What It Costs, Part 1

Build site — Flat, open land with easy access means the easiest construction.

Estimating the cost of a house is tricky because houses have so many parts. Industry averages aren’t a substitute for a specific estimate for a specific plan, but they help to show trends and tendencies.

Finding the Finish Line

Natural balance — Water, plants, and wood structures balance the hard dome

Allocate sufficient time and budget to finish the entire house before taking a break. The results are worth the extra effort.

Just Chillin’

Chris Zweifel shows how an Airform and some cleverness make a one-of-a-kind winter dome.

The Current State of Solar

I’ve discussed solar electric with numerous clients over the years, so I figured it would be instructive to go through the process myself. Most of those clients considered solar in the context of living off-grid, totally separating themselves from the power company. In almost all cases it was prohibitively expensive because of the size of the solar arrays and storage needed to fulfill 100% of power needs.

Design Blog

Monolithic welcomes and encourages the ideas of architects and designers. We have found those design ideas, for both privately and publicly owned Monolithic Domes, as varied as the professionals who authored them. This blog presents such innovative thinking, as well as design-related articles of general interest.

Buckling Analysis of Reinforced Concrete Domes—Excel Spreadsheet

Safe Harbor — The Elkins built this 4000 square foot, luxury reinforced concrete Monolithic Dome in Florida and named it Safe Harbor.

The first factor Kollar and Dulacska considers is that the materials of shells are elastic at most only up to a certain limit; after this they become plastic (“physical nonlinearity”). Due to the intricacy of shell-buckling problems, only a few attempts have been made to assess theoretically the effects of plastic behaviour. Hence, they use a simple approximate method that corrects the results of elastic stability theory by taking the effects of plastic behaviour of the material into account.

A Classic Dome Project

Shotcrete Classics – Shotcrete Magazine Spring 2009 Feature

Chris Zynda is the current president of the American Shotcrete Association and a regular contributor to the organization’s quarterly publication, Shotcrete Magazine. In the Spring 2009 issue, he turned to his archive to select a project to feature in the “Shotcrete Classics” section of the magazine. His choice was White Memorial Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, a dome church with a 35,000-square foot sanctuary that seats 2,000, an adjoining chapel that seats 250, and a 10,000-square-foot classroom wing that connects the two buildings.

A Monolithic Dome’s Two Batteries

For a very long time we have known, planned around and used the thermal inertia of the Monolithic Dome. We call that thermal inertia the thermal battery. Why battery? Because significant savings in heating and cooling equipment can be achieved if you can trim the highs and lows by using the battery.

Three Easy Ways To Keep Your Home Comfortable

While they certainly are not a cure-all for skyrocketing utility expenses, there are three simple and easy but effective things you can do that should help keep your home comfortable and your costs down.

Risky Business: Hiring an Architect

While clients often see architects as a necessary evil, I don’t. The reality is that architects are necessary. But as in any profession, there are the good, the bad and the ugly, or architects who are talented, honest and reliable and their opposites.

Concrete and Steel: Complementary Opposites

Like the opposing ends of a teeter-totter, concrete and steel – two main ingredients of a Monolithic Dome – complement and contradict each other, all at the same time. In a Monolithic Dome, concrete and steel complement each other by working together to give the dome its strength, durability and longevity.

The History of Thin-Shells and Monolithic Domes

Figure 3 — Hershey Arena Under Construction

In the history of thin-shell structures, four of the major influences are: Anton Tedesko (1903-1994), who is attributed with much of the success of thin-shell structures in the U.S; Pier Luigi Nervi (1891-1979), who in Italy gave structural integrity to the complex curves and geometry of reinforced-concrete structures such as the Orbetello aircraft hangar (begun 1938) and Turin’s exposition hall (1948-50); and the Spaniard Eduardo Torroja (1891-1961) and his pupil Felix Candela (1910-1997) who followed his lead. Essentially, each of the latter three attempted to create an umbrella roof the interior space of which could be subdivided as required, such as Torroja’s grandstand for the Zarzuela racetrack in Madrid (1935) (Archpedia.com, 9/7/05).

Radius of Curvature

Figure 1 — Comparison of Radii of Curvature showing small radius with high curvature vs large radius with low curvature.

The Radius of Curvature is a number that is used to determine the “flatness” of a dome. In essence, the radius of curvature tells us how curved a curve is. The larger the dome, the less curve, the flatter the concrete.

Will Lightning Affect a Dome?

According to the experts, when lightning strikes a Monolithic Dome the electricty will travel to the rebar and dissipate into the footing. Lightning rods are used in conventional homes to prevent the lightning from traveling through the highly resistive wood of the home and starting a fire. They are unnecessary in a Monolithic Dome. The structure is already grounded.

Vapor Drive

Water vapor molecules (or water in its gas form) try to evenly spread themselves. If one side of a room is full of water vapor molecules, the molecules will move to the other side until the room is evenly populated. In a room, this phenomenon is easily understood. It’s a little more complicated in the real world.

Engineering Blogs

Articles, thoughts, anecdotes, innovations, explanations, reflections, ideas, interesting stories, pictures, and movies from the engineer’s aspect.

Construction Management

Generally, construction management has three objectives: to allow the customer to control the project and its cost; to provide the customer with knowledgeable advice; to do the day-to-day coordination for the customer using professional administrative techniques. Monolithic Construction Management adheres to those objectives and adds a few more.

From Toothpicks to Trailblazing— The Birth of The Monolithic Dome

David South built his first dome out of toothpicks. But then, he was just a rural Idaho high school kid, burning with youthful enthusiasm, sparked by a Buckminster Fuller speech. David didn’t foresee just building domes; he envisioned building huge domes. “I knew there had to be a way to construct really big domes,” David says. “I saw them as super-size, igloolike structures for commercial use.”

Our Business Friends

We have a lot of business friends. These are people who, over the years, have influenced our lives and have become our friends. Many have their own businesses, located in various parts of the world and including an entire spectrum of interests.

Major Survivability Concerns in Arkansas: An Ongoing Story

Terry Gray, State Hazard Mitigation Officer and Mitigation Branch Chief for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) sent an email to more than a dozen State and/or education administrators in Arkansas and to David B. South, president of Monolithic. In it, Mr. Gray explained that during the past six years his department oversaw more than $50,000,000 in grant programs that funded more than 80 community safe rooms, mostly in schools. The email ended with an invitation to an in-depth discussion of disaster survivability, that included a presentation by David B. South — the only invited guest speaker.

Homeless Housing: Monolithic Cabins

Homeless — All across America there is a huge need for housing for the homeless.
  www.bobhenryphotography.co.uk

Housing for the homeless is a complex problem with no ready-made, easy answer. But despite its complexity, it deserves our attention and consideration. The Monolithic Cabin certainly fits into the category of practical, worthwhile, helpful solutions for our country’s homeless.

Carbon Dioxide Monitoring

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) monitoring is not a new concept, but it’s proving to be a tough one to handle. It has to do with the amount of fresh air in a structure.
Most of us have heard of sick buildings. When the air in a building gets polluted with vapors that can be or are harmful to us, the result is a sick building.

Hazard Amnesia — Failure to prepare for the next disaster

Just after a disaster, many people and officials in a ravaged community resolve to do whatever it will take to protect themselves from future losses. Unfortunately, that resolve usually doesn’t last. It’s replaced by something the experts at FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) call hazard amnesia.

Why We Need Io-20 Residence Inns

Nickel and Dimed — Best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich details one of America’s primary problems: housing for low-income wage earners.

We are finding that an Io-20 even when rented at an affordable, fair price will turn a profit for the owner. Conclusion: It is possible to provide drastically needed housing and make money at the same time. That’s a win-win!

A Need for Petite Housing

Secret Garden — Dome rentals located in a downtown area.

I have been contacted by various cities about building little rental units as part of the answer to affordable housing in their areas. Many city administrators now acknowledge that their towns lack affordable housing for those who work and live on the lower end of the pay scale. Those same areas often lack affordable housing for seniors, the physically and mentally challenged, and others.

Wind, Water, Corrosion and Monolithic Domes

Eye of the Storm — View of “Eye of the Storm” dome home from the beach on Sullivans Island, SC. The “Eye of the Storm” is much more than a pretty house, it also demonstrates the practical aspects of a Monolithic Dome on beach front property.

Building a beach front home offers a few extra challenges such as wind, water, erosion, flying debris and corrosion. A Monolithic Dome home successfully meets each of these challenges.

Same Dome, Different Climates

Xanadu Island Resort — Below these thatched roofs lie the Monolithic Domes which provide accomodations for the Xanadu Island Resort.

Compared to other types of structures, the interior temperature of a Monolithic Dome can be more easily and economically maintained. That makes it one of the best structures you can build in either very hot or very cold climates. Monolithic Domes work extremely well in either condition.

Monolithic Domes Help Pass School Bonds

To date, of all the school bonds voted on which proposed a Monolithic Dome facility, all but one have passed. We think there is a direct correlation between presenting a Monolithic Dome as part of the proposal for the bond and successfully passing the bond… and here’s why: First and foremost, board members, parents, teachers and community members are concerned about the safety of their children, especially if the community lies in tornado and hurricane prone areas of the country.

R-Value: Effective 100!

We have had our Monolithic Domes checked by professional engineers to calculate the actual heat loss through the structure. This is done by having a measurement of the amount of heating and/or cooling inputs into the building, matching the inputs with the degree days from local weather conditions, and calculating the R-value that must be in place to make the equation balance. In every case, we got an R-value in excess of 80 and generally over 100.

’Round To It

This blog welcomes and includes contributions by all Monolithic Dome enthusiasts, as well as illustrated articles that feature interviews we have done with various experts. It also includes fun videos. Best of all, the blog includes a special section in which owners can post information and pictures of a completed Monolithic Dome home that is for sale. We feel that information should be a help to folks wishing to sell their Monolithic Dome home as well as those looking to buy. Please visit the ‘Round To It blog frequently and review items as they’re submitted.

Alternative Energy – Is It Stepping Over Dollars To Pick Up Dimes?

For several decades now our federal and many state governments have been singing the praises of alternative or renewable energy systems. They want us to go to a photovoltaic, solar thermal or wind system for our electricity, instead of our local energy supplier. If, during the day, our Monolithic Dome generates the energy we need plus extra that we sell back and only buy at night, we could have a zero-cost home. That’s a practical, reasonable goal, and chances of obtaining it are far better with a high performance Monolithic Dome simply because the dome, by its very nature, uses so much less energy.

Blogs: Construction

Our experts on the construction of Monolithic Domes contribute to this blog. They write about the progress and problems they might encounter at a specific job site; new products such as, Monolithic stucco; new technology such as our introduction of “Strain Sensors” to Monolithic construction; and new tools and equipment such as the “Paxis 10 Scaffold.” Most of the articles include a generous amount of photographs and diagrams. In addition to articles, this blog includes videos. For example in one video, you can see Monolithic’s Paxis 10 Scaffold in action. New information is often added for your review.

The President’s Sphere

David B. South, co-inventor of the Monolithic Dome and founder and president of Monolithic, works hard at spreading the word about Monolithic Domes, sharing information and providing suggestions. In the President’s Sphere, David talks about topics related specifically to the construction and care of Monolithic Domes, such as the super insulation and energy efficiency of the domes, their ability to survive virtually any natural or manmade disaster, and Monolithic’s ongoing research and testing of new products. In addition, David talks about and offers solutions to social problems and concerns, such as our nation’s dire need for safe, clean, affordable housing. We invite you to frequently visit the President’s Sphere and review the articles as they’re added.

Senior Housing

Ariel II

Seniors often come to Monolithic, looking for help in designing a home for their golden years. Some are very realistic and practical about what they need, what they can comfortably afford and how they want to spend the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, others are not.

The McMansion!

A McMansion — It’s a big, very pretty house that stays that pretty only as long as it’s properly maintained — often a 24/7 job.

I recently passed a new McMansion, just built this past year. It sits on about ten acres of land, and it’s gorgeous. What disturbs me is the care such a McMansion requires, especially since its owners are older folks on the brink of retirement. Consider their future. The years will weaken them, but the McMansion will continue requiring the same or a greater amount of care and money.

Memory of a Compound House

A Compound House — It’s an attractive, add-as-you-need-to-add, far more practical alternative to a McMansion.

Several years ago, in Palestine, Texas, I met an elderly but active couple who lived in what the husband had designed, built and called “a Compound House.” Over the years I have thought many times about that Compound House, the husband’s reasons for designing it as he did, how it made sense and how adaptable it would be to our lives.

Building Your Own Dome Home vs. Having It Built

Construction of Clark dome — This 3400-square-foot multiple dome home was built by Randy & Rachel Clark in Velpen, Indiana.

Building your own dome home means turning yourself into a do-it-yourselfer. Can you afford to do that? Most do-it-yourself projects make very little money per hour. Compare the earning ability of the do-it-yourself project with what you earn at your regular job, including overtime pay you may be able to earn. Can you afford to become a full-time or even a part-time do-it-yourselfer, or might it make better sense to earn as much as you can in your regular job and pay others to build your home?

Video of Paxis 10 Scaffold

You will hear a lot more about our new Paxis Scaffold in the future on Monolithic.com, but in the meantime I will post some raw video clips. It’s hard to describe how nice this scaffold is, but with the new drive motors and the 10′ stance, this scaffold makes one of the sturdiest, safest platforms I have ever seen.

Progress at St. Joseph Church

The new paxis scaffold was a huge success, even though there are a few things that we are going to do differently. The one thing that we didn’t expect, was that it was so heavy that it started to make some pretty substantial ruts in the ground. We have been toying around with a few different ideas. First, I think we will pour a concrete circle in the middle of the dome so that the pivot point and tires have a harder surface to rotate on. Secondly, I think we will try to find some wider tires for the outside wheels, and change the way the motor is mounted so we have more ground clearance.

The New Paxis Scaffold

The New Paxis 10 Scaffold System — These images show the building of the first Paxis 10 Scaffold

Problem: Scaffold an 88 foot dome that has only 4 36″ standard doors?
Solution: Expand our already proven Polar Scaffold to fit that size of a dome.

Strain Sensors installed on the St. Joseph Church

Strain sensor — This a strain sensor being welded to a #6 bar.

Through the years of dome building we have always been playing a guessing game when it comes to reinforcement. So we finally found a way to find out once in for all, what is happening in these domes?