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Brief history of American Ingenuity Domes


The founder of American Ingenuity was Michael Busick, an engineer, who was born and raised in North Little Rock, Arkansas.  A.I. began in 1974 as an electronics manufacturing firm located in Miami, Florida. Its products at that time included a slow acting lamp dimmer, solid state voltage regulator and an alarm system 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.

He employed the talents of the Director of the Florida Solar Energy Center, University engineering students and an architectural professor to design the very first expanded bead 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.

A.I.'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. 

Ai has over 750 dome kits in 46 U.S.A. States and twelve foreign areas and sells thirty to sixty dome kits a year.

In 1980, American Ingenuity was incorporated in the state of Florida.

By 1983, a major improvement in the building method had been 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 Compostion.

After this concept had been tested and implemented, Busick applied for 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 Carlin 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 dealers through out the United States.

Construction for American Ingenuity's second model home (40' and 30' garage) began in 1984 using the prefabricated panels. This time 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 sheet rock. So when the dome shell kit was assembled, the dome owner would either adhere sheet rock or trowel plaster or stucco directly to the polystyrene insulation....a labor intensive project.

During this time Michael designed a geodesic screen dome to compliment the dome home. As a result, American Ingenuity became the first company to offer Screen Dome Kits. Also at this time, he 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.

The Model Dome in Melbourne Florida was completed in 1985 and a few months later entered in the 1986 Aurora Awards competition. In May of 1986, A.I. 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 polystyrene and steel reinforced concrete dome panels. 

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 A.I.'s first 48' factory dome were a 45' dome in 1986 and a 60' dome in 1991. In 2006 designs are underway to expand the this factory.

A.I. 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.

Meantime, the Michael and Glenda realized that it would be a big benefit if a person interested in owning a dome home could actually experience dome living. So in August of 1995 the Busick's broke ground on a 34' dome built on a full basement in the North Carolina mountains at 3,400' elevation. That dome was completed in March 1996 allowing individuals interested in dome living to rent the dome for one night or for a week.  To learn more about the rental dome click on Cabin.

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 A.I. 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 using 3½” E.P.S. insulation. 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, A.I. had individuals inquire about wanting a working consultant to supervise their laborers or their contractor's laborers and get the dome shell kit assembled. American Ingenuity can now connect clients with the consultant 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 polystyrene. A.I.'s staff settled on Georgia Pacific's 1/4" Dens-Deck roofing board which is adhered to the E.P.S. with nonsolvent latex adhesive. 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 doesn’t provide fuel for an accidental fire. It isn’t even damaged by multiple immersions in water. It won’t harbor spores that create sick homes. One square inch of this adhesive will support 10 pounds. A square foot (144 square inches) of the board weighs less than 2 pounds. In other words there is much more holding power than needed. 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 gets rained on during construction, it will not be damaged. However, if the client stores their kit outside or in freezing weather, A.I recommends that the panels be covered.

In 2003 Michael sold the land that his original prototype dome was built on and purchased 160 acres of land in Busick, North Carolina for a dome community. Some domes will be constructed and made available for rent or for time shares, and some will be available for immediate move-in. Undeveloped lots will also be available for those that wish to build their own custom designed dome.  Click on Dome Community to learn more.

Not only has American Ingenuity's building kits improved and become easier to construct as the years went by, but American Ingenuity's building plans have progressed from simple hand drawings to detailed computer designed blueprints. A.I.'s once nonexistent Assembly Manual has grown to over 80 informative pages. A.I. was the first to offer utility, dog and screen domes. 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 learn more about floor plans, building permit, etc. click on Plans.

A.I.'s goal in 1976 was to develop a simplified building kit for affordable, energy efficient housing.  American Ingenuity's goals now are:  1) to become a leader in the housing industry;  2) continue to provide a home for the future; 3) develop a dome community which can be a prototype for other USA dome communities; and 4) train kit assembly consultants to supervise construction sites and assemble the dome shells.
 

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