Geodesic/monolithic domes - efficiency, ventilation, etc. in various climates

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Flyover

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I was having a conversation with a buddy yesterday, an eccentric guy who says he would like to one day build/own a dome house. A monolithic dome in particular. As we were talking, I mentioned I've seen them mainly in the American southwest, so I figured that style of home must work well for that kind of climate. But if that's true, what are the drawbacks to building monolithic domes in colder, wetter climates?

I had a childhood friend in NE Ohio who lived in a house that was a geodesic dome (built by his father from a kit, I believe), so I know it's possible to build them in colder/wetter places, but I don't know if they had to do anything special or unusual, or if they dealt with a lot of issues (mold, inefficiency, heating/cooling problems, etc.).

Anyone have insight into this?
 

Guzzle

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A sphere contains the most volume for the least surface area, so minimal heat loss/gain.
 

Eddie_T

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But a sphere also creates unused space. I knew a couple that built a Roundette home. It wasn't really round and I don't recall how long each wall section was but it didn't make for good furniture placement and room divisions.
 

bud16415

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As a young man even back to high school late 60s early 70s I was fascinated with geodesic domes and built lots of models and worked out the math in a time before computers. Read up on R. Buckminster Fuller (Bucky).



Domebook 1 & Domebook 2 are the original reference books to dome building. Domebook 2 is kind of a retrospect of what was in book one along with some of the down sides that were not known in book one.



There are a number of other books and plans out there. All geodesic domes are not based on spheres some have been extrapolated out for other similar shapes.



One funny thing about them is building codes and inspections don’t understand how the strength is transferred thru the structure and many people were required to put a center pole that they would remove after the inspections were done to restore the strength.



They are an exacting build process and conventional framers can’t handle. They are then a nightmare to seal and fit windows etc.



Most are based around the icosahedron having 20 equilateral triangles as faces. They then subdivide each face into smaller triangles and the number of subdivisions is the frequency they call it 1.2,3… they take a line from the subdivided points and from the center of the sphere the project thru the points and hit the sphere and those points make the points for the cordial lengths. The dome ends up being pentagons and hexagons.

Before I retired I was using Autocad Inventor as my main tool and for fun at lunch time I modeled a bunch of 3D dome shapes. What took hundreds of hours 50 years before using trig tables only took a few hours.
 

Guzzle

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Here's another guy who's into spheres.

"A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure that completely encompasses a star and captures a large percentage of its power output."

The design is a bit messy & the implementation is impossible. :( As of now.:D
 

Eddie_T

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I remember The Whole Earth Catalog, I've still got it somewhere.
 

bud16415

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I remember The Whole Earth Catalog, I've still got it somewhere.
Yep I have mine stuck away some place as well. Printed like a phone book. The domebooks were printed the same way. If I remember right the domebook was listed in the whole earth catalog. Kind of a great time it was wearing earth shoes and painter pants and reading about hybrid cars in mothers earth news.
 

Flyover

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Thanks for the comments guys. I'm familiar with Buckminster Fuller and how many dome houses are geodesic (made of hexagons and pentagons, sometimes triangles) and the problems with furniture placement and yes I'm even familiar with Dyson spheres.

What I'm looking for is info on whether there are particular issues dome houses have in colder climates and if so how they're dealt with. Otherwise why are these so much more popular in the SW? It can't just be the earthquake resistance...
 

Sparky617

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Thanks for the comments guys. I'm familiar with Buckminster Fuller and how many dome houses are geodesic (made of hexagons and pentagons, sometimes triangles) and the problems with furniture placement and yes I'm even familiar with Dyson spheres.

What I'm looking for is info on whether there are particular issues dome houses have in colder climates and if so how they're dealt with. Otherwise why are these so much more popular in the SW? It can't just be the earthquake resistance...
With all the ridge caps on the shingle roofs with the many, many plane changes they certainly have a lot of potential places for leaks. That said, I have no personal experience with one and have done zero research on them.
 

Flyover

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With all the ridge caps on the shingle roofs with the many, many plane changes they certainly have a lot of potential places for leaks. That said, I have no personal experience with one and have done zero research on them.
That's what I'm thinking too, yet there was my childhood friend's geodesic dome house in NE Ohio. I'll have to call him and see what info I can get.
 

bud16415

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It is like anything else style suits some areas better. A-frames look out of place in a subdivision as do log homes. FLW Falling water would look odd in my neighborhood. They do just fine in the north if you can get your design past the building approval board. Depending on where you build it resale might be an issue. Most people around here buy a home to be a shelter and function at the lowest cost they can get. Some areas of the country they are stacking cargo containers and making homes. Around here I dont know if they would let you.
 

bud16415

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Eskimos started the trend many years ago.
You do know that Eskimos is now on the politically incorrect list and the correct term I can’t remember something like Indigenous peoples of northern artic habitat or something. I remember as a kid my first Indigenous peoples of northern artic habitat Pie. It was so good. :coffee:
 

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I looked at a photo gallery of geodesic dome houses. They all had a colossal amount of unused volume and didn't look so good either. I wonder how all those triangle components are sealed? Many of them seemed to have some sort of a fitted plastic looking cover over the top. Monkey bars with a tarp could make a good backyard tent for the kids.
 

bud16415

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I feel the same way when I drive thru any upscale housing development and see homes with 20-30 facets and ridges and valleys all over the place and then look at the foundation and it is pretty much a rectangle. Dormers used to have a purpose to bring light and ventilation into an attic area along with adding some room. Now I see them in trussed areas and the windows are blacked out and serve no function. My old house an 1880s farm house had two facets and when the guy came to do my roof his kid said Dad how long has it been that we did two facets?
 

Guzzle

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I guess the architects design what is presently selling. Around here houses-to-be & neighborhoods-to-be are selling & the ground isn't even broken yet.
 

Flyover

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I feel the same way when I drive thru any upscale housing development and see homes with 20-30 facets and ridges and valleys all over the place and then look at the foundation and it is pretty much a rectangle. Dormers used to have a purpose to bring light and ventilation into an attic area along with adding some room. Now I see them in trussed areas and the windows are blacked out and serve no function.
Yup ditto!
 

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