Privacy, security and longevity, all under one roof
Living inside a hill
Visitors to Glenn Young’s Monolithic Dome home often have a problem finding his front door. That’s because Glenn and John St. Pé, co-owners of Dome Contractors, Inc., built Glenn’s Monolithic Dome home completely underground. “We’ve had people come out who didn’t know there was a house there and actually parked on top of it,” Glenn said.
And that’s surprising, since Glenn’s home is anything but small. It has 3000 square feet of living space within five, interconnected Monolithic Domes flanked by two EcoShells. Entrance tunnels lead into these EcoShells or foyers. A 15-foot-diameter EcoShell with a three-foot stem wall serves as a front foyer while a 12-foot-diameter EcoShell with a four-foot stem wall serves as the back one.
For his home site, Glenn selected a hill on his 40-acre spread in Buffalo, Texas, a rural town of about 1600 people, midway between Dallas and Houston off I-45, and famous for its annual Buffalo Stampede.
Once Glenn and John decided on the hill, John created a topographical map of the homesite by developing a grid and marking various elevations. He said, “Then we dug a hole, a really big hole: 200 feet long, 75 feet wide and 30 feet deep. We poured the foundation, inflated all five Monolithic Domes at one time and did the construction. After the domes were built, we covered them. We put the dirt back to match the elevation to what it originally was, so the only thing different is a few less trees, otherwise it’s the same beautiful hill.”
Asked why he wanted an underground home, Glenn said, “I like to be different. Being underground is futuristic and I like that. Energy-efficiency is another reason. The temperature and humidity throughout the domes is very constant, very nice. It’s low maintenance: I don’t have to paint, ever!”
“It’s very quiet,” Glenn continued. “You can sleep very well underground. It’s very secure. I travel and am away often; I want to return with everything intact. I like privacy. When strangers come, they do not know where the house is. And this house will last a very long time, many generations.”
One-of-a-kind, floor-to-ceiling murals create atmosphere
Although his home is windowless and buried, with the creative genius of Houston artist James Perez, Glenn found a spectacular way of bringing the outdoors in. Perez painted outdoor scenes on the walls and ceilings. These all-encompassing murals give each dome its own exotic, colorful, realistic environment. “Each dome has its own sky with clouds, and the outdoor scenes give the rooms more depth,” Glenn said.
Mediterranean waves gently waft against cliffs with gracefully arched dwellings in the main, central dome. “It makes you feel like you’re inside looking out,” John said. This Monolithic Dome’s 38-foot diameter and 19-foot height is totally open and encompasses living, dining and family areas, a kitchen and a pantry.
A hallway with a utility room and pantry leads from the main dome to the next one. Its 28-foot diameter encircles a bathroom and two guest bedrooms: the Acapulco Bay Room in which Perez duplicated scenes of hotels and beaches Glenn photographed on a visit there and the Egyptian Room, complete with pyramids.
An 8-foot tall, 4-foot long tunnel connects the guest bedrooms to a spiritual dome, 10 feet in diameter but more than 5 feet in height. Glenn said that the shape of this tunnel and dome resembles that of a nautilus shell, and its outer space, Star Gaze environment fosters tranquility and meditation.
On the opposite side of the central dome, a 32-foot diameter dome encompasses the master bedroom with its marble floor, cedar-lined closet, and mirror-lined, double dresser with black marble counter tops. The adjoining master bathroom sports a large Jacuzzi tub set in an onyx deck, a luxurious shower/steam room and an onyx vanity and floor. With waterfalls cascading over walls and doors, a Mayan pyramid, and exotic, tropical birds, plants and animals, the theme of this Monolithic Dome replicates life in a Mayan jungle.
Glenn said that the last dome, 22 feet in diameter and used as an office, is “the only boring room we have. It’s just totally white.”
Energy-efficiency and comfort
At seven different locations vents with fans and one huge exhaust fan pull fresh air into this Monolithic Dome complex. As for electrical power, the home is both on-grid and off-grid. “Power goes out frequently here,” Glenn said. “We have our own generator that is set to go on automatically when needed.”
Two pumps, each a small, two-ton unit, provide heating and cooling for all five domes. In September 2000 Glenn moved into his underground home. By then, that season’s Texas heat wave was over, so the air conditioning never kicked on. “But we were building during the worst of the heat wave,” John said. “And it was much more comfortable inside the domes. It stayed 75 to 80 degrees all summer, and that is without air conditioning.”
Glenn said that the domes are proving “extremely energy-efficient.” He added, “I recently was gone for three days. No heat was turned on and the temperature was in the low 30s at night. When I returned, at night, the temperature in the house was 75 degrees. I have only had the heater on twice since moving in.”
To learn what the weather is like outside, Glenn uses a weather station, a computerized device that records the wind’s speed and direction, inches of rain, temperature and barometric pressure. Glenn can also see outdoors via his closed-circuit TV security system that provides views of the outside as well as the inside.
In planning this invisible Monolithic Dome home, Glenn and John considered the area above and the area surrounding the home as well. Glenn said, “There is nothing sticking out of the ground above the house. We built an EcoShell as a utility dome; it houses our water well and all the electrical and telephone equipment. We diverted all the exhaust fans to a spot near the utility dome where the pipes come out in a cluster because we didn’t want anything sticking out above the house.”
John added, “We built a lake with a pier outside the front entrance. That delights visitors, but they are absolutely blown away when they go into the domes. They can’t believe what they are seeing.”
In 2003, HGTV featured this luxury Monolithic Dome home on a special they did about underground homes.
Note: Reprinted from the Monolithic Dome Roundup Spring 2001