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Answers to our

Most Fequently Asked General Questions

Q: How long has American Ingenuity been designing and manufacturing domes?

A: Established in 1976, Ai has continually been under the same ownership. Ai has sold domes into 47 states and 13 foreign countries.  The only states that Ai currently has no domes in are: Rhode Island, New Hampshire and North Dakota.

Ai domes have been exported outside the continental USA to: Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands-St. Kitts and St. Croix, the British Virgin Islands-Tortola, West Indies-Nieves, Canada, Israel, Jamaica, Bahrain and the Faroe Islands (between Iceland/Scotland/Norway).

The first American Ingenuity dome was built in 1976 after two years of design research. Founder Mr. Busick 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 Polystyrene (E.P.S.), concrete and steel geodesic dome.

Normally American Ingenuity does not assemble the dome kits but because this was our prototype, the dome was built by propping up the precut E.P.S. insulation panels, hand tying steel mesh to the exterior of the insulation and spraying concrete over the entire dome exterior. This first dome became the office and model of American Ingenuity and by our standards was a primitive design. There were no riser walls or performed entryways or dormers at that time.

Countless designs and construction techniques were analyzed in the early years as we developed a new generation in housing and designed our special component panel. American Ingenuity received a patent on its panel in the early 80's. These pre-concreted panels produce a better quality home and eliminate the need for costly concrete pumping equipment.

Ai has progressed from a prototype structure to a home that has received a design competition award and three energy awards along with exposure through numerous articles in national magazines, on Inside Edition, on Film and Garden, front cover of Popular Science and other media. Ai outgrew two previous locations as we progressed to our current five-dome complex. Ai's Building Plans have progressed from simple hand drawings to a detailed computer designed set of blueprints.  American Ingenuity's Building Plans are new and improved. An Expanded Assembly Manual is now available with each new dome order!  Ai was the first to offer second floor door dormers/balconies on a dome.

Q: Can I view an American Ingenuity dome?

A: Ai's offices are in a 45' dome connected to a 34' dome.

  • You can visit our office domes here in Rockledge, Florida Tuesday and Thursday between 11 am - 1 pm by appointment only.  Please call 321-639-8777 for an appointment or click on Contact Us.
  • Although the domes are set up as offices, you can easily see how spacious and livable the domes are. 
  • Sorry due to insurance reasons, Ai's factory domes cannot be toured.
  • Once a month Ai has a Saturday Office Tour starting at 11 am for those individuals who cannot visit during the week. On the Saturday tours, we not only tour the office domes, but we tour a 34' dome home with 22' dome garage. Click on Office Domes to learn more and get directions.

Q: Does your customer service staff work on commission?
A:
No. What we have found best is to offer good customer service and not twisting anyone's arm to purchase a dome. Just call or email your questions. We stay in contact with our clients with a newsletter. If you would like to receive the newsletter go to our web site's home page and enter your name and email address under Newsletter.

Q: What does frequency mean in relation to domes?
A:
Frequency is simply the number of segments between the centers of pentagons in a geodesic dome. To best visualize this, first note the five panels that make a pentagon at the top of the dome. Follow any of the seams that radiate from this pentagon center to the center of another pentagon. There will be three segments in a three frequency dome; in a four frequency it will be four; in a two frequency, two. A soccer ball exemplifies a three-frequency icosahedron. A typical golf ball utilizes dimples in a six-frequency design. If you are a contestant on a quiz show, or become a proud dome owner, this bit of trivia may be of help to you.

Ai's 22' and 27' domes are two frequency, 1/2 sphere on a 4' vertical riser wall. The 30', 34', 40', 45' and 48' domes are three frequency, 3/8 spheres on a 4' vertical riser wall.

American Ingenuity has developed a dome that is approximately a one-half sphere with a four foot tall riser wall. All of Ai's building plans and manufacturing specifications are for 3/8 domes on a four foot riser.

5/8 Domes:
  • Ai finds it more practical to use a vertical 4' riser wall on all of its domes instead of designing its domes with the 5/8 geometry.
  • Ai's 30' dome turns out to be almost the same height as a 5/8 dome.
  • Also the 4' riser wall makes for a better shaped entryway and allows the dome to link with all of our other size domes.
  • Ai can manufacture a 5/8 dome but none of our predesigned entryways will fit. And the location of the second floor will be different and difficult for us to design because our predetermined supports will no longer work. As a result the framing design will cost more than we normally charge. Call our office for more information.

Q: What is the largest American Ingenuity dome available?
A:
Prompted by requests for a large, single dome for commercial uses, we developed a 60' dome in 1988. Although it can be used to create a grand home of more than 5,000 square feet, Ai does not recommend a 60' dome for a home. This dome has over 5,000 sq. ft.  All the 60' building plans are custom plans. Ai does 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' dome requires two trucks for delivery.
If you need a larger dome than this, contact Monolithic Dome in Italy Texas. 

Q: What is the shipping cost?
A:
Since Ai's Building Kits are reasonably priced, even with the addition of the shipping cost, your dome home kit will be more affordable than you think. Having our manufacturing plant located in Florida is advantageous for shipping since more is shipped into than out of the state, leaving many trucks headed out empty.

Using an independent trucking agency, Ai contracts to have these trucks carry the building kits for a low cost of approximately $2.50 to $2.90 per mile or a minimum of $800 for Florida sites north of our factory.  Call for shipping costs to Florida sites south of Ai's factory.  This is less than we could do with our own trucks. Most of the time each flatbed truck can carry one large building kit or two 22's or two 27's.  Per mile shipping costs can vary at any time due to fuel costs, fuel surcharges and travel distances.

The number of multiple kits that one truck can carry varies depending upon the number of entryways, dormers, etc. with each kit. The entryways and dormers take up more room than triangles or riser panels. Once your floor plan has been finalized, we can estimate the number of trucks that will be needed for your shipment.

Florida sales tax and surtax are not paid on building kits shipped out of the state of Florida.

Each trucking company has cargo insurance. Ai communicates with you and gives you the name/cell number of the truck driver so you can also communicate with him. Shipping is paid with the kit balance two weeks prior to the kit shipment date in the form of a bank check.  You unload the dome kit from the truck using an all-terrain forklift (2,000 to 3,000 pound lift capacity) that you rent locally. Please have an experienced forklift driver and at least two to three people to assist the fork lift driver. Click on Shipping to learn detailed information on the unloading of the semi-truck.

Two of the main reasons Ai's Dome Building Kits are reasonable in price are first: labor costs are less in Florida than out west or up north where most housing kits are manufactured. Second: because of our component panel design, your building kit contains all the R-28 insulation already installed, about 80% of the finished concrete exterior is installed and all the wall board is installed on the triangles and riser panels. In comparison with other building kits besides purchasing the building kit, you usually purchase the insulation separate, install the insulation; purchase the roofing separate and install all the roofing; purchase the wall board and install the wall board. Click on Panel Composition to learn more.

As a result of Ai's panel's contents, normally Ai's Building Kit is about one third to one half the cost of other housing kits. So even, when you add the shipping cost to the American Ingenuity Kit pricing, the total is still less than other housing kit's pricing.

Q: How does the weight of these domes compare to other houses?
A:
Because of the reduced surface area of a dome and its thin shell construction, American Ingenuity domes weigh less than the average house, but are remarkably stronger than other types of structures. Domes are considerably lighter than a concrete block house.

You do not have to build the dome on a certain type soil. If your neighbors needed a soil sample before they could build their conventional house then you may need it too. Domes require no more than a conventional house.

Because we cannot evaluate your soil suitability from here, you would need to consult with someone locally about the suitability of your topsoil. Possibly a building department, or soil engineer. Our foundation does not require anything more than 2000 lbs. per sq.ft. soil bearing capacity. Basically if you can build a regular house on your soil, you can certainly build a dome.

Q: Are American Ingenuity domes manufactured in any other location?
A:
No. Our manufacturing costs here in Florida are well below the national average, which offsets any long distance shipping expense. We can actually manufacture a kit here in Florida and ship it to most states cheaper than we could manufacture it there.

Q: What are the advantages of the dome shape?
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.

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 accept the challenge to build and live in their own dome. To learn more:

Q: Do you have any pricing comparisons?
A:
No. We leave that up to you. At least once a month perspective clients visit our office domes and inform us that our kit is at least one half-less in cost than the shell materials cost for a conventional house or wooden dome or gunited concrete dome.  We believe when you do your own research that you will agree with our visitor's conclusion.

The reasons why our kits have a better price is not magic.

  • The primary reason is the design concept. It is far more practical to build a dome with concrete than wood. Applying the concrete to rigid foam insulation produces a component panel that provides structure, exterior finish and the insulation.
  • Our philosophy of each person paying for only what they need results in a lower kit price as we do not have an 800 number, our literature prices are based on their printing costs, only our clients who need an engineering seal pay for one, etc.
  • Also we maintain a lower advertising cost and concentrate more on improving the design than pushing sales.
  • None of our staff is on commission.
  • Due to lower labor costs in Florida, we can manufacture in Florida and ship to almost any other location cheaper than it would cost to manufacture there.

Remember to compare apples to apples when pricing each company's kit. Ai's component panel includes most of the steel reinforced concrete exterior, all the shell's seven-inch thick R-28 insulation and all of the interior shell's wall board. In wooden domes you will likely have to purchase the insulation, wall board, exterior finish and roofing at extra costs. Click on Stick Built to read more.

Q: What do the panels weight?
A:
On the left side of our Home Page click on Dome Kit Sizes and Prices, then click on Specifications. Scroll down the page and you will find a category, Panel Weights. Depending upon the size dome, the panel's weight from 155 to 400 lbs.

Q: What size land do I need?
A:
The size property you would need for a dome depends upon the following items:

  1. What are the front, back and side setbacks for your property. Meaning how many feet does your building department require you to leave vacant along the front, back and sides of your property lines?
  2. Do you want to drive a vehicle around each side of your house? When you know these answers you can add the distances up to determine the minimum width (dome diameter plus side set backs and any other space needed to drive a vehicle around the sides of your dome). The minimum length of land needed would equal front and back setbacks, lawn plus diameter of dome(s).
  3. To learn more click on Planning Process.

Q: What should I consider before purchasing land?
A:
Call or email us, and request our latest buying land document that lists items to obtain answers before purchasing property.  Some of the biggest concerns are:

  • Does muck have to be removed and truck loads of fill brought in?
  • Are there any minimum house square footage requirements or garage requirements?
  • Are there any impact fees in order to build?
  • Are there any height restrictions?
  • Is there wetlands, or running water on the site causing environmental concerns?
  •  Are there any endangered plants or animals on your property?
  • Would you have to build your house on concrete pilings?
  • Are there any deed restrictions or homeowner associations governing what can be built on the land?
  • If you use a septic tank, will the soil perk?  Did your neighbors install a septic tank near your property line which will limit where you can install your septic tank?
  • If you do not have access to city water, what is the average number of feet your neighbors had to drill down to find water? What is the cost per foot to drill a well?
  • If there is no electricity to the site, will your neighbors sign easements so you can get electric lines to your site?
  • Do you have egress to the property via a road or easement?
  • Are there front, back and side set back requirements which limit your building area, etc.?
  • Is there a county maintained road to give access to the property for emergency vehicles?

Q: Explain about painting the American Ingenuity Dome
A:
The component panels do not come with any paint on them. Ai does not add any color to the concrete. On site, you concrete the seams so if we painted the panels or added color to the concrete it would not match your painted seam concrete. The concrete shell is painted after the entire kit is assembled.

  • Stain is not used because stain will not seal the concrete.
  • The painting of the dome includes a concrete primer and two coats of good quality exterior concrete paint. Ai has a waterproofing document that covers all priming and painting details.
  • Use a paint that has a satin finish; which is a finish in between flat and semi-gloss. Any porous area that water will penetrate; paint will also soak into and seal.
  • The dome can be painted any color, tan, green, blue, etc. preferably a light to medium color to reflect the sunlight.
It is not difficult to paint the dome….there are no soffits or gutters to have to deal with. Repaint the dome when you rub your hand on the paint and it chalks. Best to roll the paint on so there is a good mill thickness.

Typically, the American Ingenuity dome is repainted every 4-5 years, it depends on your personal preference.
  • During construction, install five stainless steel eye bolts in the top of the dome to tie a rope through. One in each of the five top seams. The five eye bolts go five inches from the a top center pipe with vent cap that is installed during construction which has exhaust fan attached to pipe to exhaust water vapor out of top of dome.  The eye bolts keep the rope away from the pipe with vent cap…so no rubbing on pipe to harm it.  There is a document in the Assembly Manual that describes this pipe and eye bolt installation.  Plus in Manual is Waterproofing document that has the Ames primer/paint info. The vent pipe, vent cap, exhaust fan and eye bolts are purchased locally.
  • The sides of the dome can be painted using an extension ladder and paint roller on a pole. To paint the top of the dome stand on the dome with the rope tied to your harness.
  • Yes you can walk on any of the domes…smaller domes have steeper slope to them.
  • To access the top of the dome put an extension ladder to a second floor dormer and then walk onto the top of the dome from top of dormer. Tie rope thru eye bolt and attach rope to harness. A person can sit in the harness and use pole with roller to apply paint. Current technology is where a plastic tube connects paint in bucket on the ground to end of the pole.  Do not use a sprayer to paint the dome as the spray is too thin a layer. The paint should be applied to the mil thickness noted on the paint can. Best to use a roller to get this correct thickness. If the paint is applied in too thin a layer then UV light deteriorates it sooner thus causing you to need to paint sooner.
  • How you know when need to repaint, rub hand across the paint and when it chalks, pressure wash the dome, use oxygen bleach or chlorine and water to remove algae and follow painting guidelines.
  • Ai dome owners have had good success uses Ames Research Laboratories products.

American Ingenuity is continually reviewing primer, sealant and paint info from the market place and from our dome owners.  Ai now has info to share about Ames Research Laboratories Super - Primer, Peel & Stick Contouring Tape and Maximum Stretch Paint products. Some Aidome owners used other products to originally paint their dome with inadequate results and then used Ames Products resulting in successful waterproofing outcomes. 

Ames products are available at comparable or less costs than paint from Lowes or Sherman Williams or Home Depot and can be purchased at participating ACE and True Value Hardware Stores (does not have to be purchased out of Oregon). Each of these paints and primers have their own merits; but the latest products from Ames have superior qualities in many respects per our dome owners.

To speak with Ames representative call 971-239-1267 and ask for Gene (direct line in Oregon).  To test the product purchase pints or single gallons from Gene and then purchase your 20 – 50 gallons in 5 gallon buckets from local ACE or True Value Hardware Stores.  Depending on the quantities of primer and paint that will be used, check with Ames rep for any volume discount on products shipped from their Oregon factory.  Ames Products can be researched and videos viewed at www.amesresearch.com when on their web site click on Products.

The main reasons American Ingenuity selected exterior concrete paint is because it is readily available, economical and easy for the beginner. Specialty paints like epoxy are unable to stretch and the epoxy paint can "in some areas" crack and allow water to pass through. In addition, any paint that would have a high gloss would highlight flaws in the seam finish. A paint that would withstand UV light or last longer would be advantageous but keep in mind that it is much easier to paint a dome than a conventional house.

Prior to priming and painting the concrete allow the concrete to be rained on for one month to remove efflorescence. Ai dome owners recommend Ames Research Laboratories primer, tape and paint which can be purchased from ACE, Do It Best or True Value stores.  Or call Ames at 888-345-0809 to purchase directly from them and for info on their: Super-Primer, Peel & Stick Contouring Tape and Maximum Stretch Paint. Their web site is Ames.

Does the dome's steel mesh ground out electrical line waves?
Yes. The entire dome except for the widows and nonmetallic doors is completely wrapped with steel. The steel mesh would block or ground electromagnetic radiation with the exception of high frequency in the order of what cell phones use. Radio and TV will possibly be blocked and the 60 cycle of power lines being very low frequency would definitely be grounded.

How resistant is Ai's dome shell to termites? Based upon a FHA test, E.P.S. will not support bacterial growth or fungus growth. It also contains no food value to any living organism. Its lack of food value means that although termites, ants and rodents can tunnel through it, there is no other attraction.

Prior to when the slab is poured, the foundation area is treated for termites. After the dome is assembled, treat an area around the slab to stop the termites. In the USA, use termite stacks, etc. In addition, Ai has learned to keep mulch away from the sides of the foundation as mulch holds moisture for the termites.

There are no openings or cracks in the dome shell that would provide a path for insects. The windows, doors etc. could provide a path. Ask the window and door supplier how to seal them from bugs and termites. Concrete that is applied in the bottom riser wall seam overlaps the foundation concrete and is primed and painted.

 

 



 

 

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