Anthony (Tony) Clarke is one busy Aussie. In Ballan, Australia he runs a migration office that helps immigrants to his country with their necessary, complex paperwork, is involved with industrial hemp, markets music videos and DVDs and serves his community as Justice of the Peace and a Knight of the Order of St. John Hospitalier.
Nevertheless in April 2001, Tony found the time and energy to travel to Italy, Texas and take one of Monolithic’s dome-building Workshops. For Tony, becoming interested in Monolithic Domes – particularly their ability to withstand natural disasters without harming or depleting the environment – fit right in with his other interests that included solar energy, biodynamic farming and homeopathy.
A change of plans
He returned to Ballan, a rural, sparsely populated center north of Melbourne, modestly reputed for its mineral springs, and began planning the construction of seven, one-bedroom, Monolithic Dome rental units on a half-acre he owned.
Since ferocious winds, sometimes tornadoes, periodically hit Ballan, Tony felt the community would welcome structures with the strength and durability of the domes. So, he said, “It took a long time for me to understand that even if I produced designs that were good for the town, some people would object.”
Despite several, relatively recent occurrences of high winds that tore away roofs, blew away fences and uprooted trees, rocketing them into homes and creating considerable damage, Ballan’s Council refused to approve plans for the domes. Residents in that neighborhood had objected to the unusual, “igloo-like look” of the domes.
Undaunted, Tony put his half-acre up for sale and began planning a Monolithic Dome home for himself and his father on another property, five acres located just back of the Ballan train station.
Australia’s first Monolithic Dome
Slowly, task-by-task, during the five years that followed, Tony communicated with Monolithic and received advice and his questions answered; got plans for a prolate ellipse with a 50-foot diameter; incorporated the design changes he wanted; ordered the Airform; purchased a Paxis Polar Scaffold, a gas-powered concrete pump as well as other equipment and materials; and contracted South Industries, Inc. of Menan, Idaho to construct the shell.
In March 2007, Tony and his local helpers poured the dome slab. Two months later, Randy South and Jon, his son, arrived, stayed 2 1/2 weeks and did most of the shell construction.
“Essentially, we were the key people,” Randy said. “Jon and I did most of the work, but Tony had three other people there who helped. When we left, the shotcrete wasn’t quite finished, but Tony found a local man with experience spraying in mines, and he did a good job.”
This three-story Monolithic Dome, that Tony has dubbed “The Roundhouse,” has five bedrooms (three with adjoining shower and toilet, one with tub and toilet), five living areas, an office, a kitchen, laundry, storage and a two-car garage.
Asked about heating and cooling Tony said, "We were very fortunate to find that the gas pipe that runs outside the property could be accessed for natural gas. So the Roundhouse will have two gas heaters, one in the ground-floor living room and one in the middle-floor living room. It gets very cold in Ballan — for Australian standards that is, but not American! Due to the way the dome circulates heat around the whole building and its construction of polyurethane and concrete, those heaters will provide enough warmth.
“Summers can be hot,” he continued, “but not really hot enough in Ballan to justify a cooling system. Cooling will be maintained by keeping the doors and double-glazed windows closed. If the place does heat up, we can open the top-floor windows and have a flow through breeze. Four of the eight windows on the top floor are openable.”
On January 10 Tony emailed, "The Roundhouse is nearly ready for occupation. I have carpet on the top floor and can use that area. The rest of the rooms are still being plastered and finalized. I hope to be getting more of them finished in the next few weeks.
“At the present, the only occupants are my father and I. There are three extra bedrooms, so I may run it as a bed and breakfast when it is finally finished.”
A tourist attraction
While Tony received an unfavorable response to his proposed dome rental facility, he said, “Everyone is very impressed by the Roundhouse. They are really surprised at how big it is inside and its number of rooms. We usually have one or two visitors everyday — just coming to have a look. Usually, we take them on a tour. The locals think it will be a good tourist drawcard and are very happy with it. Indeed, many people think I should charge an admission.”
Car clubs from various parts of Australia have been using the Roundhouse as a reference point and meeting place during their rallies. In the future, Tony also expects aerial spotting. He said that Singapore Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) were both establishing training schools — one in Bacchus Marsh, 15 miles east of Ballan; the other in Ballarat, 20 miles west of Ballan.
So, despite the disappointments, hurts and hard work, Tony is happy with his Monolithic Dome Roundhouse and optimistic about its future. It was definitely worth the effort.
Randy South agrees. He said, “Tony’s Roundhouse proves you can build a Monolithic Dome anywhere in the world — as long as you’re willing to go through the hard stuff and get the equipment there.”
Fire rages as Tony writes…
On January 10 Tony emailed, “As I am writing this at my Roundhouse office, there is a bushfire burning about ten miles south of the dome and throwing up some smoke. The news reports say it has burnt about 600 acres, so far, in the Lal Lal State Forest. Residents of the small town of Morrison are being advised to implement their fire plans. So there is some action nearby. The news says water bombing helicopters and fixed aircraft have been called to fight the blaze. There are 39 fire trucks, 3 bulldozers, an aircraft and 140 personnel fighting the fire, according to the latest news report. The temperature is 40 degrees Celsius or about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the ground floor of the dome is quite cool and the top floor is still much cooler than the outside.”