A startup builds inflatable houses by pumping concrete into balloon-like forms

It gets its shape for seven to 10 minutes.
Nergis Firtina
Automatic Construction CEO Alex Bell.
Automatic Construction CEO Alex Bell.

Automatic Construction 

Are you ready for “inflatable” homes? Yes, it might sound a bit quirky but we are already familiar with 3D-printed homes and they are ultimately quick and habitable.

Automatic Construction’s homes inflatable homes at the beginning of their construction process. However, the project is promising.

These houses are basically formed by filling cement inside a balloon-like structure. However, CEO and co-founder Alex Bell's target is to have reinforcing elements like rebar and tension cables pre-installed inside the forms eventually. As said in the Singularity Hub, Bell calls his system "Inflatable Flexible Factory Formwork."

How can I obtain this house?

The answer is quite simple. The rolled-up form is initially brought to the construction site. Imagine a larger, heavier version of one of those plug-in full-height air mattresses.

The form is made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which is one of the most commonly-used plastics in the world; it’s found in everything from medical devices to utility pipes, flooring, and packaging.

The form is inflated with an air pump after being laid out on a concrete slab or other foundation. The concrete is then pumped into the form by a ready-mix truck, which can either mix concrete on the way to the site or at the site itself.

“For our 100-square-foot and 200-square-foot prototypes, the inflation took 7 to 10 minutes with air. Then the concrete pump filled them in 1.5 hours,” said Alex Bell to the New Atlas.

A sturdy concrete building shell is produced once that concrete has dried and set. Since it now functions as an energy-saving, waterproof, and airtight barrier, the form is left inside that shell. Then, extras like doors, windows, drywall inside, and siding outside are added.

"It takes seven to 10 minutes"

Houses take shape very quickly. "For our 100 square foot (9.3 sq m) and 200 square foot (18.6 sq m) prototypes, the inflation took seven to 10 minutes with air," Alex Bell told to New Atlas.

"Then the concrete pump filled them in 1.5 hours. Including labor, our prototypes only cost $20 per square foot. This is significantly cheaper than anything else," he also added.

In the Hudson Valley of New York, Bell's team is now selling houses directly to clients, and two other projects have already been inked. He informs us that his company has also signed contracts to deliver a structure to a "major commercial contractor" and to deliver a box culvert to an infrastructure contractor.

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