The UN estimates that 96,000 homes need to be built per day to house the three billion people that will need homes in 2030. In traditional construction, builders simply aren’t constructing nearly enough starter homes. To meet demand, alternative houses are being created.
First, it was 3D-printed homes. Now, Automatic Construction is offering an inflated home that can be constructed in an afternoon.
The inflated homes from Automatic Construction can help ease the housing crisis. But how do these homes work?
New York City-based startup Automatic Construction has developed the Inflated House, which is a new way to build homes. It’s called the Inflatable Flexible Factory Framework, or IFFF. IFFF allows you to build small concrete homes quickly and – most importantly – cheaply.
For the company’s 100-square-foot and 200-square-foot prototypes, air inflation took 10 minutes. Once the form was filled with air, the concrete was pumped and filled in the form in just 1.5 hours.
With labor and materials, the Inflated house prototypes cost just $20 per square foot to construct. For their 200-square-foot prototype, the cost of the base home would be just $2,000. That cost doesn’t include any finishings, but it’s significantly cheaper than a traditional home.
Inflatable homes will undoubtedly present an opportunity for younger generations to purchase a home of their own and upgrade in the future as their family grows.
Automatic Construction’s inflatable homes have many benefits, including being a sustainable option for home building. They are quick to build and can be a much more affordable option compared to traditional construction.
Here’s how these homes are sustainable:
- They produce zero job site waste. There’s no wood waste, and all forms are factory-made.
- Concrete is sustainable. They use geopolymers and alternative cementitious materials. CO2 sequestration is used in building materials.
- Homes are airtight. All of their inflatable homes have airtight envelopes directly from the factory.
Automatic Construction uses the same concrete mixes, reinforcement and structures as the traditional concrete buildings we see today.
They also use local ready-mix concrete, sustainable cement and aircrete to reduce environmental impact as much as possible.
How the Process Works
Automatic Construction makes construction as simple and streamlined as possible. The process begins with a rolled-up formwork that is delivered to the construction site. PVC fabric is used to create the formwork, which looks very similar to an air mattress that’s fully deflated.
The form is placed on a foundation or slab where it’s inflated.
Once the balloon structure is inflated, concrete will be pumped into the mold to finish the structure. When the concrete cures, it creates an airtight seal and barrier, which is designed to improve the home’s energy efficiency and heating.
The inflatable fabric is designed to support an entire concrete wall while it solidifies. The formwork walls are 10 cm thick and filled with thousands of polyester threads. The fabric is similar to those used to make kayaks and paddleboards, so they are extremely durable.
While concrete is used for the form, the final product looks much like a traditional building with:
- Drywall interior
Built-in shafts are utilized for the mechanical equipment.
Automatic Construction states that the inflated house concrete will cure for a few days before the form is then deflated. The support form is reused later, but the PVC form will remain to allow for additional:
Inflation for the company’s 100- and 200-square-foot models takes just 7 – 10 minutes. Filling the form with concrete will add another 90 minutes to the process. In terms of cost, the inflated house costs a mere $20 per square foot to build, including all of the labor costs involved.
While the cost is just $20 per square foot to construct the shell of the structure, there are additional costs that will add to the final cost, including:
Exterior work, such as siding, will add more to the final cost. As of right now, rebar is added to the structure for additional reinforcement after the form is inflated. However, the company is working to add rebar reinforcement to the form before it arrives at the building site.
The pre-installed rebar will allow the form to be inflated and filled using less overall labor in the process.
The Future of the Inflatable Concrete House
Automatic Construction is already in the process of building its inflatable concrete homes. They currently have three homes that are in the building process, and they have secured a deal with a large commercial contractor.
While there are no details on how large the contracted homes are, the prototypes are more like tiny homes than traditional homes and won’t likely accommodate a family.
Currently, the company is testing out a 650-square-foot home that’s two stories. The company states that its technique could be scaled for even larger structures, including skyscrapers or homes on Mars.
Along with houses, they use their construction method to construct swimming pools, tunnels and other structures.
Although Automatic Construction has only been in business for two years, its future looks promising. In June 2022, the company was chosen as one of five startups among 80 applicants for the BuiltWorlds’ inaugural Formworks Labs accelerator program.
Only time will tell what the future holds for Automatic Construction and their inflatable homes, but costs would be 80% cheaper than traditional construction. In a market that’s desperate for starter homes, the inflatable home presents an affordable solution for individuals, couples and small families.