Inflated Airform

The inflated Airform on the seashore in Belize. (David Spellings)


Dave and Mary Spellings’ Palapa Pineapple taking shape in Belize

Interior construction is underway for Dave & Mary Spellings’ Monolithic Dome home — the Palapa Pineapple — in Belize. Dave Spellings said he got the idea about 25 years ago when he visited Ivan Sheinbaum’s Xanadu Resort on Ambergris Caye in Belize. “I wanted a smaller, more unique shape, with one room on top of the other. I squeezed the dome into the shape it’s in.”

The result is a tall, prolate ellipsoid shaped monolithic dome with multiple windows that create a unique “pineapple” look. It is five levels tall and features a rooftop patio overlooking the ocean.

“I’m a retired surveyor, with some civil engineering,” said Spellings. “I had difficulty in sketching it in 3D, so I built a 1/10 model with wood blocks — about the size of cinder blocks — that I had experience laying.”

“I put all the floors together,” he said. “Painted it with deck paint to help preserve it, then blew it with my leaf blower just to see how it held up! It didn’t budge!”

Dave and Mary planned to build the home on Caye Caulker, Belize, after discovering the island years earlier. “We turned it into ‘our island’ when we found a property on the north side,” he said.

Working with Larry Byrne, retired designer at Monolithic, they came up with a workable design.

The 25.5-foot diameter ground floor is entirely open with four large archways. They added custom gates to each arch. The large openings and clear plan allow storm surge to pass through — underneath the living areas — during a hurricane.

The 27-foot diameter main floor includes the kitchen, utility, bathroom, and living room. The third level is the bedroom with shower, closet, and bath. Half of the room is open to the living area below.

The fourth floor is a 23-foot diameter office/loft.

And finally, the fifth level they call the “scenic area.” At 16-feet diameter, it’s effectively a 180 square foot patio with a beautiful, 360-degree view of the island and the Caribbean Sea.

“After years of planning, research, and prayers we got electric on our side of our Island and a reputable local contractor,” he continued. “An electric meter pole and water meter were installed, 8 by 18-foot concrete piers were set and a 26-foot concrete ring foundation was poured in June 2018.”

Monolithic and Spellings loaded a 20-foot container with windows, gates, scaffolding, compressor, polyurethane foam, tools, and everything they thought they needed the job. The Airform and a concrete pump were shipped separately because the container “was packed to the gills.”

They inflated the Airform on October 23, 2018.

Today the Monolithic Dome shell is complete. Dave and Mary are working on the interior structure.

“Many trials and tribulations later … we are in phase three of constructing floors,” Dave said. “Hopefully, and prayerfully, we will have a Pina Colada move-in party by the summer’s end.”

Watch the Spellings video of inflating the Airform.

Scale model

The 1/10 scale model Dave Spellings created while designing his their home. (David Spellings)

Inflated Airform

Inflated Airform with protruding augments for upper windows. (David Spellings)

Inside the Airform

Scaffolding in place inside the inflated Airform. (David Spellings)

First layer of shotcrete

The first layer of shotcrete applied over the rebar, electrical conduits, and polyurethane foam. (David Spellings)

Finished shell

The finished shell for Palapa Pineapple. (David Spellings)

Inside the completed shell

Inside the completed shell looking up through the windows. (David Spellings)

Pineapple gate

Custom pineapple gate in the lower archway of the finished shell. (David Spellings)

Rough cut central support.

Each interior level is supported by a rough-cut beam, like a tree growing through the center of the house. (David Spellings)

Staircase

Completed stairway to ground level. (David Spellings)

By the seashore

The Palapa Pineapple on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. (David Spellings)