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And the American Ingenuity Dome

Back in 1976 the inventor of the American Ingenuity component panel, Michael Busick, knew he wanted to use timeless building materials instead of materials that deteriorate over time like wood 2x4’s, plywood, shingles and fiberglass insulation. He chose instead to use steel reinforced concrete and expanded bead polystyrene insulation. Michael knew he did not want to use wood because of termites and did not want to use shingles due to hurricanes. In today’s time this is called “Green Building.”

In a conventional house made out of wood it is difficult enough to get all the wood pieces to fit. It is especially difficult to get all the wood pieces to fit for a geodesic dome due to the angles and dimension changes. That is why the founder of American Ingenuity knew there had to be a better way to build a geodesic dome. He took the time to invent a component panel and receive a patent on it. Each panel is cut at a computer-generated angle so that it fits flush with the adjacent panel. The edges are beveled at the seams where steel and concrete unite to complete the structure. Ai tries hard to assure the panels accuracy. But if there is a problem, it can be adjusted easier than in a wooden dome or conventionally built stick house.

Because of our choice of dome building materials, Ai has found its kit to be very forgiving. The E.P.S insulation can be cut with a knife so some of the insulation can be removed easily if need be. During shipment if some of the insulation is broken, it can be glued back on with expanding foam or pieces of scrap foam (that we ship with the kit) can be used to fill the gap. Concrete can fill and cover whatever you need it to.

It is far more practical to build a dome with concrete than wood. Once the component panels are assembled, the component panel provides the structure, the exterior finish, the insulation and the interior shell finish.

What does the Ai component panel consist of?

Concrete: The panel concrete is a special formulation containing synthetic fibers and liquid admixtures. The following is why we ship synthetic fibers with our Building Kit. Fibers in concrete work to reduce the formation of shrinkage and cracks in concrete’s plastic state while helping to improve shatter resistance and reduce water migration. The result: tougher 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 concrete adheres directly to the steel mesh and E.P.S without the need of a bonding agent. The panel concrete is 5/8” to ¾” thick.

Steel: A one-inch grid, galvanized steel wire mesh is encased in the ½” to ¾” concrete of each component panel. As your dome is assembled the mesh of each panel overlaps and is hooked to that of the adjacent panels - resulting in your home being completely encircled by steel mesh.

E.P.S. 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 one 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 (CFC) and formaldehyde free. Ai'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.  To read our most frequently asked Energy Questions and their Answers, click on Energy FAQ.

Interior Finish: It consists of Georgia Pacific ¼” Dens-Deck Roof Board adhered to the E.P.S. with nonsolvent latex adhesive. It 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.

What is the routine exterior maintenance on an A.I. Dome?

Painting is the only routine exterior maintenance….there is no wood in or on the shell to rot, to be eaten by termites or to burn. After the final coat of seam concrete, Ai recommends a coat of a good quality concrete primer followed by two coats of good quality latex paint. Use a latex paint that has a satin finish which is a finish in between flat and semi gloss.  Prior to painting, the dome is sprayed with a solution of bleach and water to kill mold, then the dome is pressue washed.

Your dome can be painted in any of a thousand colors. It is preferable to use a light to medium color to assist in sunlight reflection. Dark colors absorb more heat and create more thermal expansion where the sun is shining.

Purchase aluminum or copper and put in your paint to stop mildew.

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 Ai 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. The paint includes a concrete primer and two coats of good quality latex paint.

You do not use an elastomeric paint because water vapor escapes from the inside of the dome to the outside.  The vapor can condense into water and cause a bubble under the paint. 

How often should the Dome be repainted?

Typically the dome is repainted every 4-5 years, depending on your personal preference. If you rub your hand on the paint and remove any “chalk” then it is time to pressure wash and paint the dome. The dome can be painted using a sprayer or the sides of the dome can be painted using an extension ladder and paint roller on a pole. Yes you can walk on any of the domes. If you do not have a cupola you would want to install an eye bolt in the top of the dome to tie a rope through. To paint the top of the dome, you or your workers can stand on the dome with the rope tied to themself or the harness they are sitting in.  Because of the reduced surface area and lack of trim, Ai's smaller domes can be painted by one person in one to two days.

What if I get a leak in the dome?

Certain steps must be followed during the assembly of your dome kit to assure your concrete mix is correct and that your on site seam concrete bonds. First, follow the recipe in the Assembly Manual which describes the adding of the synthetic fibers and liquid admixtures (provided with the kit) as your onsite concrete is mixed.  Second apply the bonding agent (supplied with your kit) to the first coat of seam cement before the second coat is added to get a proper bond between the two coats of cement.

Usually it is easier to repair a leak in our concrete dome than it is to make a repair in a shingled roof. Generally caulking or painting is all it takes to seal the dome but stopping a leak in shingles usually requires removing the shingles and starting over. Use a urethane or latex caulk NOT a silicone caulk.

Although most of the concrete joints will not leak, we don’t depend on the concrete to make the dome watertight. The dome gets additional sealing with a concrete primer and latex house paint. After the shell is assembled, a concrete primer is used first then two coats of good quality latex paint. Any porous area that water will penetrate; paint will also soak into and seal. If a leak persists you can resort to an elastomeric paint in that area or in the very worst case, a stretch cloth and elastomeric paint.

Another coat of something rigid like pea gravel, rock, etc. should not be applied to the exterior dome. The rigid substance will not be flexible to take the expansion and contraction that the dome experiences with temperature changes. The component panel concrete and the concrete mixture mixed on site for the seams is a special mix.

How much paint is required for each coat?

Based on 150 sq.ft. per gallon of coverage for each coat applied:

Dome Size
Exterior Surface
Gallons of Paint

Take the Exterior Surface Area and divide by 150 to determine an approximate number of gallons for each coat of paint for each size dome. Yes, the exterior surface is just the cement surface itself, and does not include the dormers. For each entryway add 220 sq.ft. for each window dormer add 30 sq. ft. for each door dormer add 50 sq.ft.

The following info came from the web site

Today, studies show that people are more concerned about the environment than most issues that face us.  A number of environmental trends in the building industry have evolved in the last several years, including the "green build" concept. This concept employs building methods and materials that are ecologically responsible.

Masonry products play a significant role in "green build" concepts because they are natural products that do not deplete limited precious resources like timber. Other than helping to save our forests, masonry also contributes to a healthier home for its inhabitants. Masonry helps to make homes allergy resistant by creating near air-tight homes. Homes built with masonry are also quieter and help reduce or eliminate the build up of mold and fungus between interior and exterior walls. Mold, mildew and fungus problems result in an unhealthy home. Studies show that these problems contribute to chronic fatigue syndrome, throat infections and can worsen asthma conditions.

The philosophy behind "green building" or earth-friendly building is that today's decisions should not be at the expense of future generations, while utilizing local resources with a minimum environmental impact.

Building with masonry is a timeless art form that goes back to the great Egyptian pyramids, Greek temples and Roman cities. Many of those structures are still standing today! Masonry has always been the choice for enduring, natural beauty. In modern times, masonry has been the choice for residences because of the strength and durability of masonry.

Part of the reason is value offered to the homebuyer. Another reason is that many builders are turning to environmentally responsible (earth-friendly) building methods, and masonry products play a large role in "green build" or
earth-friendly concepts.

Building with masonry offers a number of benefits for the homeowner including protection, low maintenance living, savings and value.

Fire Resistant - Non-combustible materials

Weather Resistant - Exterior Walls that will hold up to heavy storms, U.V. degradation, blistering heat, and sub-zero temperatures."

Termite Resistant - Exterior walls made of masonry means there's no wood to eat!

Protection from Rotting, Mold and Fungus - With no exterior wood on the walls, there is nothing to rot and masonry plays a large role in significantly reducing or eliminating the build-up of fungus and mildew between interior and exterior walls. Such problems have been known to contribute to health aliments including chronic fatigue, asthma and throat infections. Clearly, masonry homes are healthier for its inhabitants. Masonry homes are also nearly air-tight, making them allergy resistant as well.

Superior Sound Proofing - Masonry blocks out noise better than traditional building materials, resulting in a quieter home environment.

Virtually Maintenance Free - When used in its natural form, masonry provides lasting beauty that requires considerably less maintenance than other building materials.

Lower Utility Bills - Concrete block, combined with 'thermal mass' insulation systems, stores more energy, meaning it stays warmer in winter and cooler in summer, reducing electric consumption, therefore lower utility bills.

Lower Insurance Premiums - Because masonry provides higher levels of security, fire and termite protection, and does a better job of weathering the storm, many insurance companies offer up to 15% discounts on homeowner's policies.

Environmentally-Friendly "Green" Products - Masonry products play a large role in ecologically responsible building methods and is recognized by government programs as a contributor to green building status. In many cases, building within "green built" guidelines results in impact fee, tax breaks and permit fee savings for the homebuilder. Masonry products are earth-friendly because they do not deplete precious natural and limited resources like timber.

Increased Resale Appeal - There's a widely-held opinion, supported by studies, that masonry homes offer a greater resale value than other forms of construction. Key reasons are the fact that masonry homes are high quality, low maintenance homes.


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