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In American Ingenuity’s opinion, the first and foremost decision to make to save our planet’s natural resources is to build a super-energy efficient home. If you build a home that has super-thick, uninterrupted insulation like the American Ingenuity dome then it may not be cost effective to install energy saving devices like photovoltaics, wind turbines, etc.   The one item that would compliment the Ai dome is a solar hot water panel.

Being earth-friendly doesn’t require going solar or growing all your own food. There are plenty of easy ways to make a big difference.

By Ann Archer

When it comes to the environment, being a good global citizen starts at your doorstep. From recycling to using alternative cleaning materials, minor changes at home can add up to real benefits for the planet, not to mention your own health and happiness.

It may be a cliché, but the best way to be Earth-friendly is to cut down on what you consume and recycle whenever you can. The U.S. generates about 208 million tons of municipal solid waste a year, according to the National Institutes of Health. That’s more than 4 pounds per person per day. Every little bit helps; recycling just one glass bottle saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.

Here are 10 more easy ways to green your home:

1. Green up your appliances. Getting rid of that old refrigerator in the garage could save you as much as $150 a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Appliance use comprises about 18% of a typical home’s total energy bill, with the fridge being one of the biggest energy hogs. If any of your appliances is more than 10 years old, the EPA suggests replacing them with energy-efficient models that bear their “Energy Star” logo. Energy Star-qualified appliances use 10%-50% less energy and water than standard models. According to the Energy Star site, if just one in 10 homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would be equivalent to planting 1.7 million new acres of trees.

Also, consider what you put in that energy-efficient refrigerator. Pesticides, transportation and packaging are all things to consider when stocking up. Buying local cuts down on the fossil fuels burned to get the food to you while organic foods are produced without potentially harmful pesticides and fertilizers.

2. Watch the temp. Almost half a home’s energy consumption is due to heating and cooling. (Just to clarify, an American Ingenuity Dome will cut your heating and cooling costs 50% or more over a conventional structure.)

  • Turn down the thermostat in cold weather and keep it higher in warm weather. Each degree below 68°F (20°C) during colder weather saves 3%-5% more heating energy, while keeping your thermostat at 78°F in warmer weather will save you energy and money. A programmable thermostat will make these temperature changes for you automatically.
  • Clean your furnace’s air filter monthly during heavy usage.
  • Consider a new furnace. Today’s furnaces are about 25% more efficient than they were in the 1980s. (And don’t forget to check out furnaces carrying the Energy Star label.)
  • To keep your cool in warmer weather, shade your east and west windows and delay heat-generating activities such as dishwashing until evening.

Use ceiling fans instead of air conditioners. Light clothing in summer is typically comfortable between 72°F and 78°F. But moving air feels cooler, so a slow-moving fan easily can extend the comfort range to 82°F, according to “Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings” by Alex Wilson.

3. Save water. The Web site “Water – Use it Wisely” created by a group of Arizona cities, lists 100 simple ways to save water. We’ll share just a few here:

  • Put an aerator on all household faucets and cut your annual water consumption by 50%.
  • Install a low-flow toilet. They use only 1.6 gallons per flush, compared to 3.5 gallons per flush for pre-1994 models. If you have an older model, adjust your float valve to admit less water into the toilet’s tank.

Of course, you don’t need products to save water — behavioral changes also add up quickly: using a broom instead of the garden hose to clean your driveway can save 80 gallons of water and turning the water off when you brush your teeth will save 4.5 gallons each time.

4. Clean green. Stop buying household cleaners that are potentially toxic to both you and the environment. In his book, “The Safe Shopper’s Bible,” David Steinman suggests reading labels for specific, eco-friendly ingredients that also perform effectively. These include grain alcohol instead of toxic butyl cellosolve, commonly found in carpet cleaner and some window cleaners as a solvent; coconut or other plant oils rather than petroleum in detergents; and plant-oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus, rosemary or sage rather than triclosan, an antifungal agent found in soaps and deodorant. Or, skip buying altogether and make your own cleaning products. Use simple ingredients such as plain soap, water, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), vinegar, washing soda (sodium carbonate), lemon juice and borax and save money at the same time. Check out these books by Annie Bertold-Bond for cleaning recipes: “Clean and Green” and “Better Basics for the Home.”

5. Let there be energy-efficient light. Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) use 66% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and last up to 10 times longer. Replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 32-watt CFL can save $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

6. Save a tree, use less paper. You can buy “tree-free” 100% post-consumer recycled paper for everything from greeting cards to toilet paper. Paper with a high post-consumer waste content uses less virgin pulp and keeps more waste paper out of landfills.

Other tips:

  • Remove yourself from junk mail lists. Each person will receive almost 560 pieces of junk mail this year, which adds up nationally to 4.5 million tons. About 44% of all junk mail is thrown in the trash, unopened and unread, and ends up in a landfill. To stem the flow into your own home, contact the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service at P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512.  Opt out of credit card or insurance offers at OptOutPrescreen.com or by calling 888-567-8688, a single automated phone line maintained by the major credit bureaus.
  • Buy unbleached paper. Many paper products, including some made from recycled fibers, are bleached with chlorine. The bleaching process can create harmful byproducts, including dioxins, which accumulate in our air, water and soil over time.

Finally, here’s a third answer to the old “paper or plastic” question: No thanks. Carry your own cloth bags to the store to avoid using store bags.

7. Want hardwood floors? Opt for bamboo. Bamboo is considered an environmentally friendly flooring material due to its high yield and the relatively fast rate at which it replenishes itself. It takes just four to six years for bamboo to mature, compared to 50-100 years for typical hardwoods. Just be sure to look for sources that use formaldehyde-free glues.

8. Reduce plastics, reduce global warming. Each year, Americans throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags — from grocery and trash bags to those ultra-convenient sandwich bags. Unfortunately, plastics are made from petroleum — the processing and burning of which is considered one of the main contributors to global warming, according to the EPA. In addition, sending plastics to the landfill also increases greenhouse gases. Reduce, re-use and recycle your plastics for one of the best ways to combat global warming.

9. Use healthier paint. Conventional paints contain solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause smog, ozone pollution and indoor air quality problems with negative health effects, according to the EPA. These unhealthy ingredients are released into the air while you’re painting, while the paint dries and even after the paints are completely dry. Opt instead for zero- or low-VOC paint, made by most major paint manufacturers today.

10. Garden green. First, use compost instead of synthetic fertilizers. Compost provides a full complement of soil organisms and the balance of nutrients needed to maintain the soil’s well-being without the chemicals of synthetic fertilizers. And healthy soil minimizes weeds and is key to producing healthy plants, which in turn can prevent many pest problems from developing to begin with.

  • Use native plants as much as possible. Native plants have adapted over time to the local environment and support native animals. They also use less water and require less of your attention.
  • Focus on perennials. Gardening with plants that live for more than one year means you don’t have to pay for new plants every year; it also saves the resources used commercially to grow annuals.
  • Stop using chemical pesticides. American households use 80 million pounds of pesticides each year, according to the EPA. These toxic chemicals escape gardens and concentrate in the environment, posing threats to animals and people, especially children. A better alternative is to try a variety of organic and physical pest control methods, such as using diatomaceous earth to kill insects, pouring boiling water on weeds or using beer to bait slugs. You can find more non-chemical pest control tips at the National Audubon Society’s site.

 


What can stop me from building an American Ingenuity Dome?

Prior to purchasing property, provide Ai with the tax id for the property you are considering purchasing & the building department name. At no cost to you, Ai will call the building department, show them our web site, email them sample plans pdfs, describe the component panel, etc. and find out if the Ai dome kit can be built in your area.

Besides engineer sealed plans, an engineer sealed engineering statement can be submitted that states the Ai component panel conforms to the provisions of Florida Building Code, California Building Code and 2012 International Building Code that allows for alternative materials and methods for construction.

Q: Prior to purchasing Dome Building Plans, what do I need to consider?

A: You need to assure you have answers to the following questions:

  1. Does the deed for your land have any restrictions on domes?
  2. If there is a Home Owners Association governing your land, you will need to check with them and make sure you can build a dome.
  3. What is required from your building department to obtain a building permit?
  4. Do you have your financing secured?
  5. If the answers to the above questions are positive then you can proceed with purchasing your dome building plans.

Q: Can my zoning department stop me from building a dome?

A: No. Zoning pertains to whether a residential, commercial or industrial building can be constructed on any given piece of property. Besides zoning ordinances controlling the use of the land, they determine setbacks from property lines, size and height limits and similar things, but we have never heard of a zoning restriction on domes.  Deed restrictions and homeowner associations can limit the type structure that can be built.

Q: Where can I build a dome?

A: Almost any place. Although, there are a few exceptions, some developments or communities control the size, cost and appearance of the homes. Before you buy your land ask if there are any Deed restrictions or Homeowner Associations.

If there is a Homeowners Association, meet with the board and show them information about the dome. If they say you can build the dome, we recommend that you get a notarized statement from them stating this. Over time members of the Board can change and the by laws of the Association can change.

Building departments are basically concerned about safety and structure, not appearance.

Q: Are there any areas in the United States where an American Ingenuity Dome cannot be built?

A: Yes. For the first time in 2006 one of our California clients could not obtain a building permit, because the building officials wanted our dome building kit certified that its design complied with the State of California’s building kit regulations. However, as of 2014 Ai has since learned that the Ai dome kit can be built in San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego Counties. If planning on building in California, Ai will be happy to contact your building department. Ai will discuss Ai’s building kit, and email generic plans. We will speak with them and find out if you submit California Engineer Sealed Plans, California engineer sealed snow, seismic, wind & bracing calculations, a passing Title 24 Energy Report along with all other required paperwork whether a building permit can be issued on the Ai dome.

Q: Are there any counties in the United States that will not allow the American Ingenuity dome to be built in their area?

A: Yes, Dade and Broward Counties in southern Florida. Even though our building complies with the new 2010 Florida Building Code and one of our domes survived Hurricane Andrew and a tornado at the same time with no structural damage, we have been informed that Dade, West Palm Beach and Broward Counties require product approval. Due to the cost and complexity of the tests, Ai has not paid for the testing.  Ai has learned that some building departments will issue a dome building permit if Florida Engineer Sealed Plans are submitted along with a Florida registered engineer’s letter stating that American Ingenuity’s buildings comply with Florida code. This sealed letter can be provided at no cost.

Our office can call your building department and inquire what is required to issue a building permit.  For us to do this we need your site location and your city or county name.  Ai will call the plans examiner and describe the dome building kit, email pdfs on the building plans if needed, and ask if the department will accept a Florida registered engineer’s letter stating that American Ingenuity’s buildings comply with Florida code.  Our office number is 321-639-8777 and is open Monday through Friday 9-5 Eastern Time.

Q: Is it difficult to obtain financing on a dome home?

A: Yes. For example, a 40’ dome can have 1,800 sq.ft. In your area if the finished price per sq.ft. for a conventional house is running $100 a square foot. Then the finished price of the 40’ dome will be around $180,000 not including the price of the land, utility hook ups, and the cost for the building plans and engineer seal.

Typically lenders want 25% to 35% down based on the finished price of the dome; which in this case would be $45,000 to $63,000. How does this fit in your budget? Consider building a smaller dome first and add on another dome later.  This way the you are living in a super-strong, super-energy efficient Ai dome saving money each month on your heating and cooling costs.

Why are lenders so conservative when it comes to domes? Lenders determine how much they will loan based on what houses in each neighborhood sell for. The lender can usually get within three to four per cent of the value of a conventional house. But because American Ingenuity does not have resale statistics on domes the lender does not know what the dome resale price is. The lender has to be concerned with the worst case sinario. If the homeowner dies, they will have to resale the dome. So the lender is reluctant to loan as much money on a dome project. Try mortgage brokers, small local banks or local credit unions for financing.

If you obtain financing through a bank, etc. they may require you to have a contractor who will sign a contract as to what he will charge to totally finish your dome. Ai knows of an independent subcontractor, who can work for the contractor and supervise the assembly of the dome shell kit. Click on Kit Assembly Consultant/Specialist to learn more about this service. The contractor can best provide local laborers to work on the dome shell. The contractor will hire local conventional subs to do the interior framing, plumbing, electrical, flooring, door and window installation, etc.

Construction Loans are difficult to acquire. An appraiser takes the Building Plans and determines a value for the finished house and will also appraise your land.

To view or print out the American Ingenuity 18 page Financing Booklet click on Financing Booklet.

American Ingenuity has compiled a document that lists the major items to be aware of before purchasing land.  Call us at 321-639-8777 and ask for this document to be emailed to you.

Zoning pertains to whether a residential, commercial or industrial building can be constructed on a property. Besides zoning ordinances controlling the use of the land, they determine setbacks from property lines, minimum required home size and height limits and similar things, Ai has never heard of a zoning restriction on domes.  Health Departments determine set backs from a well and septic tank/drain field.  In Florida that set back can be 50 feet to 100 feet.  It is best to complete a site plan on the particular property you are interested in building on which shows the set backs, driveway location, home location, etc. so it can be determined what buildable area is left on the property to build your home.

Building Departments do not generally deal with appearance. They are usually concerned about strength and code compliance – except for Florida where product approval can be enforced in some areas. Deed restrictions, zoning and homeowner associations can limit the type structure which can be built on a property.  American Ingenuity’s (Ai’s) dome design has proved itself by withstanding hurricane Andrew’s 200 mph winds, four hurricanes in 2004, sub zero temperatures and heavy snow loads of Canada and the Northwest Territory, a large tree impact and many other conditions over a 40 year period.

Do all Florida Counties allow the Ai dome to be built?  Even though the Ai dome building complies with the Florida’s 2014 Building Code 5th Edition and one of Ai’s domes survived Hurricane Andrew and a tornado at the same time with no structural damage, we have learned that Dade, Broward, Orange, Indian River and St John Counties in Florida require product approval. Due to the cost and complexity of the tests, Ai has not paid for the testing.  Ai has learned that most Florida building departments will issue a dome building permit if Florida Engineer Sealed Plans are submitted along with Florida engineer sealed Equivalency Report which includes structural calculations performed on Ai’s largest size dome (48’) at worst case Florida Conditions which are 180 mph wind speed, Wind Exposure Class D with five max first floor entryway openings.  The report states that American Ingenuity’s prefab panel and building system complies with Florida Building Codes section 104.11 allowing for Alternative Materials and Methods for home construction.  This sealed report is provided with the sealed plans at no additional cost.

 At no cost to you, our office can call the building department who governs the property you are considering purchasing to see what is required for them to issue a building permit.  For us to do please provide the tax ID number, main street adjacent to the property and the city or county name who governs the property.  Ai will call the plans examiner and describe the dome building kit, email pdfs on the building plans, and ask if engineer sealed building plans, sealed Equivalency Report and passing Energy Report along with their other required paperwork is submitted, can the Ai dome be built in that area?

Sometimes in California if the dome is being built near a large city, the building department might require the building kit to be certified by the State of California.  Ai has not pursued this certification due to its cost.  However, as of 2014 Ai has since learned that the Ai dome kit can be built in specific areas…please call for our latest list.   If planning on building in California, Ai will be happy to contact your building department. Ai will discuss Ai’s building kit, and email generic plans. We will speak with them and find out if you submit California Engineer Sealed Plans, California engineer sealed seismic, wind structural calculations, a passing Title 24 Energy Report along with all other required paperwork whether a building permit can be issued on the Ai dome.

If you do not have the time or do not want to assemble the dome shell kit, click on Kit Assembly Specialist to learn about this service. The Specialist will supervise your or your contractor’s laborers to complete the shell assembly.

Prior to purchasing Building Plans you need to assure you have answers to the following questions:

  1. Does the deed for your land have any restrictions on domes?
  2. If there is a Home Owners’ Association governing your land, you will need to check with them and make sure you can build a dome.
  3. Do you have your financing secured?