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A Monolithic Dome Home with Brick Walls!

Image: Sty Manor — Joel Emerson and his dad, both creative, professional, master brick masons, designed this dome home encased in brick.

Sty Manor — Joel Emerson and his dad, both creative, professional, master brick masons, designed this dome home encased in brick.

Image: A den of fond memories — Accented by their curved brick arches, the den walls display a collection of family photos.
Image: Homey, efficient kitchen — The warm reds and browns in the wood and brick make this an inviting cooking area.
Image: Snack anyone? — The Emersons accented many of their living areas with glass brick, curved arches and scalloped corners.
Image: Dining Room   — In 2006, three years after attending a Monolithic Workshop, Joel Emerson began building his dome home.
Image: Comfy conversaton area — The Emersons’ Monolithic Dome home includes a brick stemwall that has a diameter of 52 feet and a height of 12 feet.
Image: One of two baths — A living area of 2000 square feet includes a central great room, foyer, three bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, laundry and loft.
Image: Tile shower — This bathroom sports tile walls and a brick floor with an eye-catching design.
Image: Cool! — The fan contributes comfort while the ceiling it hangs from contributes beauty.
Image: Beautiful and Easy — The Emersons designed a home that requires zero painting and little maintenance.
Image: More glass, brick and wood — For their dome home, the Emersons chose a twenty-acre site in Hayes, Virginia.
Image: Unique! — Joel enhanced the brick floors with unusual, creative patterns.
Image: Interesting enclosure
Image: Unique window — It’s a contrasting study in blacks and whites.
Image: Smooth transitions
Image: Low maintenance, strength and durability — Concerned about hurricanes and fire, the Emersons decided to go Monolithic!
Image: Bricks of many colors! — This is the work of an artist who paints with bricks.
Image: More beautiful brickwork! — Welcome to this impressive entry, created with bricks.

Casual to serious

At one time, Joel Emerson, a professional, creative brick mason, jokingly told Debbie, his wife, that someday he would build her a brick igloo. In the years that followed, Joel learned about Monolithic Domes, and in 2003 he attended a Monolithic Workshop.

“I learned that a Monolithic Dome was the strongest, most maintenance-free building you can build for the money,” Joel said.

Since the Emersons live in Hayes, Virginia, they were also concerned about the growing frequency and severity of hurricanes and fires. Add to that Joel’s desire for a home that required zero painting and little maintenance and what started as a casual joke became a serious project – with a little modification: Joel’s original brick igloo became a Monolithic Dome enhanced with brick.

A brick stemwall

In 2006 Joel and his dad, the master mason who taught Joel, began the project. On a 20-acre site, they built a brick, circular stemwall, 52 feet in diameter and 12 feet high. For two master masons that process went well, but it included what would prove to be a serious mistake. Joel had installed the windows and doors into the stemwall.

A scary inflation

Unaware of a potential mishap, Joel and his crew attached the Airform to the ring beam atop the completed stemwall. Then they closed the windows and began inflating.

“Big problem – a disaster in the making!” Joel said. “I thought the windows were going to blow out. They bulged a half inch. I didn’t even know glass would flex that much!”

Joel turned off the fans, grabbed a phone and called Gary Clark, vice-president of Monolithic. Gary greeted him with an astonished, “You got the windows in? You aren’t supposed to do it like that!”

“I had to take two-by-fours and screw them to the outside of the brick wall, then put a wedge between that and the glass to keep it from breaking out,” Joel recalled. “I was scared to death.” But fortunately that worked.

Check those references!

All went well – spraying of foam insulation and installation of rebar – until it came to spraying the shotcrete. “We hired a very incompetent shotcrete contractor who left us with a terrible mess,” Joel said. “It cost $20,000 to hire plasterers to cover that mess, not to mention metal studs and sheetrock to cover the walls.” He now echoes Monolithic in telling prospective dome owners to always check references.

A coupling of present and past

This spring, the Emersons moved into their new dream home that has a living area of 2000 square feet. It includes a central great room, a foyer, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, laundry area and loft.

Joel said, “We used plenty of glass block to let the outside light into the innermost areas. This also gives a nice nighttime effect when the bed/bath lights are on. I also scalloped the corners of the bed/bath area to give the center section a more open feel, and I put in 25 brick arches.”

About the outside Joel said, “The accent brick around the windows and doors on our dome was copied from a church building (Abingdon Episcopal) less than a mile from where we live. This building is probably about 300 years old. So, in a way, we have an ultra-modern Monolithic Dome that has embraced the beauty and simple strength of the past.”

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The one can huff and puff and blow this house down