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Panel Composition Print E-mail

American Ingenuity's

Component Panel's Composition

What are the American Ingenuity triangular and rectangular shaped panels made from? The middle of each panel consists of a seven inch thick block of R-28 expanded bead polystyrene (E.P.S.) insulation. On the exterior of the insulation is ½” to ¾” thick steel reinforced concrete and on the interior of the insulation is a ¼” thick Georgia-Pacific wall board.

Your American Ingenuity dome kit is affordable and strong because it is engineered as a system of prefinished component panels. Each panel is cut at a computer-generated angle so that it fits flush with the adjacent panel. The edges are precisely beveled at the seams where steel mesh and concrete will unite to complete the structure.

Onsite the dome building kit is assembled by placing the panels one row at time, interlocking the steel mesh between the panels, concreting the seams between the panels (6" wide and 4" deep) and concreting the entryways, dormers, cupola and link.  Onsite you do not concrete over the preconcreted component panels.  The interior shell wall board is finished just like conventionl sheetrock with tape and joint compound. To view a panel and learn about Building Kit Assembly click on Assembly.

To learn more about Hoisting Mechanisms click on Hoisting.  To learn more about entryways, dormers, etc. click on Building Options.

For Building Option Pricing click on Basic Kit Prices and then scroll down the page for the building options chart.  

Tell us more about American Ingenuity’s panel materials.

Concrete: The panel concrete is a special formulation containing synthetic fibers and liquid admixtures. You purchase bags of Portland cement and sand locally. We ship with your building kit the same fibers and admixtures that were used in the panel concrete so the seam concrete that you mix on site will have the same properties as the panel concrete. These ingredients improve the concrete's characteristics, create super toughness, extend durability, make concrete impervious to water, give higher tensile and compressive strength, provide elasticity for expansion and improve freeze protection.

The concrete in your dome out performs other exteriors because of its specially developed formula. Because of its exceptional composition, it actually gains strength over the years.

The exterior panel concrete, which is 1/2" to 3/4" thick, adheres directly to the steel mesh and E.P.S. insulation without the need of a bonding agent.  The panel concrete is hand applied and hand sponged at American Ingenuity's Rockledge Florida factory.

Steel: A one-inch grid, 16 gauge galvanized steel wire mesh is encased in the concrete of each component panel and extends out over the insulation's beveled edges. As your dome panels are assembled, the mesh of each panel overlaps and is hooked to that of the adjacent panels with C-rings (commonly called "hog rings"). The dome then becomes completely encircled by steel mesh.

E.P.S. Insulation: Except for the 22' which has R-14 insulation, seven inches of sturdy, rigid R-28 expanded polystyrene (E.P.S.) foam insulation forms the core of each component panel. The E.P.S. we use is closed cell with a 1 lb. per cubic foot density. The insulation is permanent, chemically and thermally stable; resistant to mildew; provides no nutritive value to animals, plants, microorganisms; non-irritating to skin; Chlorofluorocarbon free (CFC free) and formaldehyde free. Our insulation will not rot, shrink, absorb moisture, compact, or deteriorate due to age or the weather. It also acts as a vapor barrier for your home, providing stable performance year after year. If you live in a cold climate, you may want to purchase the 9" thick insulation.  To learn more about E.P.S. as a Vapor Barrier click on Vapor Barrier.


The Expanded Bead Polystyrene (E.P.S.) Insulation that American Ingenuity utilizes is seven inches of sturdy, rigid R-28 modified E.P.S. insulation which forms the core of each component panel. The E.P.S is one pound per cubic foot density (pcf).

The E.P.S. insulation will not rot, shrink, absorb moisture, compact, or deteriorate due to age or weather. It also acts as a vapor barrier for your home, providing stable performance year after year.  The E.P.S. is:

  • permanent
  • chemically and thermally stable
  • resistant to mildew
  • provides no nutritive value to animals, plants, microorganisms
  • non-irritating to skin
  • Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and formaldehyde free.

What kind of vapor barrier will American Ingenuity dome have?  Approximately one quarter of the energy consumed by an air conditioner is used to extract water vapor from inside the house. Water vapor easily passes through most building materials and is readily swept into homes through joints, seams and through the attic. The E.P.S. insulation that A.I. uses provides a good vapor barrier.   And the A.I. building system provides for an air tight house.

During the US Dept of Energy Study on energy efficiency in  housing designs, the blower door test showed the American Ingenuity dome to be 56% tighter than the conventional test structure and 29% tighter than the Dow house.  To see if air was passing through walls of the dome, tests using infrared were performed. Thermal irregularities in the dome were shown to be insignificant.

Per the manufacturer of the E.P.S. that American Ingenuity uses, "the E.P.S. is closed cell and will not absorb more than 2.5% of water based on volume".  E.P.S. is often used as flotation for docks because it will not absorb water. 

Per E.P.S. manufacturer's data sheets the following description was given to explain how the E.P.S. is affected by Moisture:  "To retain their original insulation value, all insulation materials must remain dry.  Water is a good conductor of heat so a high moisture content in the insulation results in a significant loss of performance.  This is particularly so with fibrous materials which must be positively protected by an efficient vapor barrier.  There are two ways in which moisture can affect insulation materials: water absorption from contact with damp surfaces or rain penetration or from interstitial condensation of water vapor.  E.P.S. is a closed cell material and has minimal water absorption and low water vapor transmission.  Both of these properties are to a large extent, density related, but also to the degree of fusion of the material.  Tables 4 and 5 show typical performance figures for good quality E.P.S. boards manufactured to Arco Polymers recommendations.”           

Table 4  Water Absorption

Density (pcf)                                  1.0 lb                            1.5 lb                             2.0 lb
(pounds per cubic foot)

Water absorption (% vol)        less than 2.5                  less than 2.0                  less than 2.0


Table 5 Water Vapor Transmission (WVT)

Density (pcf)                                                     Grains (hr/sqft) In/Hg (Perm inch)

1.0                                                                                            1.2-2.2

2.0                                                                                            0.6-0.8

2.5                                                                                            0.5-0.7

3.0                                                                                            0.5-0.7

The amount that a material will breathe is measured in perms or sometimes perm inches.

 “Note: FHA requirements for perimeter insulation are that the original K value of the material must not increase by more than 15% after repeated wetting and drying cycles.  Tests have been carried out on nominal 1.0 pcf density E.P.S. with an original K value (at 75 degrees F) of 0.26.  After submersion the K value was found to be 0.28--an increase of only 7.7%.”

 Climatic Changes:  E.P.S. board has been used as an insulation material in various types of building structures for over 35 years in climatic conditions ranging from Arctic cold to desert heat and has performed satisfactorily.  E.P.S. does not become brittle at sub-zero temperatures (in fact its K value improves) and suffers no loss of impact resistance at -100 degrees F compared with 73 degrees F.  The maximum recommended continuous operating temperature is 175 degrees F.  Roof surface temperatures in Southern States may reach this temperature for short periods, but with suitably designed roof systems E.P.S. can be used under these conditions.”

In A.I.'s building system the water is stopped on the outside surface because the concrete is rich and dense enough to inhibit significant absorption and it is coated with a primer and two coats of good quality latex paint which further insures against leaks.  If a leak occurs the remedy is another coat of paint in that area. If and when any water gets past the concrete very little will be absorbed by the E.P.S.


Now this brings up breathability of the E.P.S.  The amount that a material will breathe is measured in perms or sometimes perm inches.  E.P.S. will breathe enough to allow it to dry out inside our walls.  At the same time it is tight enough to also serve as a good vapor barrier. A.I.’s insulating concrete panel (ICF) is made from expanded polystyrene (E.P.S.) molded into lightweight foam blocks. The foam itself provides excellent insulation with an R value of R-24. The R-value of E.P.S. remains constant. (R-values of traditional fiberglass insulation decreases when the material is wet or damaged.)  A.I. chose to manufacture its dome component panels with Modified Expanded Polystyrene (E.P.S.) foam because of its fire performance, structural performance, and environmental advantages.  Modified E.P.S. contains no formaldehydes or toxic chemicals, and uses fewer resources to manufacture than other insulation products.  E.P.S. provides you with superior thermal performance to better insulate your buildings, and no harmful CFC’s have ever been used to manufacture it.

You can now recycle your jobsite scrap through a network of manufacturers, re-processors, and retailers across the country. E.P.S. is a valuable resource than can be remanufactured into foam packaging or made into an amazing array of polystyrene products from office supplies to video cassette cartridges.  To locate your nearest E.P.S. collection site, call the RECYCLING HOTLINE at 1-800-944-8448.  Please recycle jobsite scrap.

Expanded Polystyrene (E.P.S.) Facts

E.P.S. is manufactured from expandable polystyrene beads containing a hydrocarbon blowing agent and a flame-retardant additive. It is a closed cell, lightweight, resilient, foamed plastic composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms. There are two common types of polystyrene foam, Extruded Polystyrene or XE.P.S. (Popularly known by its Dow trademark, Styrofoam) and Expanded Polystyrene (E.P.S.). Both expanded polystyrene and extruded polystyrene are used extensively as thermal insulation in industrial, commercial and residential construction.

During the processing of E.P.S., steam heat softens the beads and causes the blowing agent to expand to produce moisture-resistant multi-cellular particles which increase in size up to 40 times their original volume.

Following a period of stabilization, during which time the beads lose their moisture, the blowing agent condenses out and air diffuses into their cellular structure, the pre-expanded beads are molded into blocks of insulation.

The benefits of E.P.S. thermal insulation products are its lightweight, has stable long term thermal resistance, no R-value loss over time (Source: 1985 Study conducted by Structural Research, Inc. for NRCA, MRCA, and SPI), and cost effectiveness when compared to other rigid board insulations on the basis of R-value.

Is E.P.S. a water, vapor or air barrier?

E.P.S. is considered water resistant and vapor permeable and at the density and thickness that American Ingenuity utilizes, the material acts as both a vapor retarder and an air barrier. This characteristic essentially moves the dew point to the exterior side of the concrete wall, minimizing interior humidity in the summer, and at the same time eliminates air infiltration in all seasons which is recognized as a major cause of R-value loss in fiberglass insulation. Air exchangers or heat recovery ventilation systems are highly recommended!

Is E.P.S. foam toxic?

E.P.S. is an inert, non-biodegradable organic plastic foam which will not rot and is highly resistant to mildew. According to National Bureau of Standards Combustion Tests, data collected from seven labs concluded that under the worst case fire scenario, fumes from E.P.S. are no more toxic than those from wood (Douglas Fir).

Is E.P.S. Flammable?

The requirements of all the major code organizations for foam plastics is that they have a flame spread of not more than 75 and a smoke development rating of not more than 450. The foam used in A.I.’s component panels has a flame spread rating of 15 and a smoke development rating of 125 based on ASTME84-87 tests, well below the code requirements.

If you are in an extremely cold climate you may want A.I. to price you on 11" thick insulation or R-44 E.P.S.  Just remember if you purchase the thicker insulation, this will increase the size of the panels which will cause the kit to need more trucks or more containers for delivery. To learn more about the properties of the E.P.S. click on E.P.S. data and then scroll down the page to Analysis of Expanded Bead Polystyrene.

Wall Board: Consists of Georgia Pacific ¼” Dens-Deck Roof Board adhered to the E.P.S. insulation with nonsolvent latex adhesive.  The core of the board is gypsum with silicon and each side has fiberglass matting. 

The wall board 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.  Dens-Deck roof board is a patented nonstructural glass mat-faced, noncombustible, water-resistant, treated gypsum core panel.

Q: Does the interior shell wall board that American Ingenuity uses support the growth of mold and mildew?
No. The 1/4" Dens-Deck that we use showed no mold or mildew growth when tested per ASTM D 3273.  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 to keep the wall board adhered to the E.P.S. insulation.

The glass mats embedded into the core on both faces, results in dimensional stability and prevents warping. The glass mat is encapsulated with a coating which reduces skin irritation from exposed glass fibers. The moisture-resistant inorganic core has superior mold, mildew and fire resistance. The 1/4" Dens-Dec showed no mold or mildew growth when tested per ASTM D 3273.

The Dens-Deck Board which is a roofing board was used on The New Orleans Sports Arena in New Orleans Louisiana. The following info was taken from Georgia Pacific’s ¼” Dens-Deck roof board data sheets:

Dens-Deck roof board features an inorganic glass mat embedded into a water-resistant treated gypsum core. The combination of glass mat surfacing and a treated core renders Dens-Deck roof board more resistant to delamination from water than paper-faced gypsum products. Comparative testing has demonstrated Dens-Deck roof board’s supremacy over such alternatives as perlite and fiberboard. Its engineered features make Dens-Deck roof board the obvious substrate for roofing membranes. Resists delamination, deterioration and warping, puncturing and other job site damage and resists rot.

Fire Protection: Because of its noncombustible core and surface, Dens-Deck roof board offers greater fire protection than other conventional products. Dens-Deck roof board, when tested to ASTM E 84, has achieved a rating of 0 flame spread and 0 smoke developed. Noncombustible when tested in accordance with ASTN E 136.

Properties of Dens-Deck: Noncombustible, Water Resistance, Dimensional Stability, Decay Resistance, Resistant to Warping, Rodent and Fungus Resistance, Torch Safe, High Compressive Strength.

Fire Classification: UL Class A, ULC S-102; UL 1256, ULC S-126; UL 790; ULC S-107.

Flame Spread/Smoke Developed:  per ASTME 84- 0

R-Value: as tested in accordance with ASTM C 518 (heat flow meter) -.28

Surface Water Absorption, grams: per ASTM C 473- 2.5

Mold & Mildew Resistance: per ASTM D 3273- No growth

The wallboard finishing includes applying joint compound and tape on the seams and painting the wall board. To blend the seams, mix some vermiculite into your paint.

You can purchase the building kit without the interior wall board. If you do not purchase the optional interior wall board, on site you can trowell either plaster or stucco directly to the E.P.S.

 If I am not ready to assemble my dome immediately, can it sit out outside? Yes, however if you expect to have your kit outside for more than two to three months, when you order request that the E.P.S. edges be painted. If your building kit will be stored outside longer than this or during winter conditions, tarp the panels.

What do the component panels weight?

Dome Diameters









Triangular (lbs)









Riser (lbs)









How are the panels supported during assembly? On the smaller domes 22', 27', 30' and 34' we recommend a "radial support" method to prop up the panels during the kit assembly. On the larger domes 36', 40', 45', 48' and 60' we recommend the use of the temporary "wooden rib system.". The rib system consists of your own 2x4's (cut and drilled to our specs) and steel hubs on loan from American Ingenuity to erect a free standing geodesic framework. The "Rib System" dictates the exact panel placement. Once all the seams and options have been concreted the "Rib System" is removed and recycled into the interior framing and the hubs returned to us. Click on Radial to learn more. Click on Rib to learn more.

How are the panels hoisted into place? And what equipment is attached to the panels to make lifting easier?

  • The typical method for lifting the panels is by crane.
  • Other lifting devices successfully employed by our dome owners include a boom added to a tractor, a block and tackle, transverse fork lift, a hoist fastened to the top of the rib system with wood ramps up the side of the dome.
  • Monthly rentals on transverse lifts also called Boom Lifts, Horizontal Boom Fork Lifts, Roofing Lifts, Shooters are available from National Rental Chains.
  • Panel Lifting Spikes are borrowed from American Ingenuity for a $100 deposit.  To learn more about the spikes click on Lifting Spikes.  Scroll down the page to find the spikes info.

How long does it take to assemble the dome shell kit if I use the Kit Assembly Consultant? Depending on the size dome, and if your building kit has two entryways and four dormers the shell assembly can take from 10 to 20 days. Click on Kit Assembly Consultant to learn more.


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