What do Mad Max and Buckminster Fuller have in common?
This article was original published for the Talkin’ Green column. Download a copy of the column from the Lake Geneva Regional News Real Estate Guide.
The answer is domes. Although dome construction looks like something out of a modern architecture magazine, in reality the Pantheon, built by the Romans in A.D. 123 and still standing, is a domed concrete structure. Today, dome structures are taking on greater importance for their triple play:
- Construction savings – up to 33% when compared to the cost of traditional linear construction in both time and materials. Lower construction costs means improved payback and reduced interest cost on loans or bonds.
- Energy savings – with an insulating factor between R70 and R90, coupled with a greatly reduced air infiltration rate, these buildings require a fraction of the usual energy needed to operate. In fact, the super insulation is one benefit that not only reduces the operating costs for heating and cooling, but also reduces the initial capital cost of equipment since a smaller system can handle the energy requirements. Ward Huffman, a past Senior Financial Specialist with the Department of Energy, announced that the energy savings for a domed school compared to a traditional construction would pay for the school in 20 years, just from energy savings alone.
- Safety – monolithic domes meet or exceed FEMA’s criteria for withstanding the wind forces of a Category F5 tornado, with wind speeds exceeding 200 mph. Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri, states with some of the most devastating tornados, are also some of the main dome school building sites, with domes offering double benefits – saving money, and serving as a community disaster shelter when needed. FEMA, in fact, is providing grants that can cover 75% of the cost of the building if it can also be a community disaster shelter.
Check out the Monolithic Dome Institute, or the experienced Lake Geneva Dome architect, D. Thomas Kincaid and Associates. Homes, churches, schools, assisted living centers and government buildings can all include monolithic dome construction to save money on building and operating costs. Plus, they can be a safe haven during bad storms. Sustainable building can be defined by dome construction since a dome, compared to a traditional building, provides the same square footage utilizing a greatly reduced amount of material. And, saving energy also means saving the environment.
Youtube has a bunch of great videos showing construction. Just search for monolithic dome and enjoy. Basically, you inflate a tough vinyl membrane, cut and heat welded to the final shape of the dome. Then start building from the inside with a layer of poly-urethane spray foam, reinforcing bar hangers, with a second layer of foam. Attach the steel rebar to the hangers and spray on 7-10 thousand PSI concrete on the rebar – typically 5 inches thick on the lower part and 2 inches at the top.
Your building is enclosed and ready for the interior build out. With no interior load bearing walls, they offer flexibility, from open concept living to a gymnasium or church. In fact, the domed structure is the best design for music and speaking. Windows and doors can be located wherever they are designed by cutting through the dome wall. In addition, many designs provide a partial wall with the dome on top to allow for a functional second floor.
Buckminster Fuller had a great vision, believing in the potential of the dome in helping to create a better world. Perhaps now, his vision is starting to bare fruit.