On a stretch of Interstate 35, in Central Texas between Waco and Waxahachie, is an enormous caterpillar. The curious stop to explore and come across Monolithic Dome Village. The caterpillar is a manufacturing warehouse; there are dome offices, dome storage buildings and upwards of 60 domes rented out as single person dwellings. I was informed that these buildings are ‘green’ in every way. They will withstand winds of 450 miles an hour (FEMA rates them as near absolute protection), they are environmentally friendly and have an R value of 60. Their lifespan is measured in centuries, they don’t burn, or rot, or get eaten by termites. I decided to sign up for the workshop that Monolithic offers to learn how to build them.
Like most people who take the workshop I was hoping to learn how to build a dome for our future home. But I also wanted a career change and a more secure retirement program and had considered buying old houses for rentals as a way to ease into retirement. During the course David South stressed again and again how important it was for every community to have affordable housing for the working people of the area and encouraged each of us to return home and build some rental domes to rent to working people with modest income. He had the complete story of the demographics supporting this type of housing for this type of renter and the financial facts to back up every step of how to make this a successful project. I took the bait.
After completing the course it took a while to get things rolling. First there was the land that had to be purchased. There were two main requirements: accessibility and public water. Then I had to establish a relationship with a bank. My local bank couldn’t handle the concept so I had to pound the pavement until I found a bank with a broader outlook. The branch manager was receptive to the plan, but wanted a nicer package to present to the loan committee. He sent me to the local Small Business Development Center at Blinn Junior College. They were intrigued by the concept as well and started to put together a business plan to take to the bank. But they weren’t satisfied to use Monolithic’s demographic figures and did studies on our county, and discovered that the figures were exactly the same for this area. Brenham has a population of about 15,000. They picked apart all the costs and projections and concluded that this was a great project. I got the loan.
Building commenced at the beginning of the summer of 2006. The buildings are 20 feet in diameter giving a living space of 314 square feet. There are windows front and back and a front door (top half is glass) which permits plenty of light to enter. Inside the dome is one wall that divides the bathroom from the ‘studio’ area. We provide a bed, two chairs, table, full size fridge, microwave and window blinds.
The folks at Monolithic can be hired to help as much or as little with the construction, as desired. My plan was to do it myself with my own crew and that would have worked had I not contracted shingles in the eye and face and was obliged to quit in the middle of construction. Monolithic came down and saved the day by completing the first eight shells for me.
Construction continued once I recovered but with all construction nothing ever goes totally as planned. We had our share of hiccups but overall the domes got built and were rented as soon as completed and for the first year of operation we have had 99% occupancy.
Phase II consists of eight more domes, four which I began renting in January 2008. The others should be ready to rent any day. I made some small internal design changes in these domes as I learn what works better, but overall the design provided by Monolithic would be hard to beat. I have been making my living in the wholesale nursery business and I can’t stress how much a good landscape job improves the looks of the whole property.
As soon as we have these next four finished, I expect to get the financing to carry on and build sixteen more. The whole project has been a complete success for me and I would encourage everyone who is involved with domes to replicate Monolithic’s concept in their community. I took the bait, but discovered there wasn’t a hook!"
The Inn Place
Kevin McGuckin & Hannah Mallon
776 Hohenwalde School Road
Brenham, TX 77833