Stout Residence: Cool Dome in Hot Arizona
A fabulous Monolithic Dome home
In 2006, five years after their planning for a Monolithic Dome home got really serious when they ordered a Dome Living book, Carol and Roger Stout moved in. Set on a super-size, residential lot just on the outskirts of Mesa, Arizona, the Stouts’ dome has a diameter of 54 feet, a height of 23 feet and a living area of 2900 square feet.
Their 2100 square feet downstairs include a spacious, open-to-the-ceiling living/dining area, a large kitchen, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a utility room and a small shop. The loft, designed as a casual, fun place, shares its 900 square feet with a grand piano, an entertainment center with a flat-screen TV, a home office and a half bath.
A rectangular, stucco, four-car garage, with a covered, jumbo-size patio on its backside and an open, sitting area on its top, is attached to the dome.
A childhood ambition
Asked what inspired their desire for a Monolithic Dome home, Roger, a mechanical engineer, said, "I’ve always been interested in energy-efficient architecture. Even when I was a kid, I used to dream of building an earth-sheltered home, and I drew up a lot of plans through high school and even in college.
“But Monolithic construction was not known to me at all,” he continued, “until about 2002 or 2003 when Living Word Bible Church was built. It’s only about two miles from where we live, so we saw it. And I read newspaper articles about it and I thought: Wow! This is great.”
By then Roger and Carol had given up the idea of building an earth-sheltered home in the Phoenix area because that soil’s caliche makes it virtually impossible to dig through. Instead, they decided to become domers.
Roger describes their dome-home as “very energy efficient.” He said, "A couple of years ago, before the rates had gone up, I was happy to tell people that my highest (monthly electric) bill was $199. That was pretty amazing for a 3000-square-foot, all-electric house in Mesa.
“In fact, even today I’ve compared notes with people who have 3000-square-foot (conventional) homes. Most of them have 7 or 8 tons of air conditioning. We only have 4 tons. So in the summer months, it’s not unusual for our bill to be half of that for a standard house. That’s a very important feature of our concrete dome.”
On being your own general contractor
Roger acted as general contractor for the construction of their dome-home and said that there are major pros and cons that must be considered by anyone thinking about doing the same.
“I think the biggest pro is that you potentially save a fair amount of money in construction because a general contractor, obviously, wants to make a reasonable profit,” Roger said. "He has to cover any possible contingencies too, so I think the basic pro is the opportunity to save some money.
“But the biggest con,” Roger concluded, “is that you have to carry all that responsibility yourself. Any mistakes that are made you end up paying for yourself. Anything that requires a legal signature to engage in a contract ultimately has to come from you.”
Suggested Reading: How To Get A Monolithic Dome Home- This article takes you from Preliminary Research to Planning the Final Touches and includes a section on Being Your Own Contractor.