October 20, 2006 The United Nations estimates there are almost a billion poor people in the world, 750 million of whom live in urban areas without adequate shelter and basic services. An ingenious new building technology from scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and Casa Grande LLC could help alleviate and perhaps even solve that major humanitarian problem by providing affordable housing for the world's poorest. A tough new ceramic material that is almost twice as strong as concrete may be the key to providing high-quality, low-cost housing throughout developing nations. The ceramic is called Grancrete, which, when sprayed onto a rudimentary Styrofoam frame, dries to form a lightweight but durable surface. The resulting house is a major upgrade to the fragile structures in which millions of the world's poorest currently live. Using conventional techniques, it takes 20 men two weeks to build a house. A five person crew can construct two grancrete homes in one day. There’s also plenty of commercial upside in developed nations, making low-cost buildings viable for a variety of purposes – we can see inflatable technology marrying with Grancrete construction to evolve an entirely new way of building lavishly complex structures that would be impossible any other way.
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