The Amazing Inflatable Concrete Shelter – A Building in a Bag

The traditional idea of a building is a structure with walls made of brick with glass windows supported by metal or wooden frames. We see these kinds of buildings every day, and it’s hard to imagine a building could be anything else. However, there were two people who did believe a building could be different. They thought ‘what if we could make a shelter from a fabric which became rigid and could be inflated into the desired shape?’ Concrete Canvas was the company which formed from the idea, and the inflatable shelters became a reality.

The Fabric

The key factor in achieving a building made of fabric was the fabric itself. What William Crawford and Peter Brewin, the two university students-turned-inventors based their design on back in 2004, were the plaster casts used to help heal broken bones in hospitals. They developed a fabric filled with a dry concrete powder, which once hydrated and left to dry forms a hardened concrete layer.

The company Concrete Canvas has gone on to mass-produce this fabric, and it is now used in civil engineering projects around the world. Artists and designers have also started to use the material to produce innovative furniture, sculptures and art exhibitions.

Civil engineering projects remain the primary use for the fabric, which has many advantages over traditional poured concrete. One of the most important advantages it has is its speed of installation. Because the fabric arrives on a project site as a roll, it simply needs to be cut to the required size and then secured in place before hydration. Cutting the fabric requires no specialist training and can be done with simple hand tools.


The shelters are commonly known as ‘a building in a bag’, so creating a structure from a bag full of fabric could seem challenging. However, it’s actually surprisingly simple. The shelters arrive pre-made in a wooden crate; they are simply unfolded, inflated and the outer material sprayed with water until the material is saturated. The material then reaches 80% strength within 24 hours.

Thanks to the nature of the shelter’s design, the inflatable element is built into the inner lining of the shelter. Because of this, an air pump can be attached to the bag and begin inflating the lining. As the shelter comes in two sizes, CCS25 – with an internal area of 25m2 and CCS50 – with an internal area of 50m2, they are too heavy for people to move on their own. When the shelter is inflating a vehicle is needed to drag the shelter out of its bag and give it enough room to expand to its full size. Once fully inflated and hardened the inflatable lining becomes a sterile environment and can be used for a variety of applications. 


The shelter was designed for use in emergency disaster situations by organisations such as the U.N, governments or military groups. However, because of the many advantages the shelter offers a user, it can be used for a much larger number of purposes. Using the building as a storage facility is one option which is easy to achieve. The shelter already comes with lockable doors, and the outer shell is extremely secure thanks to the concrete hardened fabric. This makes it a great option of long-term storage in harsh environments where it may not be possible to build a traditional building.

Advantages to the Shelter

The most significant advantage to the shelter over a traditional building is how quickly it can be set up and be fully operational. Even the most straightforward buildings take days or weeks to build and be made watertight, the CCS25 shelter, in contrast, is fully usable in just 24 hours. In a disaster or emergency situation, this is incredibly valuable. Furthermore, unlike traditional soft skin tents, the Concrete Canvas shelters are far more durable and secure. As a result, they have a design life of over 10 years. Depending on the location chosen to set up one of the shelters, people may want to cover it to add thermal insulation. While the shelters already have a good level of thermal performance, adding earth or sand to cover the shelter will provide additional thermal mass and ensure anything inside can be kept warm.

Overall, Concrete Canvas have produced a building in a bag from fabric, which can be installed anywhere in the world, quicker than any building and more secure than any tent. Concrete Canvas Ltd now focuses on the manufacturing of the material itself, which is used as an erosion control measure on a wide range of applications on projects across the world. You can find out more about the products on the Concrete Canvas website - here.

Post a Comment