Bubble House - A hidden Past Construction

History of Bubble Home

Fig. Wallace Neff at Bubble Home Construction Site

Fig. Neff's Drawing For a Double Bubble House

The introduction to "bubble homes" was initially made by the architect Wallace Neff (1895-1982). He is known for the special design of Spanish Colonial revival homes, that were built in Southern California. The bubble structure work of Neff didn't attain fame. The work is a product of air form building construction. This is a type of pneumatic architecture, that make use of inflated balloon to behave as the form-work to support the concrete and the reinforcement. Neff considered "bubble structure" as one of his greatest contribution to architecture.

Neff's Bubble Home

The structure is of simple design and aesthetically attractive in nature. This for him combines many cultural perspective and a desire of service to the society. A society who are in need for housing at a cheaper rate. The bubble structures doesn't demand high tools or building equipment which are sophisticated. These structures follow the history of igloos, past dome construction i.e the concept of monolithic dome construction. But Neff wished to name it as"Bubble Houses".

Internationally thousands of bubble homes where built, but only one was remaining by 2010. This was at US owned by Neff's Brother. The design was a new approach for him and required further research and studies in future for carrying its performance beyond.

The below figure shows Neff's Air form models. He had carried out many experiments , studies and researches to find the best out of bubble homes.

Fig. Neff's Airform  Scale Models

Neff's Bubble Home Achievements

Neff's design was accepted in Africa, Mexico as well as South America. But Political Issues existed do not bring up its importance to a great level. 
Fig. A government official taking ax an test on a built bubble home

During war period 1940s, this was a clear solution as it is weather resistant , and resistant to explosive and vermin. And also the simplicity of Neff's Concrete Balloon.

Balloon House Construction and Load Action

The air form was sprayed completely with 'gunite" a light weight cement. The air form was a rubber coated fabric balloon, that is blown up. This was either sprayed with cement as mentioned before or by using plastic.
Fig. A 12 foot diameter air form being sprayed by cement, for construction in California

 As there was no interior load bearing walls, the loads were distributed across the balloon surface. The structure act as a mold. No kind of wood framing was needed. Only scaffolding to support the workers, to spray over the air form are necessary.

Fig. Workers Spraying Material supported by Scaffolding wood 

Fig. Interior View of a Bubble Home

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This is a center to bring up and collect all bits of knowledge and technologies flourished and flourishing to reach out for those who wish to acquire knowledge in a broader way. I am a structural engineer by profession and would like to share all information I have acquired all these years till date. This site also aims in researching new topics, works on your questionnaires and fill it up with good facts and information.

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