Binishells - Shell House, developed from a unique building technique
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Shell House, developed from a unique building technique


Villa  /  Completed

Robert Downey Jr. was looking for a completely different architecture for his property overlooking Zuma beach in Malibu, California. He approached Binishells after interviewing a many of the most renowed architects in California. We spoke about how we could harness the strength of air to create a natural form which would both enhance the landscape and provide his family with a safer, more energy efficient and unique building solution. Using the pneumoform concept developed by my Father in the 60’s, I developed a new construction technology which allowed for a geometrically complex, a-symmetrical form to be poured in a single day. This project was the prototype for a new method of designing and building based entirely on the principles of nature.

The building design and its siting were determined entirely by views, site conditions and other natural features. Existing trees were maintained and sun patterning, views and architectural shading were leveraged to promote natural daylighting with minimal heat build up. Wind exposure was enhanced to promote natural ventilation and water features placed to create evaporative cooling. Shell House literally and figuratively emerges from the landscape, providing flowing column-free living spaces allowing total interior freedom and flexibility. The sinuous architectural form is a sculpture for living that is both exciting aesthetically and expressive of its resiliency.

Fewer and greener materials were used in this project. The inherent strength of the structural form allowed the shell to be only 4” thick. Our proprietary geopolymer concrete mix is a low carbon alternative to traditional concrete. The consistent thickness and monolithic nature of the shell makes it thermal bridge free. This combined with a continuous insulation layer reduces life-cycle footprint by 2/3 or more when compared to traditional structures. The use of passive energy systems such as PV cells and wind turbines on the site as well as a raised floor foundations further reduces energy use. According to our predictions, these factors combined with careful siting considerations as discussed in the previous section will make the building reach net zero impact in 2-3 years.

Nature is designed to survive. It puts its babies in shells or eggs because it knows they are the strongest possible form. Why not learn from this? After all, shelter is one of three basic needs we require for survival. Shell House represents a new way of building which synthesizes design and construction. A pressurized fabric formwork provides dynamic shoring quickly and efficiently. The resulting sculptural concrete shell optimizes safety and resiliency while reducing costs. The structure acts monolithically (like an egg) to efficiently distribute forces to the foundation. This inherent structural efficiency also results in enhanced environmental performance on two levels: less material and no connections (and therefore no thermal leaks). We believe this same building and design philosophy may be applied to low cost solutions due to the reduced use of material and labor and the enhanced construction speed. It is in housing for low income families that we are focusing our business model. We hope the shell house may enable us to validate our technologies allowing them to gain traction internationally to this end.

“We wanted to try something that hadn’t been done before, and call it biomimicry or call it borrowing from nature, the beauty is that it works." Robert Downey Jr.


 California, USA
 Robert Downey Jr.
 577 mq
 Nicolò G. Bini, AIA, Binishells Inc.
 Nicolò G. Bini Architecture, Joe Nahem Interiors
 Shotcrete Inc. & All Coast Construction
 Machine Histories, Ignacio Barandiaran, Joe Hoffmayer,
 Duravit, Paola Lenti, Roche Bobois, DDC
 Roger Davies


Our philosophy begins with Dr. Dante Bini, who was the first to use air pressure to lift and shape large span thin shell concrete domes in 1964. All of our new technologies are derived from his philosophy of ‘thinking outside the box’. We leverage natural principles like air pressure or tensile forces to build more efficient buildings. These can range from high-end homes or public buildings, to resilient, low cost shelters. Our technologies require less material and labor to build safer and greener, monolithic, free-form structures. We also aim to build local economies by sourcing local labor and materials. We study natures principles as inspiration for smarter ways to design and build. Currently Binishells is involved in a variety of projects internationally ranging from wineries and wellness resorts to villas and housing. We re-invest more than 75% of our gross income into R&D to improve our current technologies and develop new and better building systems.


#Finalist #Calcestruzzo armato  #Residenza  #Malibù  #Copertura in cemento  #California, USA  #Binishells 

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