A geodesic dome is a hemispherical, thin-shell structure based on the shape of a geodesic polyhedron. The triangular elements used to construct the dome are structurally rigid. They are able to distribute the structural strength of the building throughout the construction making geodesic domes able to withstand very heavy loads for their size. Domes are stronger, lighter, and quicker to build than traditional buildings and are an efficient architectural design. It encloses a large amount of space created using minimal materials, labor, and energy.
Creating a dome begins with the use of triangles. When many triangles are connected to form the shell of the dome they translate to tremendous strength. This makes them self-supporting thus eliminating the need for supporting structures. The tremendous strength created is a result of triangles distributing strength evenly across the entire structure.
Domes are very strong structures that are good at spreading weight evenly in all directions so that no part of the dome has to support more weight than any other part. Domes are curved structures and they have no angles and no corners. They enclose an enormous amount of space without the help of a single column. Despite their thinness, domes are some of the strongest and stiffest structures in existence.
The American Institute of Architects calls the geodesic dome “the strongest, lightest and most efficient means of enclosing space known to man.” Geodesic domes enclose the most amount of area with the least amount of material. They are self-supporting superstructures that incorporate the two strongest building forms-triangles and spheres.
Domes are extremely strong and very durable. The average building life is measured in decades but the monolithic dome can be measured in centuries. They are fire, water, and wind-resistant which makes them impervious to hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and other natural disasters.
The geodesic dome was developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect, R. Buckminster Fuller. A geodesic dome may be supported by light walls, but other than larger domes it can be set directly on the ground as a complete structure. A large geodesic dome was used to house the United States exhibit in the 1967 Montreal Expo. Among the dome’s many design applications are sports arenas, theatres, greenhouses, and exhibit halls.
Domes are true examples of “doing more with less.” A dome encloses the largest volume of interior space with the least amount of surface area, thus saving on materials and cost. Since a dome is a free-standing structure, air and energy circulate without obstruction enabling natural heating and cooling.
The dome is energy efficient for many reasons. Here are a few:
- Its decreased surface area requires fewer building materials.
- The concave interior creates a natural airflow that allows the hot or cool air to flow evenly throughout the dome with the help of return air ducts.
- Exposure to cold in the winter and heat in the summer is decreased because, being spherical, there is the least surface area per unity of volume per structure.
- Extreme wind turbulence is lessened because the winds that contribute to heat loss flow smoothly around the dome.
- The dome acts as a type of giant down-pointing headlight reflector and reflects and concentrates interior heat. This helps prevent radiant heat loss.
- The net annual energy savings for a dome owner is 30% less than a normal rectilinear home. This is quite an improvement and helps save the environment from wasted energy.
- Geodesic domes are designed to withstand high winds and extreme temperatures.
Many dome manufacturers of Geodesic domes offer various designs that can be constructed with little assembly time. Some can be assembled in less than one day while others can take up to six months. Some domes come in kits that you can build yourself or with the help of friends. There are many options to choose from depending on how complex you want the design to be. A few manufacturers of domes are:
- Gardenigloo USA
- Pacific Domes Incorporated
- New Age Construction Company
The world of living, working, and playing inside a dome is upon us. In the very near future, we will be accustomed to this large expansive space as our very own. Visit a geodesic dome today and see what your housing future may look like!