Search results


People often ask if and with what the exposed, outer surface of the Airform that blankets a Monolithic Dome can be coated. The answer is “yes” the Airform can be coated with several products that we have tested. In this section, you can read about these products, the procedure used for their application and the research we have done.

Ceramic Coating – Insulation or Reflective Surface?

Ecoshell coated with Ceramic Paint — 10-foot EcoShell painted with a two-coat system of ceramic coating.

In the late 1970s, a new paint product was introduced as a ceramic coating. Essentially, a ceramic coating is an acrylic paint filled with ceramic microspheres that claim to prevent heat from crossing through. Special ceramic tiles are used to protect the space shuttle from burning upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. Supposedly, ceramic coatings work the same way.

Lessons Learned by Monolithic in Exterior Coatings

Vaper Drive — One of the early domes where the Airform was removed. Because the coating is in bad shape, the dome needs recoating or metal cladding – Chandler, Oklahoma.

Early Monolithic Domes were coated utilizing various materials such as stucco, acrylic elastomers, butyl rubber elastomers and urethane elastomers. I was so paranoid about vandals damaging the exterior foam that for the first several domes we sprayed the exterior’s bottom ten feet with two inches of concrete. From all of the above experiments, I learned many valuable lessons.

Do I need to care for or coat the fabric Airform?

The Airform, used to form the shape of the dome during construction, is left on as an outer covering and first line of defense for a Monolithic Dome. It protects the polyurethane foam from the UV radiation of the sun and repels rain, snow, and more. The Airform takes a lot of abuse and requires care. It needs to be coated within five to ten years after a dome home is finished.

Podcast: Headquarters Tour

Monolithic Podcast

The purpose of Monolithic’s campus is to provide a setting where more experiments can be done using different products, coatings, building methods and more. As you tour the property you will see a variety of domes, exterior coatings and unique products used in dome construction.

Monolithic Products and Manufacturing

Monolithic designs, manufactures and markets a prime ingredient used in the construction of Monolithic Domes, Crenospheres and EcoShells: the Airform. It’s an inflatable structure, made of PVC-coated nylon or polyester fabric, that determines the shape and size of a dome.

Are Monolithic Domes’ exterior coverings fireproof?

The Monolithic Dome is as fire safe as you can build. The outside cover fabric can be damaged by fire. It can be covered using coatings, but if we are building in a high fire area, we recommend that the exterior of the dome get a 2” coat of concrete as well. Where we have done that, fire has passed right over the dome with virtually no damage.

Monolithic Chain Shell: A Super Protector

Chain Shell is one of several materials that can be used to cover and protect an Airform.

For many years Monolithic has been researching and developing protection for the Airform, the exterior fabric on a Monolithic Dome. That fabric is the weakest link of the Monolithic Dome, yet it serves two absolutely vital functions. As its name implies, the Airform forms the critical shape of the structure. That’s its primary function. But it also has an equally vital secondary function: An Airform protects the dome’s polyurethane foam insulation from sunshine and weather. But it’s made of fabric materials that, over time, the sun can slowly degrade. So to do its job, obviously the Airform needs help.

Monoform Primer: What’s it all about?

Bayblock Prime FR — Monoform Primer is now marketed as Bayblock Prime FR.

In 1995, Monolithic began working with UCSC to develop a primer that could be applied onto the inside or outside of an Airform. David B. South, president of Monolithic, had two tasks in mind for this primer. He wanted it to minimize the formation of blisters between the Airform and foam and to act as an adhesive on either side of the Airform. Result: the Monoform Primer.

Podcast: Ahead of the Curve

Monolithic Podcast

The Monolithic Dome is built to last 500+ years. It has a lifetime measured in centuries. Its only maintenance requirement is the singly-ply membrane on the exterior of the dome, and it can be coated with several more permanent options.

Monolithic Airform

Monolithic’s construction process demands an Airform. It’s an integral part of every Monolithic Dome, Monolithic Cabin, EcoShell and Crenosphere. The Monolithic Airform is a balloonlike, inflatable structure that determines the shape and size of a dome. It’s made of PVC-coated nylon or polyester fabric, available in several weights and a rainbow of colors. Each Monolithic Airform is designed for a specific project and manufactured in Bruco, our 240′ × 60′ factory equipped with state-of-the-art machinery. At Bruco, Monolithic also designs and manufactures other specialty fabric structures, such as compost covers, grain covers, condensate ceilings, methane tank liners, water tank diaphragms and tension tarps.

Epoxy Floors

Garage floor — A properly installed epoxy floor can beautify a garage and enhance the value of a house.

Epoxy coatings are a simple way to improve the appearance and maintenance of a garage floor.

A Green Roof

We covered an EcoShell garage with a combination of trumpet vine and Lady Banks roses. First we planted only the roses. Vinyl rope was used for the climbing tool. The roses grew about 10’ before they started growing away from the dome. Then trumpet vines were added and tied to the roses, which helped the climbing effect. You can see the dome is almost completely covered.

Check out nature’s way of coating a dome by scrolling through the pictures. (Click the top image and scroll thru the images and captions.)  This unique way provides protection as well as beauty to the outside of your dome.

The Monolithic Airform

Monolithic’s construction process demands an Airform. It’s an integral part of every Monolithic Dome, Monolithic Cabin, EcoShell and Crenosphere. The Monolithic Airform is a balloonlike, inflatable structure that determines the shape and size of a dome. It’s made of PVC-coated nylon or polyester fabric, available in several weights and a rainbow of colors. Each Monolithic Airform is designed for a specific project and manufactured in Bruco, our 240′ × 60′ factory equipped with state-of-the-art machinery. At Bruco, Monolithic also designs and manufactures other specialty fabric structures, such as compost covers, grain covers, condensate ceilings, methane tank liners, water tank diaphragms and tension tarps.

Dome enhanced with Monolithic Stucco

Aerial photo of the structure.

In 2008, Monolithic Constructors, Inc. completed work on a 50′ × 25′ central dome, flanked by two 36′ × 16′ side domes for Wayne Brannon of Decatur, Texas. About four years later, we were asked to coat the domes, that had rock applied to their bottom sections, with Monolithic Stucco.

Can you turn an EcoShell into a Monolithic Dome?

The obvious answer is yes. Can you make it cheaper? Not in our opinion. One such process suggests inflating an EcoShell II Airform, applying stucco, foam, rebar and concrete, then peeling off the Airform so it can be reused. In Monolithic’s very early days, we peeled off Airforms for reuse.

April 2007 – Monolithic Oil Tanks

Monolithic Constructors, a Texas-based builder of insulated, steel-reinforced concrete storage facilities, has introduced an oil storage tank that is fire-proof, hurricane-resistant and more affordable than traditional steel structures currently used for storing crude oil and refined products.

Insulated Footings: Thermal Break for Monolithic Domes

Joey is taping off the area just above where they intend to spray foam to avoid getting any overspray on the airform. They have dug a trench around the footing about 10 inches deep that will be insulated.

Generally, in the US, footings are not insulated. By not insulating the footing, we have a place where cold can enter our houses. Monolithic Dome builders may need to consider insulating footings of Monolithic Dome homes to provide a thermal break and reduce chances for condensation and/or mold growth.

Can EcoShells Be Insulated?

EcoShell II — Insulating an Ecoshell is simply another low cost alternative.

An EcoShell, like a Monolithic Dome, is built of reinforced concrete. But unlike that of a Monolithic Dome, the EcoShell’s Airform is removed and reused. Nor is an EcoShell usually sprayed with an insulating blanket of polyurethane foam. Obviously, an EcoShell and a Monolithic Dome are very different structures. Nevertheless we are often asked: Can EcoShells be coated with foam? The answer is a very cautious Yes because it’s not a smart solution.

Ohio TV Station Chronicles Dome Inflation

Have you ever seen the inflation of a Monolithic Dome? An Ohio television station used time-lapse video to chronicle the 15-minute inflation in only a few seconds.

Site Map

Alphabetical site map listing for your convenience.

Exterior Design 101

In the Beginning — Every home in its beginning stage is bare. Exterior elements provide interest and variety. Banding used to connect the two domes adds horizontal lines and gives the dome a lineal feel.

When deciding to build a home, most people focus on interior floor plan, while the exterior often becomes an afterthought. Yet, it’s the home’s exterior that governs that all-important first impression your home creates.

A New Look for Randy South’s Monolithic Dome Home

A spacious home — Randy South and his family enjoy living in three, interconnected Monolithic Domes, encompassing a living area of nearly 4,000 square feet and now sporting a beautiful, stucco-like, EIFS finish.

Karen and Randy South and their seven sons and two daughters have liked their Monolithic Dome home since they first moved into it in 1996. After all, what was there not to like? Their nearly 4,000-square-foot dome home adorns a 1,260-acre butte that overlooks the beautiful Snake River in Menan, Idaho and provides them with a unique area for observing and enjoying wildlife.

Stemwalls: What Works Best

Integrated stemwall — For this dome, Monolithic designed the Airform to go straight up, reach the bottom of the second floor, then start to curve over the top. At the second level, an eave was installed that encircles the dome. Although not particularly hard to do, the eave gives the dome a vastly different appearance.

We often design a Monolithic Dome with a vertical stemwwall that goes straight up and acts as a base for the dome. Over the years, we’ve developed several ways of building stemwalls and have tried several options.

The Foundation: Using an Integrated Floor System

Airform Ready

When it comes to building a Monolithic Dome’s foundation, do-it-yourselfers have a choice: they can contract the concrete work, or with able-bodied help they can tackle the job themselves.

Timelapse shows construction of ammonium nitrate storage dome

Dome Airform

A new 29-foot-tall Monolithic Dome has been erected in Whitewright, Texas to provide storage for ammonium nitrate. The dome is located at the EDC Ag Products Company LLC (EDC Ag) facility and will give storage for 1,000 tons of the chemical. The construction of the 58-foot diameter dome was a cooperative effort among the community and EDC Ag.

Monolithic Dome Survives Texas Wildfire

June 2011: Texas wildfire destroyed 100,000 acres before it was stopped.

Fathers Day, 2011: On that day the Antelope Springs Ranch in Blackwell, Texas fell victim to a wildfire that blazed across the Lone Star State. This fire destroyed 100,000 acres before it was stopped.

Shipment to Haiti to Rebuild Orphanage

Goods and Employment — Andrew South and Derek South will travel to Haiti to train and supervise native workers in the construction of the EcoShells.

April 2011 promises to be an exciting, hope-filled month for donors to Domes For The World (DFTW). Andrew South, president of DFTW, said that that’s when a significant shipment will be leaving for Haiti.

Paxis Scaffolding

Paxis 7 — This is a picture of the Paxis 7 scaffold.  The Paxis 7 is designed to build domes between 32’ and 50’.

Using equipment from a square world to build round buildings, this is the battle we have to fight when scaffolding a dome building. That is why we developed the Paxis Scaffold. The Paxis scaffolds unmatched portability, can be carried though the airlock into the building by two men, then assembled to build almost any size dome. The Paxis scaffolds are also the easiest scaffold to use, with the secure feeling that it provides while working and spraying, to the electric power that keeps men from breathing fumes in the enclosed environment.

Metal Cladding For Domes: The Why And The How

Bruco — Metal cladding comes in a variety of colors and makes a durable, protective coating for a Monolithic Dome.

Why would someone want to cover a Monolithic Dome with metal cladding? David South, Monolithic’s president, says, “Metal cladding is an arrow in the quiver – a problem solver – that’s especially useful when things get really nasty.”

Monolithic Dome Salt Storages

Salt Storage near Texoma, OK — Most salt storage structures are filled by pushing the salt into the building with a front-end loader. But if the buyer plans on pouring the salt into the dome through a top opening, Monolithic will construct the salt storage with an opening at the top. For the Airform, that will be the dome’s outer membrane, Monolithic suggests choosing a white or sandstone color. But other colors are also available.

Monolithic Domes make the best salt storages. They are solid concrete on the inside. Concrete handles salt damage far better than just about any other building material.

Low Pressure Air Forms

Many people want to do something – like build a dome – their way and hopefully improve on current technology. The problem is that the their/new way is usually an old way long ago discarded.

Installing Augment Frames

Attach Stakes — 4. Attach the stakes on the exterior through the Airform and into the window buck. Get the bucks plumb and level.

In a Monolithic Dome, an augment is an extension of the Airform. That extension creates a vertical surface, beyond the curve of the dome, where a door or window can be installed. A smooth augment is achieved by properly planning the Airform.

Australian adventure nears completion

Dome home from street

For one Australian couple, building a dome home has truly been an adventure. Complications have abounded. Electricians and plumbers have scoffed. Banks have denied their requests. But they have trudged on, and their dream is almost complete.

Monolithic Dome Petroleum Coke Storages

Petroleum Coke Storage — In St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, Hovensa Coker Storage, Bechtel Corp. has two 254′ × 127′ Monolithic Domes. With a capacity of 40,000 metric tons, they’re the world’s largest petroleum coke storages. After this photo was taken, an equipment tower and conveyor system was set on top of the domes. The weight allowance was one million pounds.

Petroleum coke, often called “petcoke,” is a byproduct of oil refineries. Monolithic Dome Petroleum Coke Storages are the best solution to the problem of storing petcoke out in the open in massive dust-pollution generating piles that is swiftly becoming an unacceptable solution to the American public. Read more in David B. South’s latest President’s Sphere.

Blistering – Taking Care of a Common Problem

Blistering on a Monolithic Dome is usually minimal because of the materials used. Nevertheless, at times blisters will occur. Each time the sun gets hot on that same spot, it increases the size of the blister as the vapors expand.

Monolithic granted patent for Transverse Airform pattern

Inside a Transverse Airform

The offer for a commemorative plaque always arrives first when a patent is granted. The plaque company usually beats the patent office by a day or two. It’s an effective marketing strategy; after all, Monolithic has five of these plaques. Now there will be six. A couple of days later, the official notice from the United States Patent and Trademark office arrives. Monolithic Constructors, Inc., is granted patent number 10,400,462 for the “Transverse Span Airform Structure.”

A pioneering monolithic-style dome home for sale in Colorado [SOLD]

Rarely does a home with such a rich history and distinctive architecture become available. This extraordinary home — which sits on approximately 3 acres — was constructed in 1978 by the current, original owners. It was a time between two of the worst energy crises in the U.S. — 1973 and 1979 — caused by interruptions in petroleum exports from the Middle East. Oil prices skyrocketed, and many homeowners began to look for alternative energy sources to run their homes. Others decided the best solution was to use less energy.

The EcoShell vs. The Monolithic Dome

Ecoshells in Haiti — This EcoShell, located in Haiti, provides protection from hurricanes and infestation. A standard mud hut measures 160 sf. This EcoShell is twice the size – measuring 314 sf, yet costs the same to construct.

At times, we have repented of teaching people how to build EcoShells. The EcoShell is the epitome of a thin shell concrete structure. It’s the best building, if you want a storage shed or ultra low-cost housing. An EcoShell can be built with few materials. Low production costs enable EcoShells to compete with metal buildings. Yet EcoShells have the advantage of being much stronger and longer lasting. But an EcoShell is not a substitute for a Monolithic Dome.

Architect Rick Crandall on the Unique Features of Monolithic Domes

Architect Rick Crandall is sold on Monolithic Domes. He says that in addition to lower costs, energy efficiency and disaster protection, a Monolithic Dome can provide a structure with unique features such as a radial design, an interior hanging strength and a column-free, clear-span interior.

Understanding Polyurethane Foam

One of the characteristics of polyurethane foam is density. Density equals how many pounds per cubic foot it weighs. So when we say we want two-pound density foam, it means we want two pounds per cubic foot of foam weight. This can be a little confusing.