AltBuild Concrete Bubble Cabana

Santa Monica Civic Center Auditorium
May 11 and 12

For AltBuild Expo 2012, I will build a concrete bubble cabana, as a demonstration of the concrete dome construction process developed by Los Angeles architect Wallace Neff in the 1940’s.  Neff called the technique ‘airform’ construction.  His innovative process involved spraying concrete onto an inflated balloon to create a structure, with the idea that this is a quick and economical method of creating very substantial structures.  Wallace Neff built many airform domes throughout world.

Being from Texas, and with parents living in Oklahoma, I have seen firsthand the destruction caused by extreme weather; and it was after the Joplin, Missouri tornado in May 2011 that I recalled Neff’s airform domes, and wondered if they would be tornado resistant.  Since then I discovered that they are not only tornado resistant, but that they are also fire and earthquake resistant.  They can be built at a reasonable cost, and they are a very sustainable construction option, requiring approximately 50% of the energy needed for heating and cooling of a conventional wood frame home.   The concrete dome type of home seems to be an obvious solution to many of our current construction and housing issues, given the current extremes in weather, the need to reduce construction costs and waste, and the need to increase energy efficiency.

Concrete Bubble Cabana – Palm Springs Modernism Week 2012

Many have been helpful in making the Concrete Bubble Cabana demonstration at AltBuild possible: Dan Hildebrand, Hildebrand Construction has provided expertise and hard work in the building of the cabana; David South, Monolithic, will supply the airform and blower for the cabana;  Gary Erb with Acrylatex Coatings & Recycling, is providing the paint for the cabana; and Associated Ready Mix Concrete is supplying the concrete contributed by Skip Danielson, Bayside Construction.

Also during AltBuild, I will participate on the AIA/LA COTE panel ‘Rethinking the Home,’ an exploration of alternative homes. I will be presenting the history of concrete airform construction, and discussing its relevance today as an economical, energy efficient, substantial, and still innovative construction system that offers a solution to many of our current construction and housing problems.

The cabana I will build for AltBuild will be a fun and sculptural structure, a garden folly, which will be donated to a charity after the AltBuild Expo.  It would have been nice to build a full home for the show, but with the time and space constraints, this cabana will have to suffice! I hope it will be a fun and informative process for those who attend AltBuild.

Sincerely

Douglas Stanton, AIA

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