This origami-inspired shelter is designed for fast post-disaster housi

Within the wake of a catastrophe—just like the earthquake that struck Mamuju, Indonesia, earlier this 12 months, damaging hundreds of properties—one of many challenges is methods to rapidly construct shelters to accommodate folks within the aftermath. After the Indonesian quake, many households ended up in makeshift shelters that didn’t provide safety from ongoing monsoon rains. Tents assist, but in addition take time to place up. A brand new design may assist velocity up the method by combining the concept of an inflatable bouncy home with origami.

[Image: courtesy Katia Bertoldi]

“Our thought was to simplify the method,” says Katia Bertoldi, a professor of utilized mechanics at Harvard and senior writer of a paper in Nature describing the brand new method. “Emergency shelters and tents have been used for a very long time, they usually’re good as a result of they take up restricted cupboard space after which you’ll be able to deploy and use them. A limitation with the present accessible designs is that with a purpose to get them in place, it requires fairly a bit of labor.”

[Image: courtesy Katia Bertoldi]

The researchers spent three years experimenting with the mathematics and physics essential to make a brand new sort of construction that would pop up practically immediately like an inflatable tent, however that might additionally keep in place with out steady strain from an air pump. “This is attainable by fastidiously designing the geometry,” Bertoldi says. The design is impressed by origami shapes which might be “bistable,” that means that they’re equally sturdy when flat or when totally expanded. After the brand new construction is inflated, it clicks into place completely—and not using a body holding it up—till somebody desires to take the construction down.

[Photo: courtesy Katia Bertoldi]

In a video, a prototype made with corrugated plastic partitions begins flat, after which rapidly pops up into its ultimate type as an air compressor inflates it. To take the tent down, the identical compressor can be utilized in reverse. “For our prototype, we used a really low-cost compressor, and principally, we simply went in vacuum mode to depressurize it,” she says. The identical shelter could possibly be saved after use till the following time it’s wanted.


The identical fundamental geometry could possibly be used with completely different supplies, and the buildings ought to price little to fabricate. Now that they’ve labored via the science, the researchers are starting to contemplate commercialization. The method may doubtlessly be utilized in a number of methods, from packaging, to pop-up boundaries to guard buildings from flooding when rivers flood, to out of doors pagodas at faculties attempting to keep away from the unfold of COVID. However pop-up catastrophe shelters could also be a very good match for the design. “It may be a lot simpler to deploy and to place in use,” Bertoldi says.