Texas wildfires heighten interest in Monolithic Domes

The wildfires raging across Texas have heightened interest in fire-resistant Monolithic Domes, as home owners look for greater protection against all types of natural disasters. The general public will have the opportunity to learn more about these unusual homes when the Monolithic Dome Institute opens many of the dome homes on its property for public tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 15 as part of the 11th annual Fall Dome Tour.

Dome homes across the United States also will also be open that day, and commercial dome buildings will open for tours on Friday, October 14th. Hundreds of visitors turned out last year to see the dome homes and offices in Italy, which are located adjacent to Interstate 35E at 177 Dome Park Place.

Attendance is expected to be even higher this year based on the queries the institute is receiving from worried home owners. “We’ve been seeing wildfires break out across the state since November with devastating consequences,” said David B. South, president of the Monolithic Dome Institute. “Unfortunately, there are no signs of the drought easing up, and people are looking for alternatives to traditional stick and brick homes that are highly susceptible to fire damage.”

Nearly 1,400 homes have been destroyed in a 34,000-acre fire near Austin in what officials are calling the most destructive blaze in Texas history. Four people have died since fires broke out across the state on Labor Day weekend.

Several years ago, a California dome home was in the path of a similar wildfire that destroyed 550 acres and threatened about 250 dwellings. Despite the magnitude of the blaze, the dome home emerged virtually unscathed.

“I heard about the fire from the home owner’s son, who told me how delighted they were with the dome’s ability to withstand those flames” South said. “I was not surprised to learn that the dome won the battle.”

The recent string of tornadoes and other natural disasters have also given this year’s tour a higher profile as many Americans are searching for sustainable solutions to rebuild or protect their businesses and homes.

“We are always saddened when we see the loss of life and property that often occurs during natural disasters such as severe storms or wildfires,” said South. “But we are hopeful that lives can be saved in the future through the construction of safer, better structures that are also energy efficient and green."

While domes still make up a tiny fraction of the houses built nationwide, their green appeal has been on the rise in recent years. Their spherical shape covers the most amount of space with the least amount of materials. In fact, dome homes generally require 50 to 75 percent less material to cover the same space as a square conventional house. Not only does the round design help conserve natural resources, it also adds to the building’s energy efficiency. Because there is less surface area, not as much heat escapes in the winter or seeps in during the summer.

Since Monolithic Domes are made of concrete, they have the added advantages associated with the concrete’s thermal mass. When the interior of the dome is heated or cooled, the concrete warms up or cools off, and then maintains that temperature for a long period of time. That means the interior temperature stays relatively constant. By placing the insulation on the exterior of the building, the dome becomes more immune to temperature swings, and therefore more energy efficient.

Admission to the dome tour is free, but visitors are asked to bring a non-perishable canned good or other food item to benefit the Italy Ministerial Alliance.

“The Italy Ministerial Alliance hosts the local food pantry, and needs help,” said Anne Sutherland, a spokeswoman for the Monolithic Dome Institute. “The holidays are fast approaching and the cupboard is bare. We encourage visitors to make a donation to the local food pantry when they come tour our wonderful Monolithic Domes.”