These are a few of my Favorite Domes... - An Engineer's Aspect


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Thursday, August 27, 2009

These are a few of my Favorite Domes...

Dome of a Home

Before constructing this fabulous Monolithic Dome, the Siglers had to provide written confirmation of its acceptance by neighbors. An overwhelming 97% responded favorably.

Hurricane Ivan Report from Dome of a Home
by Valerie Sigler

September 17, 2004
Mark’s decision to stay in Dome of a Home with the news crew from MSNBC during category 4 Hurricane Ivan was a testament to his faith in the structure that we had built. Kerry Sanders, the MSNBC correspondent, had been reporting on hurricanes for twenty-one years. He also felt confident in the engineering and design of the home. As I stayed in contact with Mark throughout the evening as Hurricane Ivan approached, he expressed surprise and delight with how well the structure was responding. Live coverage was broadcast on MSNBC until the equipment succumbed to the storm.

2:30 AM — The eye of Hurricane Ivan is now making landfall. Pensacola Beach is in absolutely the worst position (upper right hand quadrant – east) as the storm arrives. Most of the MSNBC crew is asleep. Asleep? I guess that is testament to the confidence the crew had in the home and the fact that the noise from the storm was not unbearable. Mark is awake listening as the wind intensifies and the water is crashing across the island. The storm surge and rain caused five feet of water to rise underneath the dome. Mark says he can hear debris crashing into the dome, but does not feel any movement of the dome from the surging Gulf although the water is flowing over the entire island. Although he has no visual confirmation, he said it sounds like there are tornadoes howling around the island. The most unnerving sensation is the realization that there is no land until you reach Gulf Breeze.

7:30 AM — Daylight has brought devastating visuals of a storm whose damage far exceeds that of Hurricane Opal in 1995.

Dome of a Home has maintained its structural integrity! Everyone is safe and the home will be livable again with some necessary repairs. We did have wind driven rain leak through the windows and flood the floors. The good news is that the dome is still standing, albeit with some exterior damage from the staircases that were ripped away by the waves. The geo-thermal system is damaged, the fences gone, and the garage concrete floor has disappeared.

Mark has been traipsing across the island and says that the devastation is extensive. All lower floors are gone with the blow-out walls doing exactly as designed — being blown away, literally. It seems evident the entire beach was covered with at least 5 feet of water. All of the garages and their concrete floors have disappeared. The Catholic Church’s roof has sustained much damage and the school looks like it has been hit hard. Homes that were older and still on the ground level have basically vanished. The surge has subsided on the Gulf side, but the Sound side of the island is still under waist deep water.

Monolithic's BRUCO

Bruco’s 7, 60-foot, interconnected domes make a 14,000-square-feet factory with computers, cutting tables and machines for the design and manufacture of Airforms and various types of liners and covers.

Inside Bruco – the Caterpillar, Monolithic Airforms can design and manufacture an Airform large enough for a 200-foot diameter Monolithic Dome, a 300-foot diameter Crenosphere, or a grain tarp to cover a two-acre grain pile.

Eye of the Storm

This Monolithic Dome home, on a beach site on Sullivans Island, South Carolina, is a prolate ellipse measuring 80′ × 57′ × 34′.

Since it’s in a hurricane-prone area, the Eye’s ground level is designed with eight huge openings — five of which are large enough to drive through. In bad weather, particularly a hurricane, storm surge rushes through the openings under the house, often leaving debris in its wake but the main structure unharmed. Pilings sunk into the crust or solid part of the substrate also contribute sturdiness.

In addition to stability, the ground level provides parking and storage, has an elevator that goes to the second and third floors, and two stairways.

On the outside, hurricane louvers can be closed over the windows within fifteen seconds-even in the worst weather, since the Eye has its own generator. These louvers provide security, insulation, and sunlight control, and can be rolled into a drum when not in use.

Visitors to the Eye of the Storm marvel at its uniqueness. “The levels hang from the shell. That’s 250 tons hanging from the shell, and it’s mind-boggling to most people,” Paul said. “I tell them that you couldn’t do that in a conventional building, but this one doesn’t even care!”

Monolithic Dome in Moscow

Sviet Raikov, a native Russian, built this Monolithic Dome home, 36′ × 18′, after learning the technology in a Monolithic Workshop. An American flag flies from the dome’s top.

According to Sviet, there are two bedrooms upstairs with built-in beds and desks. The staircase turns back in on itself; it uses less room than even a spiral staircase would. As one enters the home, the kitchen is on the right and the living room, with a fireplace, is on the left. To protect the home’s interior during cold winters, the entryway has a double door.

The dome is a 36’ hemisphere and is quite striking in a neighborhood of conventional homes.

The School of Communication Arts (SCA) in Raleigh, North Carolina

In 2004, Dome Technology, Inc. of Idaho Falls, Idaho completed the construction of SCA’s three, two-story domes, each with a diameter of 120 feet and a height of 34 feet.

Designed by Crandall Design Group of Mesa, Arizona, one of those domes functions as a high definition digital theater with surround sound digital mix down. The other two contain pie-shaped classrooms arranged around glass enclosed technical centers.

SCA’s 280 students came up with a descriptive name for their new dome campus. They call it Digital Circus. Klietz said that both the students and the faculty like the innovative, futuristic look of Digital Circus — as did the consultant who called it the art school of the 25th century.

Faith Chapel Christian Center

Birmingham, Alabama is home to the largest diameter Monolithic Dome in the world. Built in 2000, Faith Chapel Christian Center measures 280-feet in diameter with a seating capacity of approximately 3,000. The dome encloses 61,575 square feet. The church was designed by Architect Rick Crandall and Dome Technology of Idaho Falls, Idaho built the dome shell.

But having the largest diameter dome was not enough for Debra Blaylock and the rest of Faith Chapel’s administrators— they wanted the dome to SHINE.

They hired Monolithic to coat the exterior in an eye-catching white and gold pattern designed by Crandall. The Monolithic crew was led up by head superintendent Javier Figueroa.

The Faith Chapel dome has a surface area of approximately 2 acres, or 86,000 sq. ft. UCSC custom mixed special primers and paint for the project.

The Young's Underground Dome Home

Visitors to Glenn Young’s Monolithic Dome home often have a problem finding his front door. That’s because Glenn and John St. Pé, co-owners of Dome Contractors, Inc., built Glenn’s Monolithic Dome home completely underground. “We’ve had people come out who didn’t know there was a house there and actually parked on top of it,” Glenn said.

And that’s surprising, since Glenn’s home is anything but small. It has 3000 square feet of living space within five, interconnected Monolithic Domes flanked by two EcoShells. Entrance tunnels lead into these EcoShells or foyers. A 15-foot-diameter EcoShell with a three-foot stem wall serves as a front foyer while a 12-foot-diameter EcoShell with a four-foot stem wall serves as the back one.

Atalaya del Vulcan

Built on a 2-acre lot in a unique, prestigious subdivision called Rustler’s Hideout in Menan, Idaho, Atalaya’s 4200 square feet include a Monolithic Dome with a 60-foot diameter, two floors, twelve rooms, a center court and an atrium with a waterfall and a decorative concrete tree.

Darryl Cunningham, a 49-year-old project manager for Dome Technology, Inc. of Idaho Falls, Idaho thinks that his dome construction experience has led him to believe two things. He says, "Right now, most people love the inside of a dome, and they love the benefits of a Monolithic Dome — its strength and energy efficiency — but most are still a little shy about living in what they perceive as an igloo-shape house.

The Cunningham home, named Atalaya del Vulcan, features a Mission Revival style of architecture.

Antelope Springs Ranch

In 1993 Bonnie and Bill McLeod built their hunting lodge in Blackwell, Texas: a Monolithic Dome with a 60-foot diameter, a 30-foot height, two stories, and 5200 square feet of living space that they named “Dome on the Range.”

Then the McLeods connected a two-story, octagonal structure with corners to the dome. Asked why they had not opted for a second Monolithic Dome for this addition, Bill said, “We think a Monolithic Dome looks best when it’s incorporated with other shapes.”

Bill, an architecture graduate who studied under a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright, believes that integrating a Monolithic Dome with traditional shapes can aesthetically enhance its appeal. To gain that enhancement for their dome, give it an adobe look, and provide continuity between dome and addition, the McLeods covered the dome’s exterior with a twelve-foot-high wall of native rock. They then had the addition’s exterior finished with a similar rock cover.

Le Chateau de Lumiere

Rick Crandall, MDI’s consulting architect, built his Monolithic Dome home in Lehi, Arizona, that he and wife Melody call Le Chateau de Lumiere or Castle of Light.

An original photograph of a French farmhouse inspired the exterior and interior motif of the Crandalls’ castle, consisting of a central core structure flanked by two, Monolithic Dome towers. Rick said, “The only difference between our design and the Seventeenth Century original is that the original had conical pieces atop its towers, while we have domes.”

A glazed outer wall, 14 feet high and 16 feet wide, in what looks like glass block, but is really more energy-efficient plastic, fronts the central, two-story, core section. It allows a tremendous amount of light to penetrate the interior. But besides that, its sparkling translucency inspires a compelling expectation — one simply must open that front door and see beyond.

Inside the curved entry hall, a huge mural depicting water gently falling into a garden pond adds to the drama and feeling of spaciousness. At the other end of the core, a curved kitchen, that opens onto a patio, echoes the shape of the entry hall.

A winding stairway intersects the middle of the entry area and curls gently up to the second floor balcony. Throughout the core, graceful arches and areas built curvilinearly complement each other and the rounded dome look of the exterior.

The two Monolithic Dome towers, each with a diameter of 23 feet and vertical walls 16 feet high, have no internal partitions on either their first or second floor. Instead, they are divided horizontally so that each dome houses two, very large rooms: south tower with family room and master bedroom; north with living room and guest bedroom. Rick said, "We did not subdivide the domes, and, as far as I know, that has never been done. So, if you lie on your back, on a bed in one of the bedrooms and look up, you see the whole, completed dome. That creates its own feeling and character.

“Because of the way the domes were assembled with a central core but no corridor space, in our 1900 square feet of living space, we actually have fewer rooms than in our previous house, but each room is much larger,” he added.

The Garlock Residence

Situated atop a ledge of the Colorado Rockies, the Garlocks’ home consists of two domes merged into a unique, kidney shape: a 32-foot diameter garage gently blends into the larger, 50-foot diameter shell placed nine feet below it.

The structure has three levels providing about 3800 square feet of living space. Its lower level encompasses two bedrooms, bathroom, exercise room and greenhouse centered about a waterfall, indoor pond and a rising planter. Made of wooden cylindrical forms, this planter and two others are tree-trunk look-a-likes that bring an organic touch to the dome’s interior. Large, sliding glass doors provide entry to the greenhouse with its hydroponic garden and make it easy to open or close off the greenhouse, depending on the temperature desired in that area.

The original owner, Bilby Wallace, wanted self-sufficiency. A photovoltaic power source made that possible. Since the home is off-grid, a solar system generates all the electricity on site. Two sets of outdoor panels produce about 1320 watts with full sun. The sun also charges a series of batteries in the battery room off the garage.

The Byrne Residence

The unique beauty of this Monolithic Dome home, designed by Larry Byrne, MDI’s vice president of marketing and design, made it the perfect choice for the cover of the first printing of Dome Living, MDI’s book of more than 115 house plans. Its interior design consists of 2660 square feet in three domes, with diameters of 30, 40 and 32 feet.

An expansive, curved entry way with high ceilings opens into the large center dome with its living/dining area, TV/family room and kitchen. Two large windows and a front door, flanked by side lights and topped by a half-round window, allow light to add to the home’s feeling of spaciousness.

Charca Casa: House by the Pond

In Spanish, Charca means pond or puddle and Casa means house. Hence, the name Charca Casa or house by a pond. That acre pond functions as a spectacular backdrop for the spacious patio that fronts this fabulous Monolithic Dome home. A thirty-two-foot expanse of windows in the living room provides a view of the activities on the patio and the pond.

Designed as a duplex, Charca Casa has two connected forty-foot-diameter domes. The right hand dome, Casa, has three bedrooms, a small guest room and a home office. A small loft sits over the bathroom and hall at Casa’s center.


In 1978, Monolithic’s president David B. South and Judy, his wife, built Cliffdome. The home is perched on the cliff of the South Menan Butte in Menan, Idaho overlooking the Snake River.

Cliffdome was the largest Monolithic Dome home ever built at that time. It is 75-feet in diameter, 28 feet tall, two and a half levels, 8000 square feet of living space and 1500 square feet of attic space.

In those days, the Souths had six kids at home, so the need for a lot of space was obvious, but secondary to the reason they decided to build as BIG as they did. David wanted a practical demonstration of the Monolithic Dome’s potential. He wanted the world to see that the domes could be big and versatile, as well as strong and energy-efficient.

Up until then, David and his brothers, Barry and Randy, had built a couple of houses and many storages, but he knew they could do more. He wanted to show people that Monolithic Domes could be built as schools, churches, gymnasiums and more.

So the Souths got to work. They designed, inflated, finished, moved into and began enjoying their new home in October 1979. Its features included an indoor garden with a pond and a banana tree; eleven living room windows (6′×5′) with a fantastic view of the valley and river; and an upstairs, volleyball-court-size gymnasium. A den, two bathrooms and five bedrooms, each with its own vanity, sink and walk-in closet surrounded that gymnasium.

In addition, Cliffdome’s main floor had a laundry room large enough for two washers and two dryers; a generous sewing room; a library/music room; a second living area; a master bedroom and bath; a half bath.

The Stitt Residence

Located on a 1.7-acre site, this home’s three stories provide 4000 square feet of living space. Its lowest level encompasses two garages and a housekeeper’s apartment of 1500 square feet. The main or middle floor includes a spacious, curved living room; kitchen; dining room; guest bedroom and bath; storage and laundry areas. On the dome’s highest level, the Stitts have their master bedroom, his and her bathrooms and walk-in closets, an enclosed sun room where Barbara plans to grow orchids and a small balcony off the workout area.

“We love it every second of every day that we’re here,” says Barbara Stitt. “We can sit in the living room and see the sun rise throughout the day and into the sunset. It’s stunning and the dome is just gorgeous.”