Elastic fantastic: the future of construction?

Could the buildings of the future be constructed from an elastic skin technology, currently being pioneered by car manufacturer BMW for their vehicles? TheMoveChannel.com finds out if we will be flexing the plastic for an elastic home anytime soon…

BMW used the groundbreaking elastic skin technology on a recent show car and believes it could pave the way for car manufacturing in the future.

A team at BMW Group Design Munich created the ‘GINA Light Visionary Model' car, which has a surface made of stretchy elastic fabric.

Unlike conventional cars, which are made from sheet metal, the innovative surface is flexible, lighter than metal and uses far less energy to manufacture.

It takes about two hours to stretch the skin over the concept car and you could potentially change the shape or colour of your vehicle in just a few hours. 

The BMW team found that metal body panels are not essential to crash protection or car handling and this new surface allows the surfaces to change aesthetically for mass customisation.

Now, the property industry is hoping that the new skin will be proved viable as a building material and researchers are testing it for use on a new cost-effective, low energy house design to be used in suburban neighbourhoods.

Students at Harvard University Graduate School of Design and Architects RMJM are spending £970 million on investigating the elastic skin technology and are focusing their efforts on designing new models for suburban housing, which will be far more affordable than existing stock, both in terms of the building and the operational costs.

The research programme is led by Professor Frank Barkow and Christopher Bangle, Director of Group Design at BMW.

Architect RMJM has more than £10 billion worth of construction projects on its drawing boards, including some of the world's most high-profile and ambitious projects.

Peter Morrison, RMJM Chief Executive, said, "Architects are always looking for the technologies of the future and affordability, sustainability and design are top of the agenda at the moment.

"We will work with the greatest minds from any background or industry to exploit new opportunities and so we are delighted to be funding this research which brings together leading industry figures and academia.

"We look forward to seeing the results of their research," he added.

Picture by BMW