Alternative Housing Technology

Geodesic Dome Building Overview

The American Ingenuity geodesic dome shell kit is designed with unique and practical materials. We developed simplified, effective construction techniques, invented a component panel and created a home which offers the ultimate in energy efficiency and practicality. We have been in business, with the same owner, over 25 years and we have domes in 44 states.

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 you acquire a building permit. The plans 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.

The following is a quick overview of our kit contents and our building process to give you an idea of what is is required and how time-wise building an American Ingenuity dome can be prior to the purchase of your personal dome. When you purchase a dome shell kit from us, the full "Assembly Manual" is included and is much more extensive and precise.

Over one half of our clients assembly their kit, many with no construction experience. The Component Panels, Building Plans and Assembly Manual come marked with numbers and letters. If you do not have the time or do not want to assemble the dome kit, we know of independent subcontractors that travel around the country assembling the dome shell using your or your contractor's laborers.

The American Ingenuity dome building kit includes one entryway and all the panels to assemble the dome shell. The dome shell kit package includes Triangular Panels, 4' Riser Wall Panels, Entryway Panels, Galvanized Steel Mesh, Concrete Fibers, Two Concrete Admixtures, Reinforcing Tension Wire, Concrete Bonding Agent, Connecting C-Rings, C-Ring Pliers, Assembly Manual, Accessory Package.

For freedom and flexibility of design, you can select additional building kit options which are determined by your choice of floor plan. The options include: additional Entryway Panels (garage, high profile, or standard), Window Dormer Panels (first floor and or second floor), Door Dormer Panels (first floor and or second floor), Skylight Panels, Cupola Panels, R-36 Insulation and Interior Board. Within the entryways and dormers, on site you build a vertical wall to install your doors and windows. No interior items are included in the kit. We believe you should not pay shipping on items you can purchase locally such as; plumbing, electrical, framing, flooring, kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixtures, stairs, fireplaces, windows, doors, etc.

The basic building process consists of placing the preconcreted, insulated panels, overlapping and interlocking the steel mesh and concreting the seams and options. You do not concrete the entire dome exterior. Only the panel seams and the building kit options are concreted on site.

Entryway panels utilize 3 1/2" E.P.S., are preconcreted on the underside surface and have a precast trough on the outer edge. You place rebar into the trough, fill the trough with concrete and concrete the outside surface.

Window and door dormer panels consist of 3 1/2" E.P.S. wrapped with steel mesh ready for on site stucco. The openings under the entryways and dormers are framed in on the site to fit your choice of standard windows and doors that you purchase locally.

Non-opening skylights are preinstalled in triangular component panels. A skylight consists of two pieces of ¼" thick tempered safety glass (like car side window glass) about 46"h x 50"w with ½" air space. Desican is installed between the two pieces of glass to keep "sweating" down. Gas between pieces of glass does not stop sweating. The skylight provides over 8 square feet of glass. We put together the glass panels at our factory. A triangular hole is cast in the component panel where the skylight sits on a ledge. Aluminum strips, stainless steel screws and black weather stripping are used to install the skylight. Skylight panels are factory installed but are shipped unseated unless specifically requested by the owner. The skylights can be removed by removing the aluminum strips, screws, etc. The skylights are available in Clear, Low E (reflects radiant heat), or Reflective.

The interior board option consists of 1/4" Georgia Pacific Dens Glass Mat Gypsum adhered to the E.P.S. insulation of each component panel with urethane adhesive. This advanced gypsum board is resistant to mildew and water.

Once your kit is assembled and if you purchased the interior board option, the board on the interior of the dome shell is ready to be finished almost identically to the method drywall board seams are finished. There will be a 1/2" gap between the panels that allows you to insert electrical wiring without cutting the interior board. This 1/2" gap is filled with a nonshrinking joint compound like "Gold Bond Pro Form". Then those seams and the other interior shell seams are finished with typical joint compound and fiberglass joint tape. Applying a textured paint will likely hide the board seams and complete the dome shell interior.

If you did not purchase the optional interior board you can trowell plaster or stucco directly to the rigid E.P.S. interior dome shell surface. Or you can glue drywall board directly to the E.P.S. insulation.

The interior framing of the dome is built much like conventional housing and can be either wood or metal. Some of the second floor can be hung from the dome concreted seams by suspension rods allowing for very "open" first floor plan designs. The American Ingenuity dome is capable of supporting a large amount of weight, including the 2nd floor, from the concrete dome shell. This weight is suspended by threaded steel rods which anchor into the concrete seams and extend vertically down into the dome. Over 3,000 lbs. can be supported by a 5/8" threaded rod suspended in one of the concrete seams. The location of the suspension rods is determined by your floor plan selection. The Building Plans will show the suspension rod's positioning. The suspension rod with nut sets on a 3"x 7" steel plate, which is embedded in the concrete seam. The seam is reinforced with #4 rebar & two layers of galvanized steel mesh. The second floor can support at least 40 pounds per square foot, the same as other houses. We can easily design for a more demanding second floor load such as for waterbeds, whirlpool tubs, spas, libraries, etc.

Almost all of the electrical and plumbing will be contained in the interior frame walls and installed in the same manner as conventional housing. To install electrical wiring in the exterior dome walls: simply cut a groove in the E.P.S insulation and insert the wire. To install electrical boxes, conduit or plumbing pipes: cut the E.P.S. insulation slightly larger than needed, insert the box or pipe and fill in the opening with spray expanding foam. The spray foam will harden in about ½ an hour, holding the box or pipe secure.

"It is a terrific thing to get a building built that has the qualities of greatness in it."

-Frank Lloyd Wright

Click on any picture for a full size view.

Foundation with Road Mesh and 6 mil Vapor Barrier
Pouring the Foundation

Your dome can be built on your choice of foundation including: concrete slab, raised, stem wall or pier foundation, full or partial basement, stilts or pilings. Because of the reduced surface area of a dome and its thin shell construction, our domes weigh less than the average house, but are remarkably stronger. American Ingenuity domes are considerably lighter than a concrete block house. A finished 27' dome shell weights about 25,000 lbs.; a finished 48' in diameter dome weights about 42,000 lbs.

You do not have to build the dome on a certain soil type. Sand or rock are the easiest to build on and clay may be the most troublesome as it expands when wet. If your neighbors needed a soil sample before they could build their conventional house then you may need it too. Or if you feel something abnormal, ask your builder or neighbors. 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's engineer.

Your dome 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. What is unusual about the foundation is the shape and rebars are designed to come out of the foundation and be concreted into the dome riser wall seams. Always use a vapor barrier with your slab of 6 mil. plastic sheeting and 6" x 6" steel mesh.

Truck Departing with Kit
Rib System Being Assembled

The above photo shows a building kit loaded onto a semi truck ready for shipment to the client. The domes behind the truck are two of our factory domes, a 48' and a 45' with the 60' dome not pictured.

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 40', 45', 48' and 60' we recommend the use of the temporary "wooden rib system" which is illustrated by the photo on the right. 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 FAQ at the bottom of each web site page to see more information about the "Rib System".

Panels Placed on Rib System
Door Dormer Being Set

The panel assembly process begins with positioning of the four foot high riser panels on the floor, aligning them with the rib system. The riser panels do not need expanding foam under them or any other sealant. Plumb the risers and fill any gaps between them with E.P.S. insulation wedges or expanding foam. Then overlap the steel mesh from adjoining riser panels, interlock the mesh with C-rings every 8" and apply the first coat of special formulated concrete.

The panel concrete is a special formulation containing synthetic fibers and liquid admixtures. We ship these same fibers and admixtures with your building kit. 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, 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 Concrete Mix recipe for your seam concrete includes 5 gal of water, 1 bag Portland Cement (type 1 or 111), 2 oz. Admixture A, 5 oz Admixture B, ¼ large bag fibers, 20 gal. Sand (any sand normally used in either concrete or masonry).

Forklift Setting a Panel
Setting a Panel
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 framework with wood ramps up the side of the dome, etc. Monthly rentals on transverse lifts also called Boom Lifts, Horizontal Boom Fork Lifts, Roofing Lifts, Shooters are available from National Rental Chains.
Rolling Scaffold
Rolling Scaffold
Here are some examples of a rolling scaffold being used to hoist and place panels. It is made from rented steel scaffolds with caster wheels. A boom made of 2x8 lumber is attached at the top and a hand crank boat winch pulls the lifting rope through pulleys and down to ground level. The wheels allow the panel to be rolled into place.
Rolling Scaffold
Rolling Scaffold
These photos illustrate the use of scaffolds on the exterior for filling and finishing seams and concreting the options. You install the panels and trowell concrete into the seams half way. Up to two rows of panels can be installed and seams concreted at one time.
Exterior Scaffold
Unfinished Seams
This first photo illustrates exterior planking to allow for easier concrete work. The seams above are unfinished. To finish the seams, start at the top of the dome and work down. This will allow you to practice on easier seams and ones that are less visible and any spills will not be on finished work. The concrete seams are usually finished in one of three styles: Straight: The most time consuming, the most attractive at highlighting the geometry and well worth the extra effort. Flat: The quickest, the least cost and least labor intensive. Rounded: requires the most skill to be consistent but like the flat seam it can be completed with two coats. Finally a sponge is used to rub the seam concrete to produce a "sponge finish". This allows the seam finish to match the panel "sponge finish" texture.
Interior Scaffold
Beginning Framing
Additional supports under the steel hubs are required to hold the weight until all the seams and options are concreted. Then the extra supports and temporary wooden rib system are removed. The dome shell is self supporting. Interior walls and second floor joists are conventionally built.
Interior Showing a Suspension Rod
Interior Plaster Being Applied
This photo illustrates a conventional interior wall covered with drywall. If the inside of the dome shell will be plastered, it is best to install all the framing and drywall first and plaster up to the drywall. If the inside of the dome shell will be covered with drywall, it is best to do the framing after the shell is drywalled. This subcontractor is applying fiber reinforced stucco directly to the E.P.S. insulation. On site the opening under the entryway was 2x4 framed and insulated with E.P.S..
Concrete Finish Being Textured
Complete and Ready for Cleaning Prior to Painting
An owner/builder is finishing her concreted seams with a sponge. The seam sponge finish matches the panel texture.
A finished dome prior to painting. This is a 34' dome home connected to a 22' dome one car garage. The high profile entryway was framed in to accept two windows, a door and fixed glass above the door and windows.
Unpainted Concrete Dome
Paint Being Applied
A 40' dome before painting.
During painting using a latex house paint.
The Finished Product!
Some finished Concrete Domes
The above dome is a 34' in diameter built on a full basement. Behind the deck railing is a standard entryway that was framed in on site to accept a door and window. This dome was painted a blue grey; however, you can paint your dome any color tan or moss green, etc.
Another finished American Ingenuity dome. The dome on the left has a standard entryway framed in to accept six small windows. The wall under the second floor dormer contains two small windows. And the cupola on top was framed in to accept five opening windows.

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The GEO POD - Utility Dome


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