A roughly hemispherical structure built from of a self-bracing network of
triangles. This design, conceived by the American architect R. Buckminster
Fuller, gives impressive structural strength
while using a minimum of material. Geodesic domes are efficient, inexpensive,
and durable. However, homes based on this design must overcome a number
| Geodesic dome framework in Montreal,
The shape of a dome house makes it difficult to conform to code requirements
for placement of sewer vents and chimneys. Off the shelf, all building materials
come in rectangular shapes. Fire escapes are problematic; codes require
them, and they are expensive. Windows conforming to code can cost anywhere
from five to fifteen times as much as windows in conventional houses. Scrap
from cutting (i.e., waste) can run to a high proportion, driving costs up.
Professional electrical wiring costs more because of increased labor time;
but even owner-wired situations are costly, because more of certain materials
is required with a dome versus conventional construction.
Domes have unique interior air-stratification and air-moisture-distribution
characteristics. These tend to result in a lack of longevity if wood framing
or interior paneling (in the upper portions) has been used, as is often
the case with a residential dome. Privacy is compromised in a dome since
a dome is difficult to partition satisfactorily, also since sounds circulate
(ambience problems are mentioned below). The dome shape leaves the vast
majority of the interior surface unusable because of the sharply sloping
roof lines. For example, in a 20 foot tall dome, only the bottom 8 feet
or so are really usable. This leaves a large volume that must be heated,
yet cannot be lived in.
| Geodesic home exterior. Credit: C
& R Enterprises
Dome builders find it hard to seal domes against rain. The most effective
method with a wooden dome is to shingle the dome. Another method is to use
a one-piece reinforced concrete or plastic dome. Some domes have been constructed
from plastic or waxed cardboard triangles that overlapped in such a way
as to shed water. Domes tend to develop leaks because the sun heats the
dome during the daily cycle and the stresses are conveyed through the structure
as the sun moves through the sky much as one might break the shell of a
hard-boiled egg by simultaneously pressing and rolling.
Sounds, smells and even reflected light tend to be conveyed through the
entire structure. Lloyd Kahn, author of Domebook One, Domebook 2 and later,
Shelter, became disillusioned with domes by 1973, and details many more
problems with dome homes on his website calling them smart but not wise.
Kahn is the source of many of the criticisms listed above.
| Domed house interior that uses a
Finally, the furnishing and fitting world is designed with flat surfaces
in mind, and installing something as simple as a sofa results in a half-moon
behind the sofa being wasted.