How do you build a dome home?
The Legal Eagle Team recently visited the unusual homes of one our favorite clients, Nancy and Roy Ginsburg. Still under construction but substantially complete, this rural home is made of 3 separate domes connected together to make one 3,200 square foot home. The domes are 18 feet high inside but you would never know it looking from outside. (See exterior photos 1 and 2). Look how much higher the rooms look inside! (see interior photos). A true optical illusion that will blow your mind when you enter the home.
The construction methodology is fascinating. A slab is poured. Then a single, computer-generated, giant balloon or “membrane” is inflated on top of the slab. All 3 domes, windows and doorways hallways are inflated as one big balloon on the slab.
Look at the exterior photos. That yellow-green layer you see is the balloon! While inflated, steel re-bar is installed inside, following the shape of the balloon. Pipes and wires that go in the walls, after being carefully thought out, are installed.
That is followed by a thick, layer of special concrete shot out of a gun at high pressure, to cover the rebar. The next plaster layer is hand-troweled to make the dome interior relatively smooth. The plaster gets painted any color(s) you wish.
The concrete dome is over one-foot thick at this stage of construction and the structure is not done yet. A final 3-4″ thick layer of concrete will be applied over the balloon/membrane so it will all look white – and be that much thicker.
These dome houses are so energy efficient they can easily run off of a small solar array. A backup gas generator is on site outside for occasional supplemental power. Two window A/C units provide air conditioning, for now, but a through-wall Mini-Split system is in the works, to both heat and cool the spaces.
These dome homes are not only energy-efficient – they are hurricane-proof if you put in sturdy window and doors. No need to worry about termites in the walls either!
Interior walls to make separate rooms can be built anywhere you choose, as the shell is self-supporting. There are no “load-bearing” walls inside. The ceilings are so high you can add plenty of storage in “lofts” above the rooms.
Downsides include that it’s a bit tricky to build cabinets and hang pictures when all the wall are curved. Also, there is no privacy sound-wise. Someone whispering can be easily heard 2 domes away. If you forget to leave a hole for a vent or wire for a light switch, it is tough to fix that in a foot-thick concrete dome. They are so tight that use of any gas appliances (like cooktops and dryers) is discouraged, if not prohibited.
We all loved visiting this place and learning all about dome-home construction and life. Many thanks to the Ginsbergs for allowing us to visit and teach us some of the “dome-home ropes”!
Dan Bawden, CAPS CGP CGR GMB
President, Legal Eagle Contractors, Co.