“This inflatable skyscraper could save lives in disaster zones
The origami-inspired building would inflate with help from a giant helium balloon.
by Cara Maines / / Updated
From telescopes to heart stents and artificial muscles, origami has inspired all sorts of curiously innovative objects. Now a trio of Polish designers has won a major design competition for their proposal for an origami-inspired skyscraper that could be transported to a building site in folded form and then unfolded to its full height with help from a huge, built-in helium balloon.
The proposed tower might sound like something from the distant future, but it’s intended to address a problem of the here and now: providing shelter for people who have been displaced by earthquakes, hurricanes, and other disasters. The designers say the inflatable building, dubbed Skyshelter.zip, could be lowered into place by helicopter, moored to the ground, and then quickly erected.
“When it needs to be delivered to remote areas, all it takes is moving a relatively small package that’s already assembled and ready to use…” one of the designers, Piotr Pańczyk, told NBC News MACH in an email. “All that needs to be done is pumping a balloon.”
In addition to sheltering up to 1,000 people, the building could house a first-aid station and even a vertical farm that could help feed its residents. And the designers say that with its tiny footprint, the building would mostly eliminate the need to clear debris from large swaths of land — something that often must be done before large numbers of tents can be put up.
The building’s walls would be made of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), a flexible plastic that can have built-in electricity-generating solar cells. Lightweight 3D-printed metal slabs attached crosswise to these gossamer sheets would serve as floors. Ramps between floors would allow residents to move about within the building.”