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Binishell inflatable concrete

Posted by
on March 01, 2017 at 01:01 PM

Concrete as a building material, is a dream for an architect. The material scores high on two most important criteria - strength and flexibility - to become the most sought-after material in construction. Since the use of this material, spanning a greater distance has been made easy. Also achieving various forms in an architect’s imagination, could be turned into reality because of the versatility of the material. But not all is well and good with the use of concrete. Apart from being non eco-friendly, building concrete shell structures, has been proved to be an arduous task. Binishells, a technology innovated by architect Dr. Dante Bini back in 1964, that builds homes using inflatable concrete, opens up a whole new world of imagination for future architects...  

© Courtesy of internet sources

In a nutshell, 'Binishells' use low air pressure to create monolithic reinforced concrete shells. They simply use air as their formwork, making it a very efficient building envelope. The system works on a very simple principle. First an inflated pneumoform is anchored to the foundation. After that, steel reinforcements, as required for the shell structure, is put in place and concrete is poured. As the concrete sets and hardens, the pneumoform is deflated, removed and reused for the next structure. The resulting construction is a naturally strong and flexible shell structure! 

There are several advantages to this kind of construction. Firstly, the outcome is a strong structure that performs well in case of natural disasters. Secondly, the construction offers a lot flexibility in terms of shape and size. Thirdly, the procedure requires half the labour and material, compared to a regular shell structure, which helps to bring down the overall cost of construction. It costs nearly half the price to build and operate the whole system. Fourthly, the speed of construction is three times more rapid than a typical shell structure. Last but not the least, this method is more sustainable as its carbon footprint is reduced to just one third of the usual method of construction. So this proves to be a greener and more efficient way of building shell structures.

A concept pioneered by architect Dr. Dante Bini, with the view of rethinking construction to make buildings safer, greener and more affordable - Binishells have the potential of chnaging the way future architects think design! It was the first time that air pressure was used to lift and shape reinforced concrete shell structures. The technology was further enhanced by his son, architect Nicolo Bini. Today it has found application in various kinds of construction, ranging from residential, to schools, gymnasiums, commercial buildings, low cost housing, emergency shelters, storage and various other typologies.

So far, the company has developed six systems, three out of which are already in use and remaining three are newer and soon to be available for use. The Binishell system 1 has been used to build domes of up to 40m, have been raised in less than one hour using less than 1 PSI of pressure. 1,600 domes were built in around 23 countries using this technique, which is the most built amongst any other construction system so far. Binishell System 2 was innovated to be able to increase span. It combines reinforced concrete and prefabricated infill panels to create geodesic dome structures, best suited for large stadiums. 

Binishell system 3 is for a large scale space frame structure that can be easily erected and de-mounted. They use metallic frames to support tensile fabric structures. They have been largely used for field hospitals, military facilities, sports facilities and semi-permanent structures for exhibitions. Their Binishell System 4, claims to be a greener solution and offers added advantage of faster speed, better strength and lesser cost. While Binishell System 5, asserts itself as the most affordable housing solution. It has been designed specifically for low cost and disaster relief housing, easily executed by local builders employing local material and labour. 

The Binishell System 6, which is their latest development, is pronounced as their most flexible solution till date. They describe it to be ‘Highly architecturally expressive’ with advantages with regards to costs, speed of construction and building strength. This system is specifically useful for an organic form with no restriction on scale. The system “provides sinuous and inspiring spaces that are also affordable, green, fast to build and strong.” Innovating and progressing from one system to another, Binishell keeps getting better with each update. Although it doesn’t make concrete a completely green material, it sure has an advantage over conventional shell structures. And it certainly adds a lot of ease to the construction methodology, saving valuable bucks in the process.

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