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Dome-shaped houses tend to look either really good or really bad. Most dome homes are constructed with a single, large dome, which is then divided into many different rooms inside. That makes the most optimal use of the materials, encompassing the most square feet for the least amount of materials. If I were to build a dome house, however, I like the idea of creating a dome for each room, as shown in this model I built using balloons and paper mache. I believe that this style of dome home could be quite economical if the domes were mass-produced out of lightweight insulation, such as papercrete or expanded polystyrene (preferably recycled), then hauled into place, connected, and stuccoed over with cement, as proposed in my book, Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction. Perhaps one day...
Dome Construction Methods
Dome Living offers a great look at the uncommon architecture of monolithic dome homes. Monolithic domes are made using large balloon like air forms. The air forms are usually sprayed on the inside with a seamless coating of polyurethane insulation. A grid of reinforcing rebar is put up inside of that, and sprayed with a thin layer of shotcrete to make a shelter that is incredibly energy efficient and highly resistant to natural or manmade disasters. The energy bill for a typical monolithic dome home is about 10% of the bill for a conventional house of similar size. Dome structures have proved impressively resiliant against earthquakes, tornadoes--even dropping bombs. While dome homes may not fit into every neighborhood, the reality is that if all houses were built like monolithic dome homes, then we would have very nearly achieved a sustainble (energy- and resource-efficeint) civilization already. Dome Living includes more than 115 house plans to give you lots of creative ideas to work with in planning your own monolithic dome home. ISBN: 0-9679171-0-7. 152 pages. 2000.
No Nails, No Lumber
Imagine a house constructed in less than forty-eight hours, without using lumber or nails, that is more resistant to fire, earthquakes, and hurricanes than any traditionally built structure. This may sound like the latest development in prefab housing or green architecture, but the design dates back to 1941 when architect Wallace Neff (1895 1982) developed Airform construction as a solution to the global housing crisis. Best known for his elegant Spanish Colonial revival estates in Southern California, Neff had a private passion for his dome-shaped "bubble houses" made of reinforced concrete cast in position over an inflatable balloon. No Nails, No Lumber shows the beauty and versatility of Neff 's design in new and vintage photography, previously unpublished illustrations, and archival material and ephemera. Hardcover / 176 pages. Princeton Architectural Press. 2011. ISBN: 978-1616890247.
Real Working Drawings
Real Working Drawings takes the reader through all the stages required to produce a functional and attractive set of working drawings, with a special emphasis on monolithic dome construction. The prospective home owner will learn how to start with a pencil-drawn floor plan, build a 3D computer model and produce and publish a complete set of house plans. Working with the structural engineer, plan reviewer and contractor is covered, as well. The entire process can be accomplished on a home computer with free software available on the internet saving thousands of dollars.
See also: Monolithic Marketplace
How to Build a Concrete Dome House
The title says it all! This little (38 page) book outlines the process of building a monolithic concrete dome with reinforcing bar and ferrocement. This process does not require a big, house-sized balloon, as advocated by some builders. Instead, the shell is constructed out of rebar and chickenwire, then ferrocemented, then insulated, covered with wire mesh, and ferrocemented again.
Sometimes new technologies facilitate very simple or very old technologies. In the case of earthbag construction, the modern polypropelene bag makes it feasible for even the novice to build a low-cost, enduring house from bags of dirt.
Earthbag Building Basics
Earthbag Building Books
Building with Earth
While developers around the globe are looking toward the industrialized United States in hopes of promoting American-style tract houses, shopping malls, and skyscrapers, our country's pioneering natural builders are looking in the other direction -- hearkening back to ancient traditions to create beautiful, affordable, and resilient dwellings of earth. Building with Earth is the first comprehensive guide to describe the re-emergence of earthen architecture in North America, where adventurous builders are combining timeless forms such as arches, vaults, and domes with modern materials and techniques.
With over seventy percent of Americans unable to afford a code-enforced, contractor-built home, there has been widespread interest in recent years in using natural and alternative materials for construction. Straw, cob, and earth can all be used for building homes and other buildings that are inexpensive, and that rely largely on labor, rather than high-cost, and often environmentally-damaging materials imported from from far away.
Ceramic Houses and Earth Architecture
Khalili's classic, authoritative manual describes how to build arches, domes, and vaults with earth, as well as techniques to fire and glaze earth buildings to transform them into ceramic houses. This newly revised edition also provides insight into the latest response by building officials to Superadobe or earthbag technology (structures of sandbags and barbed wire), a patented system that is free for the owner-builder and licensed for commercial use.
Emergency Sandbag Shelter and Eco-Village
Emergency Sandbag Shelter is a must-have manual for every home, as an emergency guide. Now for the first time this book is made available to people around the world by its inventor, award-winning architect Nader Khalili, whose specialty was skyscrapers and who dedicated his life to teaching others how to build shelter for humanity. This book, with over 700 photos and illustrations, shows how to use sandbags and barbed wire, the materials of war, for peaceful purposes as the new invention known as Superadobe or earth-bag, which can shelter millions of people around the globe as a temporary as well as permanent housing solution. This affordable, self-help, sustainable, and disaster-resistant structural system is a spin off from Khalili's presentation to NASA for habitat on the moon and Mars, which successfully passed rigorous tests for strict California earthquake building codes. This book along with a small library of films and kits can guide anyone to learn and teach how to build a home or community.
The best way to mass-produce low-cost, high-efficiency, disaster resistant dome homes may be to manufacture the components from polystyrene insulation, such as is used for coffee cups, but denser. The domes can easily be stuccoed over after being assembled. A Japanese company, International Dome House Co., Ltd. is now selling dome house kits, and has erected hundreds of them in Japan, including about 480 of them at the Aso Farm Land resort village in Kyushu. Unlike traditional wood frame houses, styrofoam dome homes do not rot or attract termites, and the domes are highly resistant to earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. The insulation includes a fire-retardant material, and is pretty much impervious to fire after being stuccoed anyway. The prefabricated panels weigh about 175 pounds and can be carried by two or three people and assembled in a few hours. Stucco mortar and paint are applied to seal the structure. The basic dome is 25 feet wide and 13 feet tall, encompassing 475 square feet. Special connecting pieces make it possible to join multiple domes into a single home. Learn more from the company website: International Dome House Co., Ltd. Here in America, Dome Empire is now offering similar dome home kits.
See also: Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.
Thomas J. Elpel
in a Day