Strengthening a Large Creek Bank

The bank was rough and we did not intend to greatly change it. We smoothed a few spots. Our goal was bank stabilization – not a seemingly new bank that looked manufactured.

We received a call from a homeowner in Forreston, Texas. She wanted us to examine the creek bank in front of her house. The creek had seriously started to erode and her house was seriously getting closer to the creek. She was really worried about it falling into the creek if she lost a few more feet.

Monolithic Chain Shell: A Super Protector

Chain Shell is one of several materials that can be used to cover and protect an Airform.

For many years Monolithic has been researching and developing protection for the Airform, the exterior fabric on a Monolithic Dome. That fabric is the weakest link of the Monolithic Dome, yet it serves two absolutely vital functions. As its name implies, the Airform forms the critical shape of the structure. That’s its primary function. But it also has an equally vital secondary function: An Airform protects the dome’s polyurethane foam insulation from sunshine and weather. But it’s made of fabric materials that, over time, the sun can slowly degrade. So to do its job, obviously the Airform needs help.

Monolithic Dome Survives Texas Wildfire

June 2011: Texas wildfire destroyed 100,000 acres before it was stopped.

Fathers Day, 2011: On that day the Antelope Springs Ranch in Blackwell, Texas fell victim to a wildfire that blazed across the Lone Star State. This fire destroyed 100,000 acres before it was stopped.

A Rock Covered Dome

800-square-foot, spectacular, small home in Brigham, Utah. No A/C needed. Open windows at night to cool it. It stays cool all day. Owner Lori Hunsaker did the rock cover on the exterior herself.

Brigham City, located in Box Elder County, Utah, population 18,000, is home to Lori Hunsaker, editor of the Box Elder News Journal and owner of a beautiful 32′ × 18′ elliptical Monolithic Dome home.

Underground, Safe, Fallout Shelter/Home

In 1986 John Ayers of Presidio County, Texas became concerned about nuclear fallout from a dropped bomb. He wanted to be safe and asked me to build an underground house for him, which we did in the late summer of that year.

Monolithic Bomb Shelters and Fallout Shelters

This home under construction. It was built in 1987 and  is truly a nuclear fallout shelter.  The earth cover goes to the top of the pipes.  For more information see the John Ayers article.

I keep hoping a day will come when we’re no longer thinking that we may need a bomb or fallout shelter. But it seems more and more likely that the need will occur before that day does.

An Invitation to Share

Save Green Expo exhibit by Chris and Maddy Ecker

During the 2010 Annual Monolithic Dome Tour, we had more than 100 curious visitors to our dome home in Galax, Virginia. One of those visitors remembered the efficiency of our Monolithic Dome and invited us to a LandCare Grayson (County, Virginia) meeting.

Trinidad School District Gymnasium and Field House

This super energy efficient Monolithic Dome Gymnasium is now a tornado shelter as well.  The power savings will equal the cost of the building in less than 20 years.  The lifetime is expected to be centuries.

Trinidad, a Texas rural community of 1100 and school district with about 300 students, has been using its Monolithic Dome gymnasium and field house for about seven years now, since their completion in October 2004.  

Water Filters! Why?

When Monolithic began offering water filters, David South, our company president, began getting questions. “Why is Monolithic talking about water filters?” someone asked. “What do water filters have to do with domes?” another queried. And a third simply asked, “What’s the connection?”

The McWilliams’ Monolithic Dome Home: Tragedy and Triumph

After the October 2007 fire in Santiago Canyon, a hilly, wooded area of Orange County, California, burned their home, Melody and Phil McWilliams decided to build a fire-resistant Monolithic Dome.

On October 21, 2007, in Santiago Canyon, a hilly, wooded area of Orange County California, an arsonist and the dry, ferocious Santa Ana winds formed a devastating alliance. Together they created and quickly spread a blaze that forced 3000 residents out of their homes. The wood house of Melody and Phil McWilliams was one that was totally destroyed. “All of a sudden, there we were with no home!” Phil said.

Spotlight Back on Hobbit House

The wonderland that Steve and Christine Michaels have created around their Monolithic Dome home is once again making headlines. This time it’s the hometown newspaper, the Billings Gazette, that is putting the spotlight on the unusual property. As we’ve reported, the New York Times and MTV Extreme Homes have also come calling.

Worker Housing: Monolithic Cabins

Monolithic Cabins are the greenest buildings in the world and a paradigm shift in construction.

Workers building everything from plants to pipelines, in thousands of locations and at sites that are far from any accommodations, need somewhere to sleep, shower, fix a quick snack or just relax.

Foam: Fire Hazard and Fire Barrier

Fire damage from three wood structures and 300 gallons of transformer oil – Cargill – Channelview, TX
  A violent, wind-driven fire fueled by three wood structures and 300 gallons of transformer oil burned about a third of the covering off this fertilizer storage. The fire was the worst possible. Late at night, wind blew the fire directly toward the building. The fire department was not immediately called, so the oil burned completely. Damage was most severe to the exterior. In a 12-square-foot area, urethane was totally burned off, but the rest suffered more minor damage. The foam could be cleaned and a coating or metal cladding could be installed over it. No damage was detected on the inside of the Monolithic Dome.
  Note that the foam held the fire back for a considerable time, and then the nonflammable concrete ended any possibility of the flames burning through to the stored product. Materials inside the dome were totally unaffected by the fire, and the dome’s concrete interior never even got warm.

When sprayed on the interior of a building, with no covering such as shotcrete or drywall, polyurethane foam can create a dangerous fire hazard. Monolithic Domes are as close to fireproof as you can make a building with today’s technology. Yet they have urethane as a major component. Currently, urethane foam is the world’s best insulation, but let me tell you the rest of the story.

A Fertile Market for Domes

Monolithic, Inc. has been building fertilizer storage facilities for decades. The strong, steel-reinforced concrete structures are well-suited for chemical storage because they can handle the corrosive elements in the fertilizer. They also can withstand the abuse of front loaders and other heavy machinery used to move the chemicals from one location to another. An added bonus is the dome’s energy-efficiency, which makes air-conditioning them cost-efficient, keeping condensation to a minimum.

Fly Ash Properties and Uses

Fly ash closely resembles volcanic ashes used in production of the earliest known hydraulic cements about 2,300 years ago. Those cements were made near the small Italian town of Pozzuoli – which later gave its name to the term pozzolan. A pozzolan is a siliceous/aluminous material that, when mixed with lime and water, forms a cementitious compound. Fly ash is the best known, and one of the most commonly used, pozzolans in the world.

Indoor Golf: Better than Par for the Course

A complete, eighteen-hole, indoor golf course is not yet a reality. We can build the domes large enough, but the price may be too high. However, a nine-hole course is much more realistic.

Indoor golf may now be affordable utilizing the Monolithic Dome. A nine-hole course could be built perfectly in four, 400-foot domes. Proposed plans include two holes in each of three domes and three holes in the fourth dome.

New Life Family Church: Now the second tallest building in Biloxi

New Life Family Church in Biloxi as it is getting a new coat of coating in 2003.

Somewhere between 24 to 36 hours after Katrina made landfall, Pastor Jeff Ulmer of New Life Family Church returned to the 150-foot diameter dome church to assess damages. After finding the building to be structurally sound, he quickly opened church doors to relief workers.

Texas wildfires heighten interest in Monolithic Domes

The wildfires raging across Texas have heightened interest in fire-resistant Monolithic Domes, as home owners look for greater protection against all types of natural disasters. The general public will have the opportunity to learn more about these unusual homes when the Monolithic Dome Institute opens many of the dome homes on its property for public tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 15 as part of the 11th annual Fall Dome Tour.

Polyurethane Foam Insulation: An Alternative with Big Benefits

“Polyurethane foam is no stranger to us,” said Monolithic’s President David B. South in a recent discussion of home insulation at MDI headquarters in Italy, Texas. “After all, it’s a major component of the Monolithic Dome building process,” he continued. “But I’m still continually surprised by how little the construction industry and the average American homeowner know about this wonderful product.”

Anatomy of a Monolithic Bulk Storage

Cross section of a Monolithic Dome bulk storage.

Bulk Materials is a term used for large quantities of similar material. Bulk storage is the term for buildings that store bulk commodities such as cement, sand, frac sand, salt, fertilizer, feed, grains, aggregates, carbon, chips, seeds, peanuts, coke, blasting powder – and the list goes on. Capacities may vary from a few hundred tons to many thousand tons.

Rebar: Bend or Don’t Bend?

To bend or not to bend? That is the question if you’re talking about bending reinforcing steel bars (rebar) that are partially embedded in concrete, as we do in the Monolithic Dome construction process.

Monolithic Theme Park Domes: Bringing Fantasies Down To Earth

Winter Wonderland- You are in Switzerland, skating on a beautiful trail that opens onto a large ice pond. You spend the day exploring the ice caves, riding the tram to the restaurant lodge, or shopping in the village. The Monolithic Dome makes this possible in even the hottest areas of the world.

Monolithic Domes — those sturdy, most stationery of stationery structures — have entered a new realm — the realm of fantasy. Rick Crandall, Consulting Architect, says, “Monolithic Domes make perfect fantasy domes, and they are rapidly gaining popularity for fantasy environments such as those in theme parks, water parks, zoos, theaters, planetariums — even shopping malls.”

Understanding Polyurethane Foam

One of the characteristics of polyurethane foam is density. Density equals how many pounds per cubic foot it weighs. So when we say we want two-pound density foam, it means we want two pounds per cubic foot of foam weight. This can be a little confusing.

The Perils of Selective Compliance

Several years ago a teacher in our school district decided to show the modern version of Last of the Mohicans as part of her literature class. The movie is R-rated and one of the students protested. She said that she and her family “never watched R-rated movies.”

Safe, Affordable Housing is Possible with Monolithic Technology

When we think of people who do not have access to clean drinking water and sanitation, the image of refugees in Africa or other parts of the developing world usually come to mind. But the poor and homeless in the United States often face the very same problems, according to a U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation. After a U.S. visit earlier this year, the U.N. investigator Catarina de Albuquerque found that the challenges faced by U.S. homeless are in violation of international human rights standards.

Cleaning our Monolithic Airform

The Ecker’s dome home before they began washing their Airform.

As my wife and I prepare for future exterior work on our Monolithic Dome, and to keep up with recommended Airform maintenance, it’s finally time to wash our Airform again.

Monolithic Workshop Pays Off: The Jay Williams’ Story

Once Jay decided that he wanted a Monolithic Dome as his retirement home, he cleared his eight acre site near Victoria, TX.

Jay Williams said, “I thought about building a Monolithic Dome for some months. Then I decided I had some questions and the best way to answer them was through a Workshop. It can’t hurt a thing to take the training.” He enrolled in the October 2003 Workshop. About it, he said, “The Workshop was a real eye-opener. It gave me a clear understanding. I learned a lot and I enjoyed it – both the classroom time and working at the job site. I sprayed foam, I sprayed concrete, I tied steel – I did all that stuff.”

Architecture Writer Touts the Benefits of Domes’ Tornado Resistance

Even though we’re in the midst of hurricane season, the memories of the 2011 tornadoes are still fresh in the minds of most people. This year will go down as the deadliest tornado year since The National Weather Service began keeping records, with more than 500 fatalities. That’s one of the reasons why Jon Thompson wrote a feature story on the protection that Monolithic Domes can offer on Architecture Suite 101

Understanding Seismic Zones

US Geology Survey National Seismic Hazard Map —These maps are based on current information about the rate at which earthquakes occur in different areas and on how far strong shaking extends from earthquake sources. Colors on this particular map show the levels of horizontal shaking that have a 2 % chance of being exceeded in a 50 year period. Shaking is express as a percentage of g (g is the acceleration of a falling object due to gravity). Areas in red have a much higher likelihood than areas of white to be exceeded, for example.

To understand the Seismic Zoning method and how it pertains to the Monolithic Dome, we must first understand what effective peak ground acceleration means and how it is measured against gravity.

Insulated Footings: Thermal Break for Monolithic Domes

Joey is taping off the area just above where they intend to spray foam to avoid getting any overspray on the airform. They have dug a trench around the footing about 10 inches deep that will be insulated.

Generally, in the US, footings are not insulated. By not insulating the footing, we have a place where cold can enter our houses. Monolithic Dome builders may need to consider insulating footings of Monolithic Dome homes to provide a thermal break and reduce chances for condensation and/or mold growth.

Mixing the Strongest Shotcrete

When I started building Monolithic Domes, I wanted to know how to make the strongest possible concrete. How much and what kind of cement, water, rock, sand, admixtures, etc. should we use? I went to the Portland Cement Association for advice. I asked other shotcreters. Over the years, I have tried every mix we could think of.

A Beautiful Monolithic Dome Home

At first glance, this Monolithic Dome looks more like a church than a home. Nevertheless, it is a single-family residence. The owner hand-applied the rock, that provides an extremely durable, lower cover for the home.

The owners of this grand dome-home have asked us not to publish their names or their dome’s exact location. We do, however, have permission to share these photos with our readers.

Maranatha Church: A Dome Sanctuary

The dome for Maranatha Church is 208’ diameter and 48’ tall.

Pastor Ronnie Trice and his wife Sandy organized Maranatha Church in December 1973, initially to serve its local community of Mont Belvieu, Texas. But church membership increased rapidly, so its congregation soon outgrew the sanctuary they then used, which seated six hundred.

A Green Roof

We covered an EcoShell garage with a combination of trumpet vine and Lady Banks roses. First we planted only the roses. Vinyl rope was used for the climbing tool. The roses grew about 10’ before they started growing away from the dome. Then trumpet vines were added and tied to the roses, which helped the climbing effect. You can see the dome is almost completely covered.

Check out nature’s way of coating a dome by scrolling through the pictures. (Click the top image and scroll thru the images and captions.)  This unique way provides protection as well as beauty to the outside of your dome.

Underground Air Piping

It is a well known fact that if you get below the surface of the earth a few feet, the temperature tends to be very even and at a constant 55 to 60 degrees, depending on latitude. So, it does not take a genius to understand that if you could move outside air through a buried pipe, you could alter its temperature and then move it into a house where it can warm or cool the home’s interior.

At Home in Sweet Dome Alabama

Sweet Dome Alabama  is the Monolithic Dome home of Beverly and Kenneth Garcia in New Hope, Alabama.

Back when their children were just kids and Beverly and Kenneth Garcia took family vacations, they discovered beautiful New Hope, Alabama. “We were then living in Mississippi, but we fell in love with the New Hope area,” Bev said. “It’s gorgeous up here – the mountains and the lake and we like to fly fish.” Then and there Ken and Bev decided that when they retired, they would relocate to New Hope.

Shotcrete vs. Gunite

If you want to start a fight, just ask a room full of spray concrete operators: What’s the best system for applying concrete?

Fire Safety in a Monolithic Dome or Any Home 

In Charca Casa, my home in Italy, Texas, I have installed a mini fire-hydrant inside an easily available, affordable kitchen cabinet.

Many years ago I decided I wanted a fire-suppression system in my home. I was not interested in fire extinguishers that may or may not work and seem always in the way. I wanted an actual, simple, but extremely effective water system.