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Engineers Peter Brewin and Will Crawford created Concrete Canvas, a form of concrete on a roll that can be inflated and hardened with water. The pair came up with the idea a decade ago when they were both studying at the Royal College of Art in London.
Brewin and Crawford were working at the time on inflatable concrete buildings and were asked to come up with a new use for concrete. They experimented with Modroc, a bandage filled with plaster that is used to mend broken bones, and decided to make inflatable concrete shelters that could be assembled quickly in emergencies, such as natural disasters or military conflicts.
They developed Concrete Canvas, a fabric that is sold in large rolls that harden when sprayed with water. They initially focused on building disaster shelters, which are available in 25-square-meter and 50-square-meter sizes that are delivered in large boxes. A structure is inflated with an electric fan until it can support itself. Then water is applied, and the structure hardens over a period of 24 hours and develops a waterproof and fireproof concrete layer.
Concrete Canvas is sold in three thicknesses. One roll of the mid-thickness material is equivalent to two truckloads of concrete. It can be manipulated into shape on the ground, on a slope, or on top of existing concrete.
Brewin and Crawford encountered some problems trying to sell the shelters. Some governments did not want to build semi-permanent structures in refugee camps. There was also a need for a large number of the shelters that the startup could not meet.
The company was more successful selling rolls of the inflatable concrete material that could be formed into shape on-site. They have supplied Concrete Canvas to cover sandbags in Afghanistan and for a Network Rail project. They realized that they would have more success in the civil construction industry. Concrete Canvas is now used in construction and engineering projects around the world. Only 1 percent of the company’s sales are from shelters.
Brewin and Crawford are focusing their business on the mining, civil infrastructure, and petrochemical industries. They also want to expand into relining and refurbishing existing concrete structures that have become damaged. Brewin and Crawford emphasize the low labor costs associated with Concrete Canvas to potential customers.