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ANSWERS TO OUR MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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DESIGN AND BUILDING PLANS

Where can I build a dome?
What items should I consider when planning to build my geodesic dome?
How do we determine what size dome is best for my family?
What size dome do I build if I do not want a second floor?
Can the dome be made handicap accessible?
How do I plan for expansion - the addition of another dome at a later date?
Do you have separate garage dome kits available?
Can the domes have basements or be built upon stilts or pilings?
Can I have windows above doors in an entryway?
Will l feel closed in, in the dome?
Will my dome be acceptable to my building department?
What do the Building Plans contain?
Do your Building Plans come with an Engineer's seal?
What format do I email floor plan drawings to you in?
What programs can I use to read dxf format?
Can you modify any of the stock plans in the Stock Floor Plan Booklet?
What all do I consider when putting sketches together for a custom dome floor plan?
What is a cupola?

Why do the square footages on the Specifications page differ from the square footages listed on the stock floor plans?

DESIGN AND BUILDING PLANS

Q: Where can I build a dome?
A: Almost anyplace. Although, there are a few exceptions.  Deed restrictions and homeowner associations can limit the type structure that can be built.  Some developments or communities control the size, cost and appearance of the homes. Before you buy the land ask if there are any restrictions. Zoning ordinances control the use of the land (residential, business, etc.), setbacks from property lines, size, and height limits and similar things, but we have never heard of a zoning restriction on domes.

Zoning pertains to whether a residential, commercial or industrial building can be constructed.  Building Departments do not deal with appearance.  They are concerned about safety, strength and code compliance. 

 Our dome design has proved itself by withstanding hurricane Andrews 200 mph winds, sub zero temperatures and heavy snow loads of Canada and the Northwest Territory, a large tree impact and many other conditions over a 29 year period.  Although our Building Plans have been reviewed by over 30 different engineers the plans do not come with an engineer's seal for the following reasons.  Less than half of our dome owners needed engineer sealed Building Plans to obtain a building permit and rather than adding the cost to all plans it is more economical to have the plans sealed as needed.  As the designer and manufacturer we would not hesitate to guarantee the structural integrity of our dome and we do just that with our guarantee.  Each state only accepts a seal from an engineer who is registered in that state which prevents us from applying any seal that would be universally accepted.  When an engineer seals a set of plans he is taking responsibility for the structural design for a single dome in the location intended and the seal would not apply to other projects. 

Building Permits:   Building departments are unpredictable.  No nationwide standard exists for what is required to receive a building permit and as such it varies as to what is required in the building plans. Each individual building department adopts and implements their individual policies. They can become more information & document hungry when they are faced with plans for a geodesic dome.  Since each department will ask for different items, expect that your first visit may only garner a list of what is required as to the building plans and further documentation (e.g. deed, survey, septic tank location, permits.

Be prepared for those building officials who seem to be doing all that they can to thwart your efforts.  If you encounter one of these remember you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar, and you have to have their approval to progress through each phase of construction.  Ask questions and make a detailed list of what is required.  If they seem to be obstructing your project without a valid reason, a polite call to their supervisor requesting clarification on the point of difference may be in order.  They may ask for additional detail and documentation, but be assured American Ingenuity Domes have yet to be denied a building permit.

Our experience with many different departments, suggests phrasing questions as, "Is it required to have...." rather than "Do you want...”  Politely asking if something is required will set a professional and fair tone for the relationship.

DADE AND BROWARD COUNTY FLORIDA BUILDING PERMITS:    Our building complies with the new 2002 Florida Building Code.  We have been informed that Dade and Broward Counties require additional testing to verify that the wall segments are capable of withstanding missile impact.  Due to the cost and complexity of the tests, we have concluded it is not economical for us to perform this test.  If the building departments in those counties will accept a Florida registered engineer’s assertion that our buildings pass this test, this documentation can be provided at a reasonable fee.

Q: What items should I consider when planning to build my geodesic dome?
A: The building industry is not only behind the times, it moves slowly! We cannot stress enough the importance of starting your preparations early for all aspects of building. What you think may take two months can easily consume four or five months or more. To have any hope of beginning the actual construction on time you must at least double the time you think it will take to acquire blueprints, financing, building permits, contractors or subcontractors. Optimists should triple their expections.

Once your land has been acquired, blueprints are usually the first step. Some Building Departments require that blueprints be sealed or approved by one of their state architects or engineers prior to giving permits, which takes additional time.

Mortgage lenders move slower than you may anticipate. Remember to allow time to have the land cleared, prepped and ready for the foundation. All permits pertaining to electrical, telephone, water, septic tanks, sewer hookups, driveway and building....will take time.

Also increased demand for American Ingenuity Dome Kits has forced us to assign shipping dates as much as twelve weeks in advance. If you intend to begin building in the summer start the process before the end of the prior year. Other expectant homeowners will be clogging the system by spring, so if you are the early bird they will be waiting behind you instead of vice versa.

FIVE MONTHS OUT: Estimate costs; Figure finances; Decide on your floor plan; Order your Building Plans.

FOUR MONTHS OUT: Obtain a survey of your site; Obtain contractor bids; Layout your building location; Apply for financing.

THREE MONTHS OUT: Obtain your septic tank permit or your sewer hookup; Obtain your building permit; Order your Dome Building Kit.

TWO MONTHS OUT: Do any site clearing; Obtain your temporary electric hookup; Construct your basement.

ONE MONTH OUT: Construct your foundation; Take delivery of your Dome Building Kit.

Q: How do we determine what size dome is best for my family?
A: First review our Stock Floor Plan Booklet (which is in our Planning Kit) to see how the area within a dome is used. Then compare these sample floor plans with the rooms and square footages of houses you are familiar with by using the to-scale ruler in the back of the booklet (on tan paper). Compare your finances and construction costs to avoid designing a project that is beyond a realistic budget. Think about the future…will you need to increase or decrease?…if you had to move what size home would sell best?

We do not recommend the 60' dome for a residential home. The 60' dome will cost more per square foot to assemble than the smaller domes because of the greater number of panels and the height of the dome. The 60' residential plans are custom and the kit requires two trucks for delivery.

Q: What size dome do I build if I do not want a second floor?
A: The 27' and 30' domes would be suitable for homes with only a first floor. Because of the shape of the dome a second floor is a natural.  If you choose to construct a larger dome and include the second floor, you can install an elevator or lift to access the second floor.  Install an electric winch powered lift in a 4’x4’ area for $1,000 -$2000 in parts versus an elevator to get to the second floor.   You could design all your living space and master bedroom and bath on the first floor and put a guest bedroom and bath on the second floor and use the rooms for guests or for storage.

Q: Can the dome be made handicap accessible?
A: Yes.  All of the dome floor plans can be modified to be handicap accessible.

Q: How do I plan for expansion - the addition of another dome at a later date?
A: When designing your first dome, you can prepare for future expansion by placing an entryway or link at the location where you will later connect another dome. If we are providing you with customized plans we can design them for the future expansion. When you order your first dome we can provide instructions and materials that will make the connection easier.

Q: Do you have separate garage dome kits available?
A: Yes. We have developed two new garage dome sizes, 22' and 27'. These garage domes are two frequency icosahedron geometry. This geometry differs from our other domes in that it utilizes fewer but larger panels. By having larger panels we can create a wider opening that is needed for a garage door. You can install a 9' wide garage door in the 22'. The 27' garage dome can have a 16' garage door and it can have a second floor of 398 sq.ft. Previously a 34' dome was needed to pull two cars in side by side. Now you can have a two car garage in a 27' dome which is more cost effective. The 22' dome provides an economical one car garage using 3 1/2" E.P.S. insulation (R-14). Either of these garage domes can be connected to another dome or built independently from the house.

The 34' garage dome is utilized when you want more first floor perimeter room around the vehicles or when you want a second floor above the garage for an apartment or study, etc.

You can find the pricing for the garage kits on the bottom of the Stock Floor Plan Price List in the Stock Floor Plan Booklet.

Q: Can the domes have basements or be built upon stilts or pilings?
A: Yes. Any of our domes can be built upon a basement, stilts or pilings. You determine how many openings you want in the basement walls for garage doors or for windows and doors. And you determine if and how many of the basement sides you want bermed with dirt. Full basements are the same size and shape as the dome first floor. We have basement plans available that explain how the dome is attached to the basement, etc. for example rebars need to come out of the basement wall to connect into the dome riser walls, etc.

Also what do you use for floor joists? Wood, steel, manufactured trusses, whatever you prefer. How thick of a basement wall is required for the domes? Basement walls are usually 8" thick when made of poured concrete but will likely increase depending on the height of the basement wall and the height of the backfill.

We can provide a design, which places the dome on stilts or concrete pilings. Sometimes we recommend an above ground basement with break away walls instead of pilings.

Bear in mind that building any structure upon stilts or pilings will increase the cost significantly and require you to climb a flight of stairs each time you go in the house. If in your location, it is a requirement then you have no other choice.

Q: Can I have windows above doors in an entryway?
A: Yes. By using a high profile entryway, you can include glass or standard windows over a door, set of doors, or bank of conventional windows. The glass could be half moon shaped or be stained glass, etc. Any room with a cathedral ceiling, such as a foyer or living room, can benefit from this striking architectural feature.

Q: Will l feel closed in, in the dome?
A: No. In our dome you can install an abundant number of windows and doors. Your budget and your floor plan selection determines the number of doors or windows you will have. There can be up to five entryways on the first floor and up to five window dormers or door dormers on the second floor of our house domes.

Remember on site you construct a 2x4 wall under the entryways and dormers to install the standard doors and windows that you purchase locally. For example under a 40' entryway you could have up to three french doors or a door and a picture window or a large picture window or 12' of sliding glass doors, etc. In other words on the first floor of a 40' dome you could have a maximum of five entryways with each one containing 12' of french doors.

We have a window and door specification sheet within the Planning Kit that lists the maximum rough opening sizes within the entryways and dormers for each size dome.

Q: Will my dome be acceptable to my building department?
A: Building plans for American Ingenuity domes can comply with all building codes worldwide including the Universal Building Code, the Standard Building Code, and the B.O.C.A. Code. If required, your plans can be certified by a registered engineering firm. Professional fees will vary by state and complexity of your plan. We suggest you start by asking your building department a few questions such as: What are the requirements for a residential building permit? Are there any additional requirements to build a geodesic dome? Is an architect's or engineer's seal required on the plans?

Building Permits:   Building departments are unpredictable.  No nationwide standard exists for what is required to receive a building permit and as such it varies as to what is required in the building plans. Each individual building department adopts and implements their individual policies. They can become more information & document hungry when they are faced with plans for a geodesic dome.  Since each department will ask for different items, expect that your first visit may only garner a list of what is required as to the building plans and further documentation (e.g. deed, survey, septic tank location, permits.)

Be prepared for those building officials who seem to be doing all that they can to thwart your efforts.  If you encounter one of these remember you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar, and you have to have their approval to progress through each phase of construction.  Ask questions and make a detailed list of what is required.  If they seem to be obstructing your project without a valid reason, a polite call to their supervisor requesting clarification on the point of difference may be in order.  They may ask for additional detail and documentation, but be assured American Ingenuity Domes have yet to be denied a building permit.

 Experience with many different departments, suggests phrasing questions as, "Is it required to have...." rather than "Do you want...”  Politely asking if something is required will set a professional and fair tone for the relationship.

DADE AND BROWARD COUNTY FLORIDA BUILDING PERMITS:    Our building complies with the new 2002 Florida Building Code.  We have been informed that Dade and Broward Counties require additional testing to verify that the wall segments are capable of withstanding missile impact.  Due to the cost and complexity of the tests, we have concluded it is not economical for us to perform this test.  If the building departments in those counties will accept a Florida registered engineer’s assertion that our buildings pass this test, this documentation can be provided at a reasonable fee.

FLORIDA AND CALIFORNIA BUILDING PERMITS:  Such states as Florida and California require all new construction to have engineer sealed building plans to obtain a building permit.  The engineer seal cost for a 40' dome in Florida is around $400.  In California the seal can cost $1,500 to $3,000 depending on the dome size.

Q: What do the Building Plans contain?
A: Whatever size floorplan you seek, whether for a modest starter home or a grand estate, American Ingenuity domes are flexible enough to adapt to your conditions. Building plans include the basic drawings for the dome that are needed when acquiring a building permit. They are composed on our computer aided drafting system as stock plans, or custom plans based on your individual requirements and design. Some of the pages are a 3-D elevation and a 3-D perspective view. These plans include all the structural drawings, show the placement of the electrical outlets, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures; however, they do not have the electrical, plumbing, HVAC layouts. We have found if the layouts are included, then the inspectors require the subcontractors to follow the diagrams when usually the subs like to do their own layouts.

Q: Do your Building Plans come with an Engineer's seal?
A: No.  Although our Building Plans have been reviewed by over 30 different engineers, the plans do not come with an engineer's seal for the following reasons. Less than half of our dome owners need engineer sealed Building Plans to obtain a building permit and rather than adding the engineer cost to all plans it is more economical to have the plans sealed as needed. As the designer and manufacturer, we would not hesitate to guarantee the structural integrity of our dome and we do just that with our guarantee. Each state only accepts a seal from an engineer who is registered in that state which prevents us from applying any seal that would be universally accepted. When an engineer seals a set of plans he is taking responsibility for the structural design for a single dome in the location intended and the seal would not apply to other projects.

Q: What format do I email floor plan drawings to you in?
A: You can email them if they are in the following format: jpeg format or bmp format (windows bit map). Or if you are using AutoCad, we can accept the documents in dxf format or dwg format. Remember you can fax (321-639-8778) the drawings to us. Remember to include your name, telephone number and the best time(s) to contact you.

Q: What programs can I use to read dxf format?
A: You can read and edit the dxf files if you have autocad program, any other computer aided drafting program, a photo editor program like adobe or paint shop. You can read the dxf files but not edit them using Microsoft word and power point. The web site http://www.deltacad.com has a computer aided drafting program that can be downloaded and used for free for 30 days.

You can use computer programs to draw your floor plans; although, we can use a hand drawn sketch that is faxed to us just as easily as a CAD drawing. We have to reenter all of your information into our system and we will likely agree upon some changes for your benefit.

Q: Can you modify any of the stock plans in the Stock Floor Plan Booklet?
A:
Yes. Modifying a stock plan that is close to your dream dome allows you to adapt one of our stock plans to meet your needs. While it does incur a charge, it is much less than the expenditure of custom design work. Any of the Stock Plans may be modified to provide for such structural changes as:
1. Building a Mirror image
2. Rearranging rooms, moving walls, or adding closets
3. Combining the first floor from one plan with the second floor of another
4. Adding or subtracting entryways, door and window dormers, or balconies
5. Adding bathrooms
6. Adding a full or partial basement
7. Fortifying a floor structure to accommodate special furnishings such as a waterbed, hot tub, or weight room.

We do not make any in office appointments to work on floor plans.  All that is done via email, phone and fax.

We will be happy to quote a price for blueprints and a building kit for your Modified Stock Plan once we review your sketches or Floor Planner. What we have found works best is for you to sketch out your ideas on a stock plan or on the blue floor planner pages in the stock floor plan booklet and email them to us at [email protected] or fax them to us at 321-639-8778.  Please include your full name, address, telephone number and best time(s) to contact you.  Either Michael or the plans designer will review your sketch and call you with questions and a price quote.  Once we receive payment in full for the Building Plans, we schedule them for production.  We will fax you rough drafts that you review and make changes on and fax them back to us.  After you approve the final draft, we design your structural blue prints and complete your plans.

Q: What all do I consider when putting sketches together for a custom dome floor plan?
A:
You might use American Ingenuity's stock designs as a springboard for your own ideas and fashion a special floorplan to accommodate how you and your family live. In the back of the Stock Floor Plan Booklet is a to-scale ruler and to-scale furniture. You can use the ruler to help you in analyzing the size of each of the floor plan's rooms (length and width) versus conventional house room arrangements and sizes. Working from your rough sketches or wish list, our design team can cost effectively prepare custom blueprints to suit your individual tastes, location, site, needs and budget. If you can dream it, we can draw it. If you are seeking more than what is reflected in the Stock Floor Plan Booklet, then perhaps you will want to go a step further to a Custom Plan. It will encompass all your thoughts for your dream dome and will be drawn by our technician especially for you, yet at a reasonable cost. Using our state-of-the-art computer aided drafting system, our CAD technician will translate your concept into a set of blueprints.
1. We will work from any combination of ideas as you express them:
· Completed floor planner kit
· Rough sketches
· List of items to include
· Written descriptions
2. The cost of the blueprints for your Custom Plan, as well as the cost of the building kit, can be ascertained after review of your concept. You can fax or mail your sketch to us. Include your name, telephone number and the best time(s) for us to contact you. We will call you back with questions and a price quote to turn your ideas into custom plans.
3. Design Factors: All plans may be built on your choice of foundation including: Concrete slab, raised, stem wall or pier foundation, full or partial basement.
4. When planning the location of entryways, door dormers, balconies and window dormers please note their specific locations on the floor planner located in the back of the Stock Floor Plan Booklet.
5. When planning room sizes for your second floor, remember that the headroom decreases as it approaches the knee wall.
The floor planner will have the second floor perimeter heights noted.
6. If you choose to have us design a custom plan from your sketches, you will receive rough drafts from us. You review the draft, make any changes and fax it back to us. We continue this process until you approve of the floor plan layout. We then take this final draft and design the structural pages to your Building Plans.

Q: What is a cupola?
A:
A Cupola is "sort of like a hat with windows that sits on top of the dome". When a person wants to have a third floor loft in the 40' or larger domes, the cupola adds about 2' of headroom to the top center of the dome. The top five pentagon panels rest upon 18" tall concrete "legs" that are built on site. Between the concrete "legs" framing is built to install rectangular windows that you purchase locally. See the floor planners in the Stock Floor Plan Booklet for loft heights and square footages.

The topside exterior of the five panels of the cupola and the underside exterior of the eave are prefinished, while the topside and edges of the eave are stuccoed onsite.

Cupolas are not necessary for ventilation and extra light. Domes do not need more light than conventional houses. If you build your dome without a cupola, we recommend installing a vent in an interior wall near the peak of your dome for ventilation. The electric fan vent has the added advantage of being easily controlled with a switch or timer.

The outline of the third floor loft matches that of the cupola. In wind areas you do not want the cupola windows to be more than two feet tall. Also taller cupolas just look out of proportion on the dome.

For an observatory on top of the dome, you would not need a cupola. The top or any part of the dome will easily support the weight of people. All that would be needed would be a railing around the top and someway to access the top of the dome, eg. sculptured concrete steps.

Q: Why do the square footages on the Specifications Page differ from the square footages listed on the stock floor plans?
A:
On the Specifications Page the first floor and second floor square footage listed is the maximum amount of square footage possible. The first floor square footage is maxed out because only one entryway is considered. The second floor square feet (sq.ft.) listed is what is possible if you built in the entire second floor. This means there would be no first floor high vaulted ceilings. The first floor ceiling height would then be 7 1/2' in the 30’ and 34' domes and 8' tall in the larger domes.

The first floor square footages on the stock floor plans varies from the Specifications Page because more than one entryway is installed. Each time another entryway is utilized on the first floor this will reduce the amount of total first floor square footage. In the stock floor plans the second floor square footage varies from the Specifications Page because some stock plans have one third of the second floor left open while others can have up to half of the second floor not installed. The second floor square footage on stock plans consists of all the illustrated second floor space to the knee wall. On site the second floor knee wall is built along the dome perimeter out 2x4's and covered with drywall to a height of two to three feet. AC ducting and second floor suspension rods can be hidden behind the knee wall. Electrical outlets can be placed on the knee wall.

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