Low-Cost, Balloon-Formed Housing Concept for Developing Countries

Originally published in 
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Round Logic
Not many architects can say that their father invented a new way of building. Nicoló Bini, however, is adapting his dad’s 1960s air-formed Binishell concept for a new generation.
Thin concrete structure formed over an inflated membrane

The Italian architect Dante Bini developed the Binishell in the 1960s as a simple affordable-housing alternative for developing countries. The domes were formed by pouring a thin layer of concrete over a membrane and inflating it. Rendering courtesy of Binisystems.

Image courtesy of Binisystems.

Nicoló Bini went to architecture school to figure out an effective way to build low-cost housing in developing countries. In the end, the concept that made the most sense was, in fact, the most obvious. His father, Dante Bini, was the brains behind the Binishell, a 1960s innovation that involved inflating a large balloon coated with a thin layer of concrete that hardened in place to create a uniquely rounded edifice.

“My father was interested in the structural innovation—his goal was to go bigger and bigger,” Bini says. “We took on the challenge of making these buildings smaller, simpler, cheaper, greener, and faster to build.” The development team, which included both Binis, created three new systems—Four, Five, and Six—each of which was designed to address a different need. 

Four: An aerodynamic square-based dome designed to be earthquake- and water-resistant. The midrange size and price are ideal for single-family homes or educational environments. 

Five: This smaller, vault-shaped structure’s preformed membrane takes the shape of the pressurized air used for inflation. It’s especially apt for disaster-ravaged locations like Haiti, where shared walls aren’t code-compliant.

Six: This larger option for domestic, retail, or civic projects will offer a key step toward acclimating the public to the idea of a curvaceous urban contour.

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