When one hears the word “inflatable”, they may think of the fun balloon houses that you jumped around in as a child. However, at the 2018 Skyscraper Competition, a trio of Polish designers took top honors an origami-inspired skyscraper. The skyscraper, affectionately known as Skyshelter.zip, is designed to provide shelter to those that are victims of earthquakes, hurricanes, or other natural disasters.
The design behind Skyshelter.zip is rather unique in that it looks like an intricate piece of origami but could prove pivotal to saving lives of those affected by disasters. A large, built-in helium balloon is what helps unfold the building to its full height. Essentially, it runs on the same mechanics of a hot air balloon. It comes in a package that’s already assembled. When it’s needed, it’s delivered to a remote area and moored to the ground. The building can accommodate up to 1,000 people as well as contain a first-aid station and even a vertical farm to assist with feeding the residents.
The walls of the building are made of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE). This is a flexible plastic that has the potential to contain built-in electricity generating solar cells. The floors are made out of lightweight 3D-printed metal slabs attached to the outer sheets and ramps are put into place between floors to allow those inside the structure to move around the building. While Skyshelter.zip reaches a maximum height of 100 meters, the height and number of floors for the building can be adjusted. Simply, the more helium that is pumped into the balloon would create more room for a taller building and more people.
As of now, there are no plans to build Skyshelter.zip because of concerns about the technical considerations. The main concern is how to transport enough helium to lift the structure and that the balloon would remain fully inflated. Since helium is one of the smallest atoms, it would slowly leak out of the structure over weeks and would have to keep being replenished to avoid the structure collapsing.
As time goes and and technology evolves, the opportunities become more open for Skyshelter.zip to become a reality rather than a design. Most of the technologies behind Skyshelter.zip are already in existence and those that aren’t in existence are currently in development.costly,” he told NBC News MACH in an email. “But we are sure it is only a matter of time as most technologies we use already exist or are being developed.”