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Building Plans FAQ Print E-mail

Answers to American Ingenuity's Most Frequently Asked

Building Plans Questions

To view latest Building Plans Pricing, click on Plans Pricing.

Q: What items should I consider when planning to build an American Ingenuity geodesic dome?

A: Building departments can act slowly, Ai cannot stress enough the importance of starting your preparations early for all aspects of building. What you think may take two months can easily consume four or five months or more. To have any hope of beginning the actual construction on time you must at least double the time you think it will take to acquire blueprints, financing, building permits, contractors or subcontractors. Optimists should triple their expectations.

Once your land has been acquired, blueprints are usually the first step. Some Building Departments require that blueprints be sealed or approved by one of their state architects or engineers prior to giving permits, which takes additional time.  To learn more about purchasing land, click on Planning Process, General FAQs, Home Owner Associations. 

Mortgage lenders move slower than you may anticipate. Remember to allow time to have the land cleared, prepped and ready for the foundation. All permits pertaining to electrical, telephone, water, septic tanks, sewer hookups, driveway and building....will take time.

Also increased demand for American Ingenuity Dome Kits has forced us to assign shipping dates as much as twelve weeks in advance. If you intend to begin building in the summer start the process before the end of the prior year. Other expectant homeowners will be clogging the system by spring, so if you are the early bird they will be waiting behind you instead of vice versa.


  • Estimate costs (consider purchasing EZ Home Build's estimating program
  • Figure finances: go to our Home page and lay your mouse on "Building a Dome", then select "Financing" then click on each of the files to learn more. (Financing Booklet, Financing Overview, Dome Home Financing, Lay-a-Way, Financing FAQ, and Resale Value).
  • Decide on your floor plan:  AI has a 60 page stock floor plan booklet which is in the Planning Kit. If you do not see a stock plan that fits your needs, we will modify a stock plan or design a custom plan from your sketches for a reasonable price.   To view several files explaining about Floor Plans click on Plans.   The Planning Kit can be ordered from "Our Dome Store".
  • Order your Building Plans by calling our office or click on "Contact Us" and email us.



  • Obtain your septic tank permit or your sewer hookup.
  • Obtain your building permit.  To learn about this click on Building Permit.
  • Order your Dome Building Kit by signing and returning the Condition of Sale and Building Kit Order Form along with a 30% deposit check.


  • Do any site clearing.
  • Obtain your temporary electric hookup.
  • Construct your basement or pilings.  Click on Basement and Pilings to learn more.


  • Construct your foundation.  Click on Concrete Slab to learn more.
  • Take delivery of your Dome Building Kit.  Click on Shipping and Unloading the Kit to learn more. Remember your foundation does not need to be completed in order to take delivery of your building kit.  Assure you have a space cleared for the stacks of Building Panels.  The Kit can sit out waiting for your foundation or basement or pilings, etc. to be completed.  If the Kit will sit out a few months let us know and we will paint the edges of the E.P.S. plus you may need to tarp the kit....ask us to clarify.  Some boxed items should not get wet and the admixtures should not freeze.  All this is described in the Assembly Manual.

Q: How do we determine what size dome is best for my family?

  • First review our Stock Floor Plan Booklet (which is in our Planning Kit) to see how the area within a dome is used.
  • Then compare these sample floor plans with the rooms and square footages of houses you are familiar with by using the to-scale ruler in the back of the booklet (on tan paper).
  • Compare your finances and construction costs to avoid designing a project that is beyond a realistic budget.
  • Think about the future…will you need to increase or decrease?
  • If you had to move what size home would sell best?
  • We do 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' residential plans are custom and the kit requires two trucks for delivery.

Q: What size dome do I build if I do not want a second floor?
The 27' and 30' domes would be suitable for homes with only a first floor. Because of the shape of the dome a second floor is a natural.

If you choose to construct a larger dome and include the second floor, you can install an elevator or lift to access the second floor. Install an electric winch powered lift in a 4’x4’ area versus an elevator to get to the second floor. You could design all your living space and master bedroom and bath on the first floor and put a guest bedroom and bath on the second floor and use the rooms for guests or for storage.

Q: Can the dome be made handicap accessible?
A: Yes. All of the dome floor plans can be modified to be handicap accessible.  Click Handicap, Lifts/Chair Rails/Elevators, Useable Second Floor to learn more.

Q: How do I plan for expansion - the addition of another dome at a later date?
When designing your first dome, you can prepare for future expansion by placing an entryway or link at the location where you will later connect another dome. If we are providing you with customized plans we can design them for the future expansion. When you order your first dome we can provide instructions and materials that will make the connection easier.

Q: Can the domes have basements or be built upon stilts or pilings?
Yes. Any of our domes can be built upon a basement, stilts or pilings. You determine how many openings you want in the basement walls for garage doors or for windows and doors. And you determine if and how many of the basement sides you want bermed with dirt. Full basements are the same size and shape as the dome first floor. We have basement plans available that explain how the dome is attached to the basement, etc. for example rebars need to come out of the basement wall to connect into the dome riser walls, etc.

Also what do you use for floor joists? Wood, steel, manufactured trusses, whatever you prefer. How thick of a basement wall is required for the domes? Basement walls are usually 8" thick when made of poured concrete but will likely increase depending on the height of the basement wall and the height of the backfill.

A.I. can provide a design, which places the dome on stilts or concrete pilings. Sometimes we recommend an above ground basement with break away walls instead of pilings.

Bear in mind that building any structure upon stilts or pilings will increase the cost significantly and require you to climb a flight of stairs each time you go in the house. If in your location, it is a requirement then you have no other choice.

Q: Do you sell basement wall kits?
No. Since A.I. is the manufacturer of dome housing kits, we do not manufacture or build basement walls. Although we do design the basement building plans using premade wall panels, ICF or concrete block. You would need to contact a local subcontractor for basement construction costs and to find out what type basements are best built in your area.

Q: Can I have windows above doors in an entryway?
Yes. By using high profile entryways in your building plans, you can include glass or standard windows over a door, set of doors, or bank of conventional windows. The glass could be half moon shaped or be stained glass, etc. Any room with a cathedral ceiling, such as a foyer or living room, can benefit from this striking architectural feature.  Click on Building Options to learn more.

Q: Will l feel closed in, in the dome?
No. In our dome you can install an abundant number of windows and doors. Your budget and your floor plan selection determine the number of doors or windows you will have. There can be up to five entryways on the first floor of the 30’ through 60’ domes and you can have up to five window dormers or door dormers on the second floor of the 34’ through 48’ domes.

Remember on site, you or your framing subcontractor constructs a 2x4 wall under the entryways and dormers and installs the standard doors and windows that you purchase locally. For example under a 40' entryway you could have up to three French doors or a door and a picture window or a large picture window or 12' of sliding glass doors, etc. In other words on the first floor of a 40' dome you could have a maximum of five entryways with each one containing 12' of French doors.

We have a window and door specification sheet within this web site and in A.I.’s Planning Kit which lists the window and door call out numbers for each of A.I.’s domes.  Click on Window and Door Sizes to learn more.

Q: Do your Building Plans come with an Engineer's seal?
No. Although our Building Plans have been reviewed by over 30 different engineers, the plans do not come with an engineer's seal for the following reasons. Less than half of our dome owners need engineer sealed Building Plans to obtain a building permit and rather than adding the engineer cost to all plans it is more economical to have the plans sealed as needed. As the designer and manufacturer, we would not hesitate to guarantee the structural integrity of our dome and we do just that with our guarantee. Each state only accepts a seal from an engineer who is registered in that state which prevents us from applying any seal that would be universally accepted. When an engineer seals a set of plans he is taking responsibility for the structural design for a single dome in the location intended and the seal would not apply to other projects.  Click on Engineer Seal to learn more.

Q: What format do I email floor plan drawings to you?
You can email them if they are in the following format: jpeg format or bmp format (windows bit map). Or if you are using AutoCad, we can accept the documents in dxf format or dwg format. Remember you can fax (321-639-8778) the drawings to us. Remember to include your name, telephone number and the best time(s) to contact you.

Q: What programs can I use to read dxf format?
You can read and edit the dxf files if you have autocad program, any other computer aided drafting program, a photo editor program like adobe or paint shop. You can read the dxf files but not edit them using Microsoft word and power point. The web site has a computer aided drafting program that can be downloaded and used for free for 30 days.

You can use computer programs to draw your floor plans; although, we can use a hand drawn sketch that is faxed to us just as easily as a CAD drawing. We have to reenter all of your information into our system and we will likely agree upon some changes for your benefit.

Q: What is a cupola?
A Cupola is "sort of like a hat with windows that sits on top of the dome". When a person wants to have a third floor loft in the 40' or larger domes, the cupola adds about 2' of headroom to the top center of the dome. The top five pentagon panels rest upon 18" tall concrete "legs" that are built on site. Between the concrete "legs" framing is built to install rectangular windows that you purchase locally. See the floor planners in the Stock Floor Plan Booklet for loft heights and square footages.

The topside exterior of the five panels of the cupola and the underside exterior of the eave are prefinished, while the topside and edges of the eave are stuccoed onsite.

Cupolas are not necessary for ventilation and extra light. Domes do not need more light than conventional houses. If you build your dome without a cupola, we recommend installing a vent in an interior wall near the peak of your dome for ventilation. The electric fan vent has the added advantage of being easily controlled with a switch or timer.

The outline of the third floor loft matches that of the cupola. In wind areas you do not want the cupola windows to be more than two feet tall. Also taller cupolas just look out of proportion on the dome.

For an observatory on top of the dome, you would not need a cupola. The top or any part of the dome will easily support the weight of people. All that would be needed would be a railing around the top and someway to access the top of the dome, e.g. sculptured concrete steps.

Q: Why do the square footages on the Specifications Page differ from the square footages listed on the stock floor plans?
On the Specifications Page the first floor and second floor square footage listed is the maximum amount of square footage possible. The first floor square footage is maxed out because only one entryway is considered. The second floor square feet (sq.ft.) listed is what is possible if you built in the entire second floor. This means there would be no first floor high vaulted ceilings. The first floor ceiling height would then be 7 1/2' in the 30’ and 34' domes and 8' tall in the larger domes.

The first floor square footages on the stock floor plans varies from the Specifications Page because more than one entryway is installed. Each time another entryway is utilized on the first floor this will reduce the amount of total first floor square footage. In the stock floor plans the second floor square footage varies from the Specifications Page because some stock plans have one third of the second floor left open while others can have up to half of the second floor not installed. The second floor square footage on stock plans consists of all the illustrated second floor space to the knee wall. On site the second floor knee wall is built along the dome perimeter out 2x4's and covered with drywall to a height of two to three feet. AC ducting and second floor suspension rods can be hidden behind the knee wall. Electrical outlets can be placed on the knee wall.

Q: What is your Building Plan pricing for 2009?  To view the current pricing, click on Plans Pricing.

The blueprints typically provided with any type of housing and include floor plans, exterior elevations, dome shell section view, top view showing panel placement, floor joist framing plans, structural details, and locations of plumbing and electrical fixtures.

We only put a few of the stock plans on our web site. In the Planning Kit is a 60 page Stock Floor Plan Booklet that contains stock plans for the 22' thru 48' domes. All 60' dome plans are custom. If you do not see a plan that fits your lifestyle we can modify our stock plans or we design custom plans for a reasonable fee. To order the Planning Kit/Stock Floor Plan Booklet click on ORDER.

Building plans may be purchased with Master Card, Visa, Discover, check, or money orders. Plans are shipped UPS ground free of charge. Stock plans are shipped in 2 weeks. Allow at least 5 weeks for modified plans and 8 weeks for custom plans.

For assistance with your building departments, selecting subcontractors, etc. we know of a Pre-Construction Consultant. Click on Pre-Construction Consultant to learn more about this service.

If you do not have the time or do not want to assemble the dome shell kit, click on Kit Assembly Consultant to learn about this service. He will supervise your or your contractor's laborers and get the shell assembled.

Q: Can I purchase my Dome Building Plans for a lower cost than you publish?

A: No. Our business philosophy is to treat our clients equally. As a result we do not offer lower prices to one person and not another. Our building plans are very reasonable in price. As far as the building plans, if you went to a Florida engineer or architectural firm and asked them to design you building plans for a 2,000 sq.ft. house; they could charge $1.00 to $1.50 per sq.ft. So that would be $2,000 to $3,000. Our 40' stock plan price as of January 2006 is $653. If you do not see a stock plan that fits your lifestyle we can modify a stock plan or design a custom plan from your sketches. Depending upon your modifications, modified plans might be $900 and custom plans might be $1,200. Engineers and architectural firms have to make a profit because that is their only business. However our design department is not a profit center for us. We design plans as a service to our clients so that you obtain the correct floor plan to fit your lifestyle.

Q: Prior to purchasing Building Plans, what do I need to consider?

A: You need to assure you have answers to the following questions:

  1. Does the deed for your land have any restrictions on domes?
  2. If there is a Home Owners Association governing your land, you will need to check with them and make sure you can build a dome.
  3. What is required from your building department to obtain a building permit?
  4. Do you have your financing secured?
  5. If the answers to the above questions are positive then you can fax or email us your modified sketch.

Q: If I purchase Building Plans for one size dome and later change my mind, can I get a refund?

A: No we cannot issue a refund. We design Building Plans as a service to our clients, as a result there is no profit margin on the Building Plans. We cannot transfer the money spent on one set of completed plans to another.

Q: When should we purchase our dome building plans?

A: We recommend that our clients design their floor plan when they are about one year from building the dome. If you design your plan before then, you may see model homes or get ideas from other plans that may cause you to want to change your original floor plan ideas.

Q: When can I move into my dome?

A: If you have to obtain a building permit before you can build, then you have to submit a set of Building Plans. If you do not have to obtain a building permit then you can move into the dome once the shell is weather tight. But typically the building department will not allow you to live in the dome until the interior and exterior are finished per the building plans.

Q: I would like a free set of Building Plans to take to my building department to get preapproval before I purchase the actual Building Plans.

A: We have never heard of a set of plans being needed for preapproval. Sometimes we have provided our clients a document that shows the floor plan with the driveway, etc. marked.

Q: What are the contents of your Building Plans?

A: Stock sets generally have 10-14 pages per each set. Building plans include the basic drawings for the dome that are needed when acquiring a building permit. They are composed on our computer aided drafting system as stock plans, or based on your individual requirements and design. Some of the pages are a 3-D elevation and a 3-D perspective view. The Plans include:

    • A foundation plan for a concrete slab on grade
    • The floor plan and electrical plan
    • A full section plan
    • Elevations
    • Top view
    • A framing plan
    • Construction Details
    • Cupola plans if requested

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.

Q: Do your Building Plans include the electrical, plumbing and HVAC layouts?

A: No. We have found if these layouts are included, then the inspectors require the subcontractors to follow the diagrams when usually the subs like to do their own layouts. Ask you building department if these layouts are required for you to obtain a building permit. If are required, contact us and we will quote you a price to include these layouts.

Q: Why do you have to charge extra to modify your stock Building Plans?

A: Quite often our clients send us sketches....we need to convert those sketches to actual building plans for the following reasons. Some of the footer locations in the concrete slab foundation are based upon the location of the first floor load bearing walls which help support the second floor. Plus the dome riser panels set on a perimeter footer in the slab. Also parts of the second floor are suspended by rods into the dome shell. These rods are inserted and buried in the seam concrete during the shell assembly. So we need to design your floor plan per your sketch and then design the structural sheets that the slab person, shell assembler, framer, etc. need to follow. So yes you would pay us a fee for us to modify our stock plans per your sketch and produce sets of building plans.

Q: I understand that you can suspend parts of the second floor from the dome shell so we can have an open first floor plan. Is this true?

A: Yes, the second floor can be suspended from the dome shell and allow you to have as open a first floor as you desire. Keep in mind that it is more economical to occasionally use the first floor walls as supports. Long spans with floor joists will require more expensive materials to provide the strength for suspension rods that pass through the second floor.

Q: What is the cost to design metal framing in the Building Plans?

A: If the first floor of the dome is concrete then it is approximately $80 for us to design with steel studs and joists for the second floor. If the dome has a basement or raised first floor then it is an additional $80 to design basement studs and first floor joist with steel. The cost of metal framing is slightly higher than wood. You should only use metal framing if your subcontractor has worked with it before. Metal Framing is not more fire proof. In a fire it will deform quicker than wood. 

Q: If I would like more than the three sets of Building Plans, what is the additional cost?

A: If your Building Plans are for one dome then you would need additional sets that are "C" size. ”C” size (18” x 24”) cost $38 for the first set and then $20 per set thereafter, plus shipping. If your Building Plans were for two or more domes, then you would need "D" size plans. “D” size (34” x 36”) $50 for the first set and then $25 per set thereafter, plus shipping.

Q: Your stock Building Plans come with a concrete slab if I wanted to change that to a raised wood floor, is that possible and what is the cost?

A: Yes we can do that. To replace a concrete slab with raised wood floor and design the first floor joist call our office for pricing.

Q: How is the square footage determined in the Dome Plans?

A: Remember in a conventional house you have an attic that cannot be used. Because of the dome shape a second floor can be installed that is useable. So even if some square footage around the second floor perimeter cannot be used there is still more useable square footage in a dome than a conventional house.

  • Building Plans second floor square footage includes the area starting at five feet. The Tax Assessor uses these numbers, so taxes will be less.
  • The Second Floor Square Footage on the Price List includes the area starting at three feet.
  • The Second Floor Square Footage on the Stock Floor Plans includes the areas starting at three feet.

Q: I am concerned about having a second floor and using the stairs. What do you recommend?

A: Because of the shape of the dome a second floor is a natural. To access the second and third floors instead of an elevator, install an electric winch powered lift in a 4’x4’ area or an elevator to get to the second floor. Or you could use a stair railing chair. You could design all your living space and master bedroom and bath on the first floor and put a guest bedroom and bath on the second floor and use the rooms for guests or for storage.

Q: I understand that very few of your clients ever sell their dome. As a result the dome ends up becoming a retirement home, should I make it handicap accessible?

A: Yes. It is a easy modification to the plans to make the entire downstairs area wheelchair accessible, (32" doorways minimum, handicap accessible shower stall, etc.).

Any of the small domes could be built without a second floor. It would not be cost effective to build a dome and not install and use the second floor rooms. Because of the natural shape of the dome, a second floor is a natural. To access the second floor you could install a lift instead of an elevator. Your contractor would install an electric winch powered lift or elevator or stair rail chair. This way you can easily access the second floor rooms.

Q: How are two domes joined together and should I plan extensions onto my Entryways?

A: If you are planning a complex of domes, the plans are joined at entryways to form a link. The link will vary in width according to the size of the domes' entryways and can vary in length from 2 feet to 10 feet.

While many companies offer the alternatives of large links and room extensions to the dome, American Ingenuity feels they are not in your best interest. Among the reasons:

  1. When floor space is increased using an extension or link, the exposed surface area is greater than for the square footage within a dome. This results in less energy efficiency and a higher cost per square foot.
  2. Construction is more involved and time consuming
  3. The overall scale, relationship between elements and proportion of the home are adversely affected.
  4. The visual impact of the design is lessened.
  5. Good chance of leaking where the extension long flat roof butts into the dome shell. The expansion and the contraction associated with temperature changes produces the flex or separation at the link. We have considered expansion joints but they are not trouble free either. We have concluded the adding of spandex cloth at the seams covered with elastomeric paint. Once or twice a year apply a couple of thick coats of elastomeric paint to the problem area is the best solution. The fall is the most likely problem time.

We recommend simply moving up to the next larger size dome or arranging your space differently to increase the efficiency of your design. It will save time, energy and money.

Q: What do your building plan names mean?

A: The first two numbers are the dome diameter in feet, the next word is a Greek word (Omega, Alpha, Delta) and then we use two numbers (21, 22, etc) to complete the name.


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