to build. The two Austrian engineers believe that a variety of different shapes and buildings can be made with the pneumatic wedge method. Upon seeing the results of the inflatable concrete, the Austrian Federal Railways ordered construction for an animal pass over two high-speed rail tracks in Carinthia. Kromoser wanted to create architectural flexibility with this technique. Not only are geometrically symmetrical designs possible, but complex free form structures are also possible. As opposed to traditional building methods, the smaller structures are more difficult to create. Kromoser said that building shells that are 50 meters in sdiameter are no problem, but creating complex structures with a small area of curvature is tricky.
The creators of the inflatable concrete technology are looking to utilize the technique to help construction in impoverished areas. The structures can be erected in poor areas very quickly and can provide housing, shelters, business offices, whatever can be built now, with traditional methods, can be achieved. Also, the Vienna University of Technology engineers said that their inflatable concrete method can be utilized to create more stable and secure refugee shelters during natural disasters. The buildings also lend themselves to being constructed and delivered to wherever they are needed.
The inflatable concrete technology is still being improved and developed. Kromoser and Kollegger believe that their new design could replace the traditional methods of construction. The inflatable concrete can be used for other materials besides concrete, and could be used to help construction not only in impoverished areas, but areas all around the world. The method could build cheap housing in first world areas. Kromoser stated that the buildings could cost half the amount to build than their conventional counterparts. The inventors stated that they are pursuing to utilize their technology wherever they can, and greatly look forward to seeing them aid the impoverished of the world. They are currently looking at Uganda, Congo, Peru, and Brazil. The team’s method has already been patented, and, according to Kromoser and Kollegger, will be on the market soon.
By Andres Loubriel