If I were to ask you to name your all time favourite iconic concrete structure, you'd probably come up with the same answer as me: the Seattle Kingdome.But what if I were to ask you to name your favourite "low mass, strengthening fibre matrix temporary concrete shelter"? -- again you'd probably think Kingdome -- but you'd be wrong.Aside from the Ministry of Defence's recent efforts to populate downtown Baghdad with giant blocks (presumably to be chipped away in reconstruction to reveal tribute art) some British designers see an alternative future for concrete. The UK has its very own pair of Frank Lloyd Wrights -- and they need your help.You may have heard of the Concrete Canvas. The idea has received more press coverage than Janet Jackson's left boob, but oddly, remains as famous as the right one. (Check out this Wired article written over a year ago).The idea is simple. Create a temporary hardened structure that can be transported across the globe and erected with minimal effort, training and supply in areas that need it most.Literally, a "building in a bag" (or my own terms: "Vatican in a valise", "Kingdome in a container" etc) -- each unit weighs about 500 pounds, making it light and easy enough to transport in a variety of platforms. The bag is an inflatable plastic inner bubble, wrapped in a specially treated fabric and packed in plastic. The bag is then filled with water allowing the cement to hydrate, after which you cut, unfold and inflate. Inflation is achieved via a small chemical pack which moulds around the bubble, setting over a period of 12 hours. The shelter covers about 170 square feet of floor space and cost is estimated at $2,100 per unit.The aid benefits are clear, but could the Concrete Canvas, (or CC01), benefit troops? Current living conditions seem varied depending on where or who you are, and Defensetech's own plethora of experts can provide first-hand experience of living in the kiln. Perhaps combining CC01 and the US Army's own ideas about the sun would assist in the current cable quagmire?The Department of Defense has just annouced a juicy $120-million contract for Anchor Inc.'s party-size shelters and the less-than-attractive Battle Boxes are already used by some European forces. Reconstruction efforts in Iraq require temporary housing for residents, as do the countless disaster and conflict zones. So why can't you buy one?Critics argue that the 145 liters of water needed to fill the thing is too valuable a resource in remote areas and others argue that CC01 is too permanent for relief efforts which should be helping people secure housing rather than shelter. Personally I think its a great idea, like the Life-Straw, and wish Pete and Will luck trying to get their idea to those who need it.Designers Peter Brewin and Will Crawford both have impressive track records for innvoation and industrial design and the Concrete Canvas has recently won (among others) the Saatchi and Saatchi award for World Changing Ideas. Peter and Will are currently seeking further funding to bring CC01 into production and can be contacted via their website.--Steven SnellUpdate, 04/26/06: Peter Brewin has kindly contacted me to offer some specifics about the military aspects of CC01:The key advantage of CC from a military position is that as a compressive structure it can be earth bermed (i.e., sand, earth, etc. can be piled on top to a depth of up to six feet). This has two main advantages:* Protection from shrapnel and blast.* Thermal insulation - this massively reduces the logistical footprint, particularly if air conditioning is required for accommodation, as is the current situation in the Gulf. Better insulation means fewer air-conditioning units, hence less generator capacity and fuel and fewer maintenance personnel at the front line. Also it means a lower thermal signature.
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