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Instant shelter: Just add water!

Concrete Canvas shelters look like an amazing way to deliver shelter to emergency situations. The building arrives in an airtight bag, is pulled out with a vehicle and inflated. The building can be deployed by just two people (and a bit of machinery) in 45 minutes. After squirting with water, the concrete impregnated fabric sets up and is ready for use in 24 hours. Covering it with an earthen berm helps keep it temperature controlled, and the interior can be kept as a sterile environment.

Concrete Canvas have developed two shelter variants, CCS25 and CCS54 (with 25sqm and 54sqm of floor space respectively). CCS structures have been designed to maximize their internal usable space. A standard CCS54 can accommodate up to 15 people according to Sphere Standards, Humanitarian and Disaster Response Charter. For longer term operations, CCS54 will accommodate 8 standard cots with free standing mosquito nets. The technology can be scaled up to provide even larger structures. Future product developments include shelters to be used for storage of vehicles and helicopters.

Have you worked with these concrete structures? How are they to use after construction?

44 thoughts on “Instant shelter: Just add water!

  1. David says:

    Hmm. It’s not useful for emergencies, and it’s not practical, either. That’s probably something you’d use when you have a lot of time.

  2. Abe Connally says:

    I’ve seen this in the blogosphere several times in the past few years. I can tell you from my experience building ferro-cement vaults and buildings that this thing is NOT waterproof, which is a basic requirement for shelter.

    The idea is great, but I doubt it would actually be very useful in the field. I think you would require some sort of waterproofing membrane to make it work well.

    A hexayurt is probably better for relief situations, and it even includes a bit of insulation and waterproofing.

    1. Anonymous says:

      If ferro-cement is not waterproof (and i really have no clueless about it, so i’m just curious) how is it possible to build ferro-cement boats?

    2. Henry says:

      Actually, it looks like it has a flexible membrane inside that would make it waterproof. Looks like the membrane is what enables the ability to inflate the unit to begin with, and also provides the sterile environment. I think it’s brilliant.

      1. Abe Connally says:

        Yeah, an internal membrane for water proofing is a disaster waiting to happen. Water leaks through the cement, puts pressure on the plastic membrane, which then forms bubbles of water above your head and eventually collapse that plastic membrane on top of you. I don’t see this being viable unless you have a plastic membrane on the outside of the concrete.

        Sealing concrete can be difficult, as cracks emerge with time, your sealer will also crack.

        Don’t get me wrong, the concept is great, it’s the application. When you’ve actually worked with thin shell concrete structures you learn the dynamics of these things in the field, and water is your biggest enemy.

        For the money, a hexayurt is a better solution. Their cheap, easy to ship, easy to erect, and include a bit of insulation and waterproofing.

        The other option would be a sandbag shelter, which are more permanent, but are super cheap.

    3. Concansales says:

      I work for CC and to explain the technology, the shelters are made out of the patented Concrete Cloth. Concrete Cloth is a PVC backed (water proof) geotextile impregnated with Concrete. The PVC backing makes sure the Cloth is immediately waterproof and stops the Concrete falling out when it is in roll/unset format.

      The cloth when set is similar to basalt in its wear characteristics!

      As an extra waterproofing measure the inflatable balloon, which the Concrete Cloth is adhered to(this is the white material you see on the internal shots) is waterproof and flame retardant.

      The doors are also flame retardant and bloody heavy.

      All in, I would rather be behind 13mm of basalt like concrete than fabric.

      Extra insulation can be added to reduce air con fuel consumption by 50%

      Hope this helps!

      1. Chris Connors says:

        Thanks for clarifying some of the questions about this interesting technology.

  3. Diarmuid says:

    I don’t know where these would be used.

    In situations where you need a structure in 24 hours, use an inflatable structure (either ribbed or with internal pressure).
    In situations where you can take a longer term outlook, standard shelter, prefabs, etc would be more suitable.

    I bet corrugated iron structures could be made very quickly and without much structure

    In military situations (where a berm is needed) just build a normal structure and protect that.

  4. Anonymous says:


    1. Ben Nash says:

      Can we get a sponsor to send these structures to Haiti? Big chance to to prove the scalability of these structures while helping out those in need.

  5. says:

    I’ve been watching these for a while. I think they are genius. I have no real need for one, but I think it would make for a cool little out building. Just because they are cool.

  6. mikheil says:

    cool but how it will work in desert heat if you hydrate it with water will it be as strong after dehydration???

    1. ronnie says:

      This sounds really cool, but I wonder what the cost is, As Abe brought up, concrete alone isn’t so good at being water proof. Paint it or seal it and it’s good, but I wonder how well the inner liner adheres to the concrete once the concrete’s been rained on and saturated with water for a while.

  7. alandove says:

    These sorts of ideas from do-gooder architects come rolling past all the time, and nobody ever adopts them. Instead, the Red Cross, government agencies, and other disaster response organizations just keep relying on the same old tents, trailers, and tarps. It’s not because they’re resistant to change – they just see these things for what they are: lovely ideas that have no real use in an actual disaster.

    Yes, you could build geodesic domes, inflatable fiberglass quonset huts, sand-bag igloos, concrete bunkers, or any of dozens of other designs for disaster victims, but none of these offer any meaningful improvement over tents in the real world, and most of them are worse. Tents are dirt-cheap, air-freightable, pitchable by untrained personnel, equally suited to all climates, and (very importantly) removable when more permanent shelter becomes available. Trailers are the industrialized equivalent of tents. And if neither is available quickly enough, tarps will do the job admirably well until either tents or trailers arrive.

    Living in any of these arrangements would suck, of course (and I’m sure someone will chime in about the toxic residues in FEMA trailers post-Katrina), but all of them are better than sleeping outdoors, which is the actual alternative. Send tents and tarps to Haiti, not experimental concrete bunkers.

    1. alandove says:

      Forgot to mention: tents and trailers are also pretty earthquake-resistant. This concrete thing looks like it would be a deathtrap if the ground shakes.

  8. Neil says:

    Well, a tent, trailer or tarp are not going to do well during a hurricane, which last time I checked, is a problem in Haiti. They’re also not great for medical or lab facilities, and I could see this having potential. Of course, you’d have to solve the water problem in the concrete structures as well in a hurricane situation, but at least the structure would be (presumably) sturdier.

    1. alandove says:

      No quickly-built structure is going to do well in a hurricane.

      And one more problem that occurred to me: where’s the ventilation on this thing? Windows? Not only will it be pitch dark in there, raising an obvious danger of being eaten by a grue, but there won’t be much air exchange.

  9. Peter says:

    Liar and more liars!
    the concrete canvas/fiber shelter is the most advanced thing on the planet and you have to be a fool to not plain see it! Cities can be built in a day with this stuff! They are the most easy to waterproof and they are literally earthquake proof unlike the lie examples we know are not. You can place them side by side and back to back to make village seals and even add passive power to them… to complain about them is to be so dumb as to complain a house is not fully functional when only the foundation is laid. MILLIONS of such homes can be made fast and ready for any disaster as well as house the whole planet with proper free housing and lighting and even hot water as you spoiled fools have no clue what is beast for mankind. They are strong and can be made even stronger and add abilities your own houses do not have…to even think such a fantastic product is crap is true insanity and ignorance. Only a fool does not want people to have homes and want them to have tents and junk trailers… some people should be forced to live with them to learn the facts of reality. The fiber is so powerful it can make houses that last 1000 years not 100 days! The basic scrap shown on the web is nothing but a silly prototype and only fools think prototypes are the real thing.

  10. Concansales says:

    Me again; the shelters have been modelled to withstand 200ft/s and although no testing have been performed on the earthquake scenario; the shelter is low mass and the dome shape has an inherent strength.

    Hope this helps.

  11. Concrete Sealer says:

    Continue the good work! I wish to visit again.

  12. Nathan says:

    Just to let everyone know, the cost of these in the 54sq meter (their largest one) is around $30,000. I could buy 4, 40ft x 8ft x 8.5ft shipping containers,coat them in a closed cell foam for waterproofing, and bury them for the same price.

  13. Peter says:

    A LOT of people cry it is not waterproof but they are dead wrong. it is waterproof and has thick plastic inside. The structure does absorb water BUT IT IS NOT FINISHED! it has to be covered in materials to be permanent including more layers of concrete or block and then waterproofing (on structure or on top of structure) NONE of the concrete canvas structures are made to be watered and left 24hrs and then that is it…you all jumped to conclusions, and all of you are wrong! As an emergency shelter it can grow spread and even become a who0le village BUT only as a starting point! You all think end product and it is only the starting point to make super structures…you place them back to back and side by side and fill the gaps with blocks concrete and anything other you can find then cover the top and pave. looks like a bridge with road but is homes side by side in a circle to face out and in and make a sort of machine to help humans. We could save a village on this planet each week if we just cared.

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