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Binishell Building and Other Green Construction Methods

Binishells were invented by Italian architect, Dr Dante Bini, in the 1960s and are basically a thin, elliptical concrete shell. A Binishell can be built in under two hours, it does not require supporting columns and it can cover a wide span (between 12-40 metres) without the risk of collapse.

According to an article in the The New Indian Express, Binishells have enormous advantages:

  1. A Binishell can be built on-site using locally available resources.
  2. The design can be used for everything from low-cost housing to schools, resorts and civic buildings.
  3. The building envelope reduces energy use by up to 75 per cent.
  4. A Binishell reduces its carbon footprint by more than 50 per cent.
  5. Its construction time is 50 per cent faster than conventional building construction times.

Recent improvements in Binishells have made them even more useful. Modern Binishells comply with international building codes, are easier to construct and can easily be adapted for green building technologies, such as passive heating and cooling systems and green roofs.

"We have totally re-engineered every aspect of the technology to not only make them safer and easier to build, but also greener and more affordable. Everything from the anchoring system in the foundations, to the reinforcement bar, to the concrete mix, the design and materials used for the bladder," says Nicolo Bini, Dr Dante Bini’s son, who is looking to revive the Binishell method with a view to addressing the issue of creating much-needed low-cost housing solutions around the globe.

In a 2013 CNBC interview, Nicolo Bini argues, "The construction industry has to change, and buildings are so inefficient." He went on to say that Binishell constructions have "one-third the environmental impact over their lifespan, costs half as much to build, and yet are far more durable and resistant to all matters of natural disasters."

Alternative building materials for greener construction

The Binishell uses a conventional building material - concrete - in an unconventional way. While concrete is not environmentally friendly (The cement manufacturing industry is responsible for about 5 per cent of all man made CO2 emissions), there are other alternative materials that if used right, have the potential to gain mainstream traction in the green building industry.

Building with rock or stone is a step away from traditional materials that are harmful to the environment. Rocks have good thermal mass (the ability to absorb and store heat energy) and thermal insulation (the ability to prevent heat transference), characteristics which are great for eco-building because these ensure that the temperature in the structure stays constant on the average, thus requiring less help from cooling systems and air-conditioning.

Bamboo, one of the world’s oldest building materials, is cheap and completely environmentally friendly. It is one of the most easily renewable construction materials in the market and is fast gaining popularity in the landscape of alternative construction materials. Efforts are underway to replace steel reinforcing bar (rebar) with bamboo. According to Singapore’s Future Cities Laboratory, bamboo would have significant benefits over steel in Southeast Asia, where steel must be imported while bamboo is readily available.

Rammed earth construction has been used for thousands of years, and is created by tightly packing soil and hardening it to form a durable wall. Rammed Earth is another construction material that provides great thermal mass, which means energy savings in the home. Rammed earth is weatherproof and durable enough to be used in the building of the Great Wall of China. While rammed earth is commonly associated with the building of low-cost housing in more rural parts of the world, it is certainly applicable for use in mordern architecture as well.

In mankind’s quest to create a more sustainable future for Earth and its growing number of inhabitants, low-cost, environmentally friendly building methods such as Binishells and the use of other low-tech green building methods show that properties and public spaces can be built in a way that reduces carbon emissions and benefits the surrounding environment.

[Image Source: Flickr]

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