This article covers Ai’s Dome History.
Brief history of American Ingenuity Domes
The founder of American Ingenuity (Ai) was Michael Busick, an engineer, who was born and raised in North Little Rock, Arkansas graduating from University of Arkansas. Ai began in 1974 as an electronics manufacturing firm located in Miami, Florida. Its products at that time included a slow acting lamp dimmer and solid state voltage regulator for motorcycles.
In 1976 American Ingenuity moved to Melbourne, Florida. After two years of design research, the first American Ingenuity dome was built in 1976 to house Michael’s electronics business.
Q: Why did Mr. Busick decide on the dome shape for his dome? What are the advantages of domes?
A: The dome, or partial sphere, is a geometric form that encloses the greatest amount of volume with the least amount of surface area. Historically, massive domes constructed of stones, brick or concrete were common in ancient Greece and Rome. In modern times, Buckminster Fuller was the first to formulate geodesic principles for constructing a spherical surface by triangular subdivision.
Domes are three-dimensional structures using stable triangles approximating spheres to create multiple load carrying paths from point of load to point of support. The triangle is the only arrangement of structural members that is stable within itself without requiring additional connections at the intersection points to prevent warping of the geometry. In other words, apply pressure to one edge of a triangle, and that force is evenly distributed to the other two sides, which then transmit pressure to adjacent triangles. That cascading distribution of pressure is how geodesic domes efficiently distribute stress along the entire structure, much like the shell of an egg.
During the past decade the home buying public has experienced a substantial increase in the cost of construction, the cost of energy and the cost of borrowing. As a result, there has been increased interest in the use of technology to help address these concerns. In the last decade, many people have discovered that the dome home design offers a viable solution.
As a residential building concept, geodesic dome home construction translates into a highly comfortable and livable home that has a maximum of floor area enclosed by a minimum of materials. These features combine superior strength and cost-effectiveness in a single structure. In short, the building concept of a dome home expands the range of simple and economic housing options.
Manufactured dome homes are constructed using a triangular network to form a spherical shape. This method provides for a free span, self-supporting structure requiring no internal supports such as roof load bearing partition walls. This allows for maximum flexibility of floor plan design and utilization of interior space.
As an architectural form, the dome is one of the strongest structural forms devised and built by man. Domes that were built centuries ago enclose many of the great cathedrals of Europe. Domes are structurally superior to rectilinear enclosures. The partial sphere is an aerodynamic shape that is very stable in high winds and can withstand heavy snow loads. For these reasons, residential domes greatly exceed the structural requirements of the major building codes in the United States.
One of the most exciting architectural environments ever designed, a dome brings its best attributes to your home. It delivers a rewarding living experience filled with warmth, light and open space to those who choose to build and live in their own dome.
During the design of the first American Ingenuity, Michael employed the talents of the Director of the Florida Solar Energy Center, Engineering students and an architectural professor from the University of Miami to design the very first expanded polystyrene (E.P.S.) and concrete geodesic dome. This professor had done preliminary designs for a concrete and steel dome, but he had never constructed a concrete and steel dome. The dome went by the name of “Key Dome”. American Ingenuity built the first E.P.S., steel and concrete dome.
Ai’s first dome, which was 50′ in diameter, became the office/model of American Ingenuity and by American Ingenuity’s current standards was a primitive design. The dome was constructed by:
- Erecting and propping up the E.P.S. panels
- Stretching steel mesh over the E.P.S.
- Spraying concrete over the entire exterior
- Troweling the concrete smooth
- Applying the interior shell finish of plaster to the E.P.S.
This first American Ingenuity dome had no riser walls, no preformed entryways , no dormers and was not an owner/builder design.
Busick’s dome was located next to US Highway 1 in Melbourne, Florida. People would stop in and ask him to build them domes like his. Thus started his dome business.
In the early years, American Ingenuity was happy to sell one building kit a year. Kits were shipped in the early years into North Carolina and Texas; however, Florida remained the primary location for building. With each one built, Michael gained valuable information to provide improvements for the next. Every time a dome was built using the above method, Michael knew there had to be a better way….which resulted in the invention of Ai’s prefabricated component panel.
Ai has sold over 800 dome kits in 47 U.S.A. States and fourteen foreign areas.
In 1980, American Ingenuity was incorporated in the state of Florida.
By 1983, a major improvement in the building method was developed by Michael which provided for the prefabrication of building panels. In 1983 American Ingenuity manufactured and built its first dome (a 48′ in diameter dome) utilizing its prefabricated sandwich panel. To learn more about the component panel composition click on Panel Composition.
After this concept had been tested and implemented, Busick applied for and received a U.S. patent. This improved building system was labeled “Generation II”. It resulted in a dome design which reduced the time and cost of construction as well as improved the quality of the finished dome.
Also in 1983 Michael married Glenda who besides assisting in the day to day operations of the company, played a major roll in the financial backing for the research and development of the American Ingenuity dome concept. She handled the purchasing and selling of integrated memory chips to office equipment companies through out the United States to fund the component panel’s design. Glenda was born and raised in Missouri. Even though she graduated with a Biology Degree from Southwest Missouri State, she loves dome sales and coordinating dome building floor plan design with the dome buyer, engineers and American Ingenuity’s Computer Aided Drafting Department.
Construction for American Ingenuity’s second model home (40′ and 30′ garage) began in 1984 using the prefabricated panels. Sheet rock was adhered to the inside of the polystyrene insulation. But during the building kit assembly the sheet rock naturally got wet. Because the sheet rock would crumble and mold when wet, American Ingenuity decided to stop shipping the prefabricated panels with conventional sheet rock. Back then after the dome kit was assembled, the dome owner or subcontractor would either adhere sheet rock or trowel plaster or stucco directly to the polystyrene insulation….a labor intensive and expensive project.
Also during this time, Michael designed the first geodesic dome second floor door dormer which opened onto the top of a standard entryway to produce a second floor balcony. Another first of its kind.
The energy rating for American Ingenuity’s second model home, as determined by the Florida Model Energy Code calculations, was the lowest known with a rating of -14.
To learn more about efficiency click on Energy FAQ. To view info on South Carolina dome that earned EPA’s Energy Star click on Energy Star.
The Model Dome in Melbourne Florida was completed in 1985 and a few months later was entered in the 1986 Aurora Awards competition. In May of 1986, Ai. was notified that the American Ingenuity Model had won the award for the Most Energy Efficient Residences as judged by the Southeast Builders Conference, a division of the National Home Builders Association. In August of that same year, the model also won the Grand Award for all energy efficient categories…beating out a passive solar home designed for one of Florida’s utility companies, Florida Power and Light.
In 1986 a United States patent was granted for the prefabricated component panel consisting of polystyrene and galvanized steel reinforced concrete.
After receiving the patent and winning of the Aurora Awards, articles were written about the American Ingenuity Dome in such newspapers as Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel, in the magazines Progressive Builder, Florida Trend and was a feature cover story in the March 1987 issue of Popular Science.
As a result American Ingenuity’s factory needed to be expanded to keep up with the demand for its dome building kits. Additions to Ai’s first 48′ factory dome were a 45′ dome in 1986 and a 60′ dome in 1991.
Ai broke ground for its new dome offices (45′ and 34′) in 1993. The office domes won the Southeast Builders Conference 1994 Aurora Merit Award for Energy Efficiency for a Commercial Project.
In 1998, Michael designed the 22′ and 27′ garage domes using 2 frequency geometry. This geometry differs from American Ingenuity’s residential domes in that the 22′ and 27′ domes utilize fewer but larger panels. By having larger panels Ai can create a wider opening that is needed for a garage door. Previously a 34’ dome was needed to pull two cars in side by side. Now Ai’s clients can have a two-car garage in a 27’ dome, which is more cost effective. The 22’ dome provides an economical one car garage. Either of these can be connected to another dome or built independently from the house.
Typically, American Ingenuity’s clients were owner builders but around 2000, Ai had individuals inquire about wanting a working consultant to supervise their concrete workers or their contractor’s workers during the dome kit assembly. American Ingenuity can now connect clients with independent consultants who will travel to their job site. The consultant supervises the assembly of the dome kit which makes the assembly go faster and reduces costs. Click on Kit Assembly Consultant to learn more.
In 2003, the staff at American Ingenuity researched materials to cover the interior of the rigid expanded polystyrene insulation. Ai’s staff settled on Georgia Pacific’s 1/4″ Dens-Deck roofing board which was adhered to the E.P.S. with cement and perlite. The Dens-Deck employs fiberglass mat facing instead of paper on both sides of the board. The core is silicon treated gypsum providing excellent moisture resistance, fire resistance and adhesion properties. It won’t harbor spores that create sick homes. Dens-Deck roof board is a patented nonstructural glass mat-faced, noncombustible, water-resistant, treated gypsum core panel. It is water resistant, so if your kit is rained on during construction, it will not be damaged. When allowed to dry out, the gypsum will return to its original state. Due to code changes in November 2013, the wallboard has been upgraded to Georgia Pacific’s 1/2″ DensArmor Plus gypsum. Same moisture resistant/mold resistant gypsum as Dens-Deck just thicker and is adhered to the EPS with wallboard adhesive.
Not only has American Ingenuity’s building kits improved, but American Ingenuity’s building plans have progressed from simple hand drawings to detailed computer designed blueprints. Ai’s once nonexistent Assembly Manual has grown to over 100 informative pages. Ai was the first to offer utility dome kits. American Ingenuity has progressed from a prototype structure to a home that has received a design competition award, three energy awards and numerous articles in national magazines and other media. To view layouts for each size dome, click on Stock Plans.
In 2015 American Ingenuity designed 15′ and 18′ dome kits for the Tiny Home Market for those wanting to have a smaller home foot print.
Ai’s goal in 1976 was to develop a simplified building kit which when assembled produced an affordable, super-strong, super - energy efficient home. American Ingenuity’s goals now are: 1) to continue that goal; 2) provide prefab home kits for forward thinking home owners who are willing to think outside the box; and 3) offer independent kit assembly specialists to supervise the dome kit assembly.