characteristics | AiDomes

The following info covers the low exterior maintenance on the American Ingenuity (Ai) Dome.  The Ai dome is designed to be as safe and fireproof as possible, the dome exterior is entirely noncombustible concrete.

40' dome home on left linked to 30' garage dome.

40′ dome home on left linked to 30′ garage dome.

Back in 1976 the inventor of the American Ingenuity component panel, Michael Busick, knew he wanted to use timeless building materials (concrete, galvanized steel and expanded polystyrene insulation) instead of materials that deteriorate over time like wood 2×4’s, 2×6’s, plywood, shingles and fiberglass insulation.  Michael knew he did not want to use wood in the dome shell because of termites and did not want to use shingles due to high winds or hurricanes. In today’s time this is called “Green Building.”

Since the founding of American Ingenuity, Ai has spent well over one million dollars perfecting its dome building plans, component panel design and manufacturing techniques.  You now have the benefit of all those years of manufacturing experience and plans design by purchasing the dome building plans and the dome building kit to build a super-energy efficient, super-strong home.

Please note that one of Aidomes in the British Virgin Islands went through 2017 Hurricane Irma’s 200 mph winds and had no damage.

In a conventional house made out of wood it is difficult enough to get all the wood pieces to fit. It is especially difficult to get all the wood pieces to fit for a geodesic dome due to the angles and dimension changes. That is why the founder of American Ingenuity knew there had to be a better way to build a geodesic dome. He took the time to invent a component panel and receive a patent on it. Each panel is cut at a computer-generated angle so that it fits flush with the adjacent panel. The edges are beveled at the seams where steel and concrete unite to complete the structure.

Because of our choice of dome building materials, Ai has found its kit to be very forgiving. The E.P.S insulation can be cut with a knife so some of the insulation can be removed easily if need be. If some of the insulation is broken on site, it can be glued back on with expanding foam or pieces of scrap foam can be used to fill the gap or expanding foam can be sprayed to fill the area.

It is far more practical to build a dome with concrete than wood. Once the component panels are assembled, the American Ingenuity component panel provides the structure, the exterior finish, the insulation and the interior shell drywall finish.

The American Ingenuity dome is designed to be as safe and fireproof as possible, the dome exterior is entirely noncombustible concrete. Fire resistant concrete exterior: to view info about American Ingenuity’s concrete dome versus the Monolithic Concrete Dome and to view a YouTube Video of fire going over Monolithic concrete dome, please click on Fire Resistant Concrete Exterior.

 

2.51 seam area lifting panel Kaufman picture assembly 209

Prefabricated Component Panel Being Installed.  The wooden rib system is temporary. Once the seam areas between the panels are concreted, building options concreted and entryways and dormers framed in, the temporary wooden rib system is disassembled. There is no wood in or on the dome shell to rot, deteriorate or to be eaten by termites.  No wood or shingles to burn in a forest fire.

What does the Ai component panel consist of?

Concrete: The panel concrete is a special formulation containing synthetic fibers and liquid admixtures. The following is why Ai ships synthetic fibers with its Building Kit. Fibers in concrete work to reduce the formation of shrinkage and cracks in concrete’s plastic state while helping to improve shatter resistance and reduce water migration. The result: tougher concrete. These ingredients improve the concrete’s characteristics, create super toughness, extend durability, make concrete impervious to water, give higher tensile and compressive strength, provide elasticity for expansion, and improve freeze protection. The concrete in your dome out performs other exteriors because of its specially developed formula. Because of its exceptional composition, it actually gains strength over the years. The exterior concrete adheres directly to the steel mesh and E.P.S without the need of a bonding agent. The panel concrete is ¾” thick. The seam areas between the panels average two inch thick fiber concrete.

Steel: galvanized steel wire mesh is encased in the ¾” concrete of each component panel. As your dome is assembled the mesh of each panel overlaps adjacent panel mesh 2″ and is locked with C rings  – resulting in your home being completely encircled by galvanized steel mesh.

E.P.S. Insulation: Seven inches of sturdy, rigid R-28 expanded polystyrene (E.P.S.) insulation forms the core of each component panel. The insulation is permanent, chemically and thermally stable, resistant to mildew, provides no nutritive value to animals, plants, microorganisms, non-irritating to skin, Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and formaldehyde free. Ai’s insulation will not rot, shrink, absorb moisture, compact, or deteriorate due to age or weather. It also acts as a vapor barrier for your home, providing stable performance year after year.  To read our most frequently asked Energy Questions and their Answers, click on Energy FAQ.

Interior Finish: consists of Georgia Pacific 1/2″ DensArmor Plus gypsum adhered to the E.P.S. with wallboard adhesive. It employs fiberglass mat facing instead of paper on both sides of the board. The core is treated gypsum providing excellent moisture resistance, fire resistance and adhesion properties. It doesn’t provide fuel for an accidental fire. It isn’t even damaged by multiple immersions in water. It won’t harbor spores that create sick homes. DensArmor is nonstructural glass mat-faced, noncombustible, water-resistant, treated gypsum core panel.

The concrete, expanded polystyrene insulation, galvanized steel and DensArmor drywall contain no food sources for mold growth.

Painting - blacony P5080004

Dome Owner painting 40′ dome. Not pictured is rope tied to harness. On top of each dome stainless steel eyebolt(s) are installed during assembly.  When working on top of dome, a rope is tied thru eyebolt with rope tied to harness of person working on dome.  Current technology allows for paint to be dispensed to roller from paint sprayer that sits on the ground.

stroupe safety on dome

Painter’s harness attached to rope for safety.

Klaus leo washing 090

Above picture is of a painted 34′ dome being pressure washed.  Prior to pressure washing remove algae with bleach/water or oxygen bleach/water.  Worker has harness tied to eye bolt. The dome is repainted when the paint begins to chalk.  …usually every 4-5-6 years.  The Ai dome has no roof to replace. No wood in or on the dome exterior to rot or to burn or for termites to eat.  No roof to blow off in high winds.  Lower rows of panels can be pressure washed with person standing on ladder or in cherry picker, etc.

What is the routine exterior maintenance on an Ai Dome?

Painting is the only routine exterior maintenance….there is no wood in or on the shell to rot, to be eaten by termites or to burn. After the final coat of seam concrete and allowing the dome to be washed by rains for three weeks to one month to remove efflorescence, Ai recommends a coat of a good quality concrete primer followed by two coats of good quality paint. Ai dome owners recommend the use of Ames Research Laboratories primer, tape and paint.  This paint can be purchased at Ace & True Value Hardware stores for similar price that paint can be purchased at Home Depot & Lowes.  Ai’s Assembly Manual includes complete info on weather proofing the dome.

Your dome can be painted in any color. It is preferable to use a light to medium color to assist in sunlight reflection. Dark colors absorb more heat and create more thermal expansion when the sun is shining.

The component panels do not come with any paint on them. Ai does not add any color to the concrete. On site the seams between the panels are concreted so if Ai painted the panels or added color to the concrete it would not match your painted dome concrete. The concrete shell is painted after the entire kit is assembled.

For an existing dome please call our  office for the most current painting info for previously painted domes or water proofing info for unpainted domes.  Phone 321-639-8777 Mon – Fri 9-5 eastern.

How often should the Dome be repainted?

Typically the dome is repainted every 4-5-6 years, depending on your personal preference. If you rub your hand on the paint and remove any “chalk” then it is time to pressure wash, remove algae with bleach/water solution or oxygen bleach/water, pressure wash the dome and paint when dry.  Best to roll the paint on to achieve correct thickness per the paint manufacturer. Yes the domes can be walked on if the person’s harness is tied to a rope secured around a cupola or through an eye bolt. If you do not have a cupola, during assembly install eye bolts in the top of the dome to tie a rope through. Your building plans specify the installation of a top vent with five eye bolts installed around the vent.

kolb pressure washing

This dome pic is of a 40′ dome that had been previously painted. 
Prior to repainting the dome, kill algae with combination of bleach water or oxygen bleach & water, then pressure wash the dome. The dome is repainted when the paint begins to chalk.
…usually every 4-5-6 years.  No roof to replace. 
No wood in or on the dome exterior to rot or to burn or for termites to eat.
No roof to blow off in high winds.

What if I get a leak in the dome?

With each building kit synthetic fibers and two liquid admixtures are shipped. A concrete mix recipe is included in the Assembly Manual which is shipped with each kit.  Certain steps must be followed during the assembly of your dome kit to prevent leaking: First, follow the recipe in the Manual which describes the adding of the synthetic fibers and liquid admixtures as your onsite concrete is mixed in a mortar mixer NOT a cement mixer.  Second water down cured or prefab concrete around where new concrete will be applied. When applying second layer of concrete in the seams and on entryways and dormers, apply the bonding agent (supplied with your kit) to cured watered down concrete and allow to rest 30 minutes before the second coat is added to achieve a proper bond between the two coats of concrete. Keep concrete misted as it cures.  Watering down techniques are described in the Manual.

A coat of something rigid like pea gravel, rock, etc. should not be applied to the exterior of the dome. The rigid substance will not be flexible to take the expansion and contraction that the dome experiences with temperature changes. The component panel concrete and the concrete mixture mixed on site for the seams is a special mix per the Assembly Manual which allows the concrete to expand and contract.  Ai ships with your kit polypropylene fibers and two liquid admixtures (one is an air entrainment and the other is a water reducer) with the dome owner purchasing extra fibers and admixtures.  On site the fibers and admixtures are mixed in your bags of Portland Cement, masonry sand and water in a mortar mixer per the concrete mix recipe in the Manual.

Usually it is easier to repair a leak in Ai’s concrete dome than it is to make a repair in a shingled roof. Generally applying elastomeric patching compound or caulk & elastomeric paint is all it takes to seal an area but stopping a leak in shingles usually requires removing and replacing shingles.  Worst case eternabond tape can be applied over an area, if the concrete does not sound hollow or move or vibrate when tapped with a hammer. If any of these three items occur then the concrete in that area is chipped out and new fiber concrete applied with bonding agent used between layers and all areas watered down prior to applying new concrete.

Ai does not depend on the concrete to make the dome watertight. The dome gets additional sealing with a concrete primer and two layers of paint.

How much paint is required for each coat?

Based on 150 sq.ft. per gallon of coverage for each coat applied:

Dome Size
22′
25′
27′
30′
34′
40′
45′
48′
Exterior Surface
1,036
1,189
1,484
1,611
1,994
2,645
3,255
3,652
Gallons of Paint
7
8
10
11
14
18
22
25

Take the Exterior Surface Area and divide by 150 to determine an approximate number of gallons for each coat of paint for each size dome. Yes, the exterior surface is just the cement surface itself, and does not include the dormers. For each entryway add 220 sq.ft. for each window dormer add 30 sq. ft. for each door dormer add 50 sq.ft.

The following info came from the web site http://www.masonryforlife.com/GreenBuildConsum.php

Today, studies show that people are more concerned about the environment than most issues that face us.  A number of environmental trends in the building industry have evolved in the last several years, including the “green build” concept. This concept employs building methods and materials that are ecologically responsible.

Masonry products play a significant role in “green build” concepts because they are natural products that do not deplete limited precious resources like timber. Other than helping to save our forests, masonry also contributes to a healthier home for its inhabitants. Masonry helps to make homes allergy resistant by creating near air-tight homes. Homes built with masonry are also quieter and help reduce or eliminate the build up of mold and fungus between interior and exterior walls.

The philosophy behind “green building” or earth-friendly building is that today’s decisions should not be at the expense of future generations, while utilizing local resources with a minimum environmental impact.

Building with masonry is a timeless art form that goes back to the great Egyptian pyramids, Greek temples and Roman cities. Many of those structures are still standing today! Masonry has always been the choice for enduring, natural beauty. In modern times, masonry has been the choice for residences because of the strength and durability of masonry.

Part of the reason is value offered to the home buyer. Another reason is that many builders are turning to environmentally responsible (earth-friendly) building methods, and masonry products play a large role in “green build” or earth-friendly concepts.

Building with masonry offers a number of benefits for the homeowner including protection, low maintenance living, savings and value.

Fire Resistant – Non-combustible materials

Weather Resistant – Exterior Walls that will hold up to heavy storms, U.V. degradation, blistering heat, and sub-zero temperatures.”

Termite Resistant – Exterior walls made of masonry means there’s no wood to eat.

Protection from Rotting, Mold and Fungus – With no exterior wood on the walls, there is nothing to rot and masonry plays a large role in significantly reducing or eliminating the build-up of fungus and mildew between interior and exterior walls.

Superior Sound Proofing – Masonry blocks out noise better than traditional building materials, resulting in a quieter home environment.

Virtually Maintenance Free – When used in its natural form, masonry provides lasting beauty that requires considerably less maintenance than other building materials.

Lower Insurance Premiums – Because masonry provides higher levels of security, fire and termite protection, and does a better job of weathering the storm, many insurance companies offer up to 15% discounts on homeowner’s policies.

Environmentally-Friendly “Green” Products – Masonry products play a large role in ecologically responsible building methods and is recognized by government programs as a contributor to green building status. In many cases, building within “green built” guidelines results in impact fee, tax breaks and permit fee savings for the homebuilder. Masonry products are earth-friendly because they do not deplete precious natural and limited resources like timber.

Increased Resale Appeal – There’s a widely-held opinion, supported by studies, that masonry homes offer a greater resale value than other forms of construction. Key reasons are the fact that masonry homes are high quality, low maintenance homes.

 

Click on the photo to enlarge it.  Please scroll down to view the Questions with their Answers. 

Image Image

Q: What makes your panel concrete so crack resistant?

A: The panel concrete is a special formulation containing synthetic fibers and liquid admixtures. These ingredients improve the concrete’s characteristics, create super toughness, extend durability, make concrete impervious to water, give higher tensile and compressive strength, provide elasticity for expansion, and improve freeze protection. The concrete in your dome out performs other exteriors because of its specially developed formula. Because of its exceptional composition, it actually gains strength over the years. The exterior panel concrete adheres directly to the steel mesh and the E.P.S. insulation without the need of a bonding agent.

Q: I understand when I mix concrete on site to fill the panel seams; the recipe includes the same liquid admixtures and fibers that American Ingenuity used in the panel concrete. Is this true?

A: Yes, Ai ships the same liquid admixtures and synthetic fibers with the Building Kit so the seam concrete that is mixed on site in a mortar mixer not a cement mixer will have the same properties as the panel concrete that was applied at the Ai plant.  Fibers in concrete work to reduce the formation of shrinkage, (cracks in concrete’s plastic state) while helping to improve shatter resistance and reduce water migration. The result: tougher concrete.

The liquid admixtures shipped with your dome kit are marked A and B.  One is an air entrainment and the other is a water reducer.

The Concrete Mix recipe includes water, 1 bag Portland Cement (type 1 or 111), Admixture A, Admixture B, ¼ large bag fibers, Sand (called masonry or stucco sand….no rocks). The Assembly Manual includes the precise amounts for each of these items, and when to apply the admixtures.  During the assembly of the dome kit, the seam areas between the panels are filled with the special concrete in two applications.  In between the two applications of bonding agent, that is shipped with your kit, is applied on the first coat of concrete and onto the bonding ledge of each panel before the second coat of concrete is applied. Prior to the second layer of concrete being applied, decide the seam appearance, flat or curved.  The second layer is sponged so that its appearance is a “sponged sand finish” to match the sand finish, which is the finish on Ai’s prefabricated component panels. Prior to priming and painting the concrete allow the concrete to be rained on for one month to remove efflorescence. 

Prior to the application of concrete into the seams, all the prefabricated panel concrete or cured concrete around the area to receive the new concrete is watered down.  The “Old” concrete is kept wet while the new concrete is curing. Ai’s Assembly Manual explains step by step how to apply concrete in the seams and onto the entryway and dormer panels. 

Q: After all the seams between the component panels and building options are concreted, what is used to seal the concrete?

A:  Ai does not depend on the concrete to make the dome watertight. The dome is sealed with a concrete primer and two coats of good quality exterior concrete paint purchased locally.  Ai dome owners recommend the following paints:

  • Richards Paint: Rich Flex 245; use Rich Flex Alkali Resistant 100% Acrylic Masonry Coating for the primer.
  • Behr’s top of the line exterior latex paint is Marque. Seabrook Texas dome owner loves this paint. He uses semi-gloss. Marque has the most titanium in the Behr’s line.  – Home Depot
  • Sherwin Williams: Loxon XP Paint, Loxon Primer and Conditioner
  • Behr’s Premium Elastomeric Masonry, Stucco & Brick Paint –Home Depot
  • Seal Krete Paint (pigmented) –Home Depot
  • Ames Research Labs: Maximum – Stretch, at participating ACE & True Value Stores or can be purchased directly from Ames at 888-345-0809 (if using Ames paint, specific type sealants and primer need to be used.  TT3 sealant cannot be used.)

Q: I am considering applying elastomeric paint over the entire dome, should I do this?

A: Yes if the concrete was primed with concrete primer, if the paint is breathable and if interior water vapor is removed from the interior with Broan Bathroom Exhaust Fans, Top of dome exhaust fan, stove/microwave exhaust fans and use of Heat Recovery Ventilator or Energy Recovery Ventilator if needed in your area.  Water vapor accumulates in the dome from breathing, doing laundry and dishes, showering and should be removed from the dome. 

In northern climates, install a Heat Recovery Ventilator to remove moisture or check with your local HVAC subcontractor for latest solutions.  To read about Heat Recovery Ventilators click on HRV.

For an existing dome that has elastomeric paint applied to it, please do not remove the elastomeric paint.  Please call our office for the most current painting info for previously painted domes.  Phone 321-639-8777 Mon – Fri 9-5 eastern.

Q: What if I get a leak in the dome shell?

A:  Generally, it is easier to repair a leak in our concrete dome than it is to make a repair in a shingled roof. Applying EternaBond Tape (has MicroSealant) and textured knife grade patching compound is all it takes to seal the area if the concrete is bonded.  Call Ai’s office for more info (321-639-8777). 

Q: Where am I most likely to get a leak?

A: Where a passageway connects two domes, what Ai calls a link. A leak most likely will occur where the long flat roof of the link butts up to the curved surface of the dome shell. The expansion and the contraction associated with temperature changes produce the flex or separation at the link. The fall is the most likely problem time. Seal the area where the link meets the dome with the EternaBond Tape and textured knife grade patching compound and elastomeric paint.

Q: Explain why the use of a bonding agent helps prevent leaks.

A: Technology has developed now to prevent cold joints. The Assembly Manual that comes with the American Ingenuity Dome Kit explains how to utilize bonding agent and other techniques to join the concrete in the seams. Concrete, or a cement mixture, will not bond to a dry absorbent surface such as dry concrete. The reason is easy to understand when you examine the curing process of cement. When new concrete is applied over old, dry concrete, the moisture from the new concrete will be absorbed by the dry concrete especially at the surface where they meet. When the new concrete is robbed of its moisture at the joining surface it will not cure properly and therefore will not bond.

Bonding agents are designed to improve the adhesion between layers of concrete by acting as a glue and coating and sealing the dry concrete to prevent it from robbing the moisture.

Q: What else do I do during the seam concreting to assure that the second layer of concrete bonds to the concrete of the panels and to the first layer of the seam concrete?

A: This is discussed in detail in the Assembly Manual,  basically, wet the adjacent panels with water and allow them to soak up all the water they will before applying concrete into the seam areas. Plus apply bonding agent on the concrete ledge at the edge of the panel and on any concrete that has been placed in the seam before the second layer of concrete is applied.

Q: What other special features are designed into the panels of your kit to improve the bond and strength of your dome?

A: The pre-concreted panels have a ledge molded into the edge of the concrete where the seam concrete is most needed to bond. This ledge increases the bonding surface, thereby increasing the ultimate strength of the joint. The steel mesh, which extends from the old concrete to the new concrete is a small mesh which compliments the effect of the fibers in securing the joint.

Q: Can I spray concrete into the seams instead of hand applying it?

A: No. Ai does not recommend pumping or spraying the concrete into the dome seams because the equipment usually pumps faster than the seams can be finished. The over spray gets on the panels and unless it is washed off ASAP, it will harden and be difficult to remove.

Q: Why is it more beneficial to have pre-concreted panels instead of spraying concrete all over the dome on site?

A: A continuous sprayed concrete structure will cause the concrete to cure all at once.  Pre-concreted panels allow for the panel concrete to cure prior to the seam concrete being applied.

In 1976 American Ingenuity manufactured and then built its first geodesic dome prototype by utilizing reinforced concrete over E.P.S. insulation. Steel mesh was hand tied onto the propped up E.P.S. insulation, concrete was then gunited and troweled over the propped up E.P.S. insulation. Countless designs and manufacturing construction techniques were analyzed in the early years as American Ingenuity developed a new generation in dome housing. Ai has outgrown two previous models as we progressed to a five dome complex.

Ai does not recommend sprayed concrete structures because spraying concrete causes a waste of labor and concrete. The concrete ends up being 2″ thick in one place and 3″ to 4″ thick in other places. The concrete on the dome needs to be thick only in the seams and thin on the panels.  It is a waste of labor because it is difficult for the concrete finishers to stand in the concrete and try to finish the concrete as it cures.

Q: What is the curing time for the seam concrete?

A: The weather and the mix of the concrete (amount of water, etc.) will effect the curing time of the concrete. Usually by the time a complete row of panels is placed the next row can be assembled. If  a panel is placed above another panel and cracks start to form in the first coat of concrete, then the concrete has not cured long enough.  Stop placing panels until the concrete has cured and passes the “scratch test”.  Take a nail or screw driver and scratch the concrete if no indentation place the next row of panels.

 

16.15 un loading truckKaufman picture assembly 121

45′ dome kit being offloaded from semi-truck using lull. 

Or an all terrain fork lift can be used.

All panels are lettered per the Building Plan Nomenclature blueprint.

 

45' dome kit off loaded from semi-truck.

45′ dome kit off loaded from semi-truck.

 

Side of view of panel being installed. The panel exterior is 3/4″ concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh. After the mesh is overlapped and locked between panels, on site special fiber concrete is mixed and hand trowelled in the seam areas in two applications — bonding agent is applied between the two layers. The seam areas are about 3″ deep by 5″ wide with average of 2″ thick concrete.

Side view of triangle panel being installed. The panel exterior is 3/4″ concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh. After the mesh is overlapped and locked between panels, on site special fiber concrete is mixed and hand trowelled in the seam areas in two applications — bonding agent is applied between the two layers. The seam areas are about 3″ deep by 5″ wide with average of 2″ thick concrete.

The above wooden rib system is temporary and supports the panels until all the seam areas between panels are concreted and the entryways and dormers are concreted.  Then the dome is self supporting and the system is disassembled.  Steel hubs are returned to Ai for a deposit refund. Some of the 2×4’s can be used for interior framing or the framing of the second floor perimeter knee wall.   The dome shell contains no wood to rot, no wood to burn, no wood for termites to eat and no shingles to blow off in high winds. The exterior concrete is primed and painted with two coats of paint. Dome owners seem to prefer Ames primer and paint which can be purchased at Ace, True Value, Handy Hardware, Orgill, Do It Best or Wallace Hardware.  Info about painting is in the Kit Assembly Manual which is shipped to each dome buyer.

Q: What does my American Ingenuity dome kit include?

A: The American Ingenuity dome building kit contains all of the component panels needed to build the basic dome shell and panels for one entryway. These panels consist of triangular panels, the four foot high vertical riser panels and one set of entryway panels. Each floor plan varies as to type and number of additional entryways, window dormers, door dormers, etc.  Within the entryways and dormers {structural awnings}, your framing subcontractor installs a vertical framed wall and installs your locally purchased standard exterior doors and windows.  Click on Building Kit Contents to learn more.  To learn what is not included in the Kit, click on Not Included.

The Building Options include: Additional entryway panels, window dormer panels, door dormer panels, cupola panels and thicker insulation.are available Click on Building Options to learn more. Once you select a floor plan, Ai can give more specific pricing for your building kit with building options.

The component panel includes: the seven inch thick R-28 expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation. On the exterior of the insulation is ¾” thick fiber concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh and on the interior of the insulation is adhered a 1/2″ Georgia-Pacific DensArmor gypsum drywall. Onsite the kit is assembled by concreting the entryways, dormers, cupola, link and seams between the panels. The entire dome is not concreted over….only the seams between the panels and the entryway and dormers are concreted.  For the interior shell finish, fill the wall board seams with tape and joint compound. Apply primer and two coats of paint to the exterior.

The component panels do not come with any paint on them. Ai does not add any color to the concrete. On site the seams are concreted, if Ai painted the panels or added color to the concrete it would not match your painted seam concrete. The concrete shell is painted after the entire kit is assembled. The painting should include a concrete primer and two coats of good quality exterior concrete paint. The dome can be painted any color, tan, blue, green, etc. preferably a light to medium color to reflect the sunlight.  Ai’s dome owners have successfully sealed their domes using Ames Research Laboratories primer and paint which can be purchased at Ace or True Value Hardware for about the same price as Lowes and Home Depot paint.

The American Ingenuity (Ai) dome building kit does not include doors and windows. There is such a variety and varying price points, Ai leaves that up to each client to purchase locally. The floor plan selection will determine how many entryways or dormers your dome will have.

No interior items are included. Ai believes you should not pay shipping on items you can purchase locally such as: plumbing, electrical, framing, flooring, kitchen cabinets, kitchen appliances, bathroom fixtures, lighting fixtures, etc. Purchase at local building supply stores: Lowes, Home Depot or from eBay and Craigs List.

Q: What determines the type and number of Building Kit Options I need for my Building Kit?
A:
Your floor plan selection determines the type and number of Building Kit Options. On the first floor of Ai’s 30- 48′ residential house domes there can be as many as five entryways. On the second floor of the 27′ dome and the 34′ – 48′ domes there can be as many as five window or door dormer in our house domes. On our web site we have displayed a few of our stock floor plans which illustrate different numbers of first floor and second floor options. If you do not see a plan to fit your life style, Ai can email other stock plans for your review.  Ai can customize any plan or start from scratch with your sketches and develop a custom floor plan layout.  Click on Plans.to learn more.

Q: Does the Building Kit contain any interior items?
A:
No interior item is supplied except each triangle panel and riser panel has 1/2″ gypsum drywall adhered to it.

Q: What size windows and doors will fit in the Window Dormers and the Door Dormers?
A:
Click on Window Sizes to see this answer.

Q: What is the component panel’s composition?
A:
The component panel consists of steel reinforced concrete adhered to one side of the rigid expanded polystyrene (E.P.S.) insulation and 1/2″ Georgia Pacific DensArmor drywall adhered to the under side with wallboard adhesive.  Your American Ingenuity dome kit is affordable, strong and assembles quickly because it is engineered as a system of prefinished component panels. Each panel is cut at a computer-generated angle so that it fits flush with the adjacent panel. The edges are precisely beveled at the seams where steel mesh and concrete will unite to complete the structure.

Concrete: The panel concrete is a special formulation containing synthetic fibers and liquid admixtures. The homeowner purchases bags of Portland cement and masonry or stucco sand locally. Ai ships these same fibers and admixtures with your building kit so the seam concrete mixed on site will have the same properties as the panel concrete. These ingredients improve the concrete’s characteristics, create super toughness, extend durability, give higher tensile and compressive strength, provide elasticity for expansion and improve freeze protection. The concrete in your dome out performs other exteriors because of its specially developed formula. Because of its exceptional composition, it actually gains strength over the years. The exterior panel concrete is 3/4″ thick and reinforced with galvanized steel mesh.

Steel: galvanized steel wire mesh is encased in the concrete of each component panel and extends out over the insulation’s beveled edges. As your dome panels are assembled the mesh of each panel overlaps and is locked to that of the adjacent panels with C-rings (commonly called “hog rings”). The dome panels then become completely encircled by steel mesh.

E.P.S. Insulation:

E.P.S. Insulation in Ai domes:  standard insulation is seven inches of sturdy, rigid R-28 expanded polystyrene (E.P.S.) insulation forms the core of each component panel. The E.P.S. Ai utilizes is closed cell with a 1 lb. per cubic foot density. The insulation is permanent, chemically and thermally stable, resistant to mildew, provides no nutritive value to animals, plants, microorganisms, non-irritating to skin, Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and formaldehyde free. The EPS insulation will not rot, shrink, absorb moisture, compact, or deteriorate due to age or the weather. It also acts as a vapor barrier for your home, providing stable performance year after year.  Click on Insulation to learn more.

Wall Board: Consists of Georgia Pacific 1/2″ DensArmor adhered to the E.P.S. insulation with a wallboard adhesive.

Q: If I am not ready to assemble my dome, can it be stored outside?
A:
Yes. However if you expect to have your kit outside for more than two months, when you order your kit,  request that the E.P.S. edges be painted. Do not allow the kit to sit outside during the freezing rain or winter.

 

Top five Cupola Panels installed after concrete beam and concrete legs poured.  (top of cupola consists of the five top dome panels lifted up to set on concrete legs.)

4th row of panels being installed in 34′ dome.  45′ dome in back ground.

An American Ingenuity geodesic dome home kit is purchased in kit form. If you do not have the time or do not want to perform the geodesic dome construction, Ai knows of an independent Specialist that can be hired to supervise your laborers or your contractor’s laborers for the kit assembly. Click on Kit Assembly Consultant to learn more about this service. Do-it-yourselfers (DIY) can assemble their dome kit by following the Assembly Manual and Building Plans and emailing or calling our office with questions. An Expanded Assembly Manual is now available with each new dome order.  However, those home owners who hire the Specialist say he saves them two to three weeks of labor costs.

To view pictures of the Dome Kit Assembly Process, view Dome Kit Assembly.

To view info giving Construction Overview, view Overview.  Ai’s geodesic home kit construction process consists of:

  • installation of foundation – standard foundation is concrete slab. Dome can be built on a basement, concrete platform/columns, etc. 
  • installing temporary wooden rib system  
  • placing rows of preconcreted panels with a hoisting mechanism
  • overlapping and locking the steel mesh from adjacent panels
  • filling the exterior seams with concrete (hand troweling special on site fiber concrete in two applications using a bonding agent between each layer and watering down all the prefabricated concrete around where you are working)  Specific concreting guidelines & concrete recipe are in the Assembly Manual.
  • concreting the entryways and dormers
  • framing in entryways and dormers, installing your locally purchased doors and windows
  • priming and painting of the dome exterior
  • completing of standard interior finishing phases: plumbing, electrical, framing and finishing of  interior walls, kitchen and bathroom fixtures, etc.
  • finishing the interior shell’s wall board

This advanced building system makes it easier to construct an American Ingenuity dome than a conventional house or a wooden dome. No exterior walls to frame, No roof trusses to set, No sheathing, tar paper, or shingles to apply, No soffits, exterior trim, insulation or siding to install.  

Q: Can I assemble the Dome Kit myself?
A:
About 40% of our clients assemble their own dome kit shell themselves. The Kit panels come marked with numbers and letters to match the Assembly Manual that goes with the Building Kit. The Building Plans also have elevation views with numbers and letters. However, those home owners who hire the Specialist say he saves them two to three weeks of labor costs.
 

If you do not have the time or do not want to assemble the dome shell kit, American Ingenuity can refer you to a Specialist.  He will travel to your construction site and supervise the kit assembly.  After the kit is assembled, complete the interior finishing or your contractor hires local conventional subs (plumbers, electricians, drywall finishers, framers, etc.) to complete the interior finishing and the installation of your locally purchased doors and windows.

Prior to the availability of this Kit Assembly Specialist/Consultant to supervise the dome kit assembly, our clients had to hire a contractor who generally had never assembled a dome before.  As a result the contractor would tend to over charge because he did not know how long it would take or what problems would arise.  The Kit Assembly Consultant can provide you with references from previous American Ingenuity Domes he has assembled so you can determine yourself that your building kit will be assembled correctly and in a timely fashion. This Consultant would work directly for you or your general contractor as an Independent Contractor.  The Consultant charges a daily rate plus travel from his home base to your job site and a return to his home base at the completion of the job. 

If you are interested in hiring the Kit Assembly Consultant, call our offices at 321-639-8777.

Using three to four good laborers and depending upon the size dome and type of hoisting mechanism you use, shell assembly to the stage of having one layer of concrete in the seams and on the building options (kit with two entryways and four dormers) can take from 9-16 days. Once you decide on your floor plan, we can estimate the number of days needed for your shell assembly (entryways and dormers take longer to install than triangles).  View Kit Assembly Consultant to learn more.

Q: How do I select a builder for my dome?
A:
Whether you are looking for a contractor to handle all the construction of your dome, or a sub contractor to handle only an individual job, it is best to make many contacts and choose the one with which you are most comfortable. View Builders to see a List of Builders/Subcontractors by State.

If you do not have the time or do not want to assemble the dome shell it, it is to your advantage to hire a local contractor that knows your area, have him use the Kit Assembly Consultant to supervise the dome shell kit assembly and have the local contractor hire conventional local subs to do the jobs; i.e. slab, plumbing, electrical, framing, cabinetry etc. To learn more about finishing, View Interior Finishing.

Based on our experience with building departments and slab subcontractors, no project ever starts on time. As a result at the point when you have the building permit and the slab is formed up and ready to be poured within a few weeks, we will determine which shell consultant is available.

CHOOSING A CONTRACTOR OR SUB-CONTRACTOR

Making a choice:

  • There are many considerations when selecting the contracting firm to build your new dome home. To help you make this important choice, find out all you can about contractors in your area.
  • The more you know, good or bad, the better prepared you will be for a project of this scale and complexity.
  • If you are building your dome yourself as an Owner-Builder, you will be operating as the contractor and accepting all those responsibilities. This will include making the choice of all the subcontractors who will be working on your dome, such as the electrician, carpenter, and plumber.
  • If you are building with a construction loan, your lender may require a written contract between you and a licensed contractor, binding both of you until the completion of the job.
  • Just like people, there are contractors of every type out there – honest and dishonest, good and not so good. If you take the time to be selective you can find one of the great.
  • While each contractor is reviewing your plans to arrive at an estimate for his work, you will be able to evaluate his nature and characteristics.
  • With a good and trustworthy contractor, this can be one of your most exciting and rewarding accomplishments.

What to look for:

A Contractor who:

Shows an interest in doing something unique

  • Has a positive attitude.
  • Is a creative thinker – he looks for solutions rather than complaining about problems.
  • Exhibits professionalism in his business.
  • Is organized in his work.
  • Displays neatness on his job sites.
  • Has a good credit history.
  • Research the experience of the contractor and talk to previous customers.
  • Visit his job sites.

What to look out for:

  • A contractor who promises too much, too quick, for too little.
  • A contractor who says, “Just trust me
  • A contractor who can’t supply you with names of previous satisfied customers, copies of insurance forms, a permanent business address, or occupational license numbers
  • If a contractor is a poor manager and about to go out of business, his credit with suppliers is one of the first places it will show up. Ask where he has credit accounts and call to see if he is in good standing with his suppliers.
  • If someone gets injured on your property during construction, you will most likely be held responsible for all expenses unless your contractor has Workman’s Compensation Insurance. Check to be sure that he does.

Where to look:

    • Scan through the yellow pages and their ads, making lots of calls.
    • Approach friends, family, business contacts, and people you work with for recommendations.
    • Question the building materials suppliers, eg. concrete delivery companies know of reliable subs for foundations.
    • Inquire of your building official if he has any suggestions.
    • Check with your Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau.
    • Contact local chapters of trade organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders.
    • By reviewing as many prospects as you can over the phone, and through a process of elimination, you will be able to narrow the list to a few contractors to review your plans for a quote.

 

Q: What support is used to hold up the component panels until the dome kit is assembled?
A:
American Ingenuity Dome Building Kits are generally erected using a system to temporarily hold the panels in place until the all the seam concrete and options’ concrete has cured. The rib system is dismantled upon completion of the dome and the 2×4’s are recycled as part of the interior framing. Shorter 2×4’s can be used to frame the second floor perimeter knee wall. To learn more click on Rib.  Due to the complexity of cutting the 2×4’s to precise dimension, the drilling of holes in each end and the painting of the 2×4’s red, white or blue, Ai can do this for you and ship the 2×4’s on the truck with your dome kit. 

The Rib System is the preferable assembly method on all the dome sizes. The Rib System consists of using your own 2×4’s, bolts/nuts/washers purchased from Ai and steel hubs on loan from America Ingenuity to erect a free standing framework matching the geometry of the dome. Additional supports are used to support each hub.  With a Rib System in place, a man lift or crane or hoisting mechanism can be used to set the panels into place. Since the Rib System reflects the dome geometry, a panel cannot be inadvertently positioned incorrectly.

Once the two layers of concrete has cured in the seams, link, cupola and on the entryways and dormers & the entryways and dormers are framed in, the rib system is disassembled, the hubs are returned to American Ingenuity and the 2×4’s are recycled as interior framing. The approximate rental charge is $850 for the hubs to be kept for five months.  If the hubs are returned to us intact within the five month period the complete deposit is returned. Thereafter, we subtract $20 for each additional month the hubs are kept and return the deposit difference to the client.

Q: What will it cost per square foot for a completed dome home in my area?
A:
First of all you save money by buying the American Ingenuity dome shell kit versus buying and installing the materials for a regular stick built house shell (roof trusses, plywood, tarpaper, shingles, insulation, wall board, soffits, gutters, etc.). Our shell kit is typically one half less in cost than the shell cost of a regular stick built house or wood dome or monolithic dome. View Stick Built to learn more.

If you hire all the work done, the finished price per sq.ft. on the American Ingenuity dome home will be about the same price as a conventional house in your area less the shell savings. This is because all the interior items for the dome interior are standard conventional items. The dome interior items are the same as for a conventional house; framing, plumbing, electrical, doors, windows, flooring, stairs, kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixtures, lighting fixtures, fireplaces, elevators, etc.

But you end up with so much more with an American Ingenuity dome….greater energy efficiency, greater strength, no wood in the shell for termites to eat or to burn, no shingles to replace, etc.

The finished costs on the dome depends so much on where you live, what the labor costs are in your area and what price points you select for your windows, doors, cabinetry, flooring, lighting fixtures, etc. You can ask at your local hardware store or ask a local contractor what the finished price per square foot is running for a conventional house. This is basically what it will cost to finish the domes (if you do no labor yourselves), because everything in the interior is standard whether it is a conventional or dome house….plumbing, electrical, lighting fixtures, bathroom fixtures, flooring, kitchen cabinets, windows and doors, etc. is the same. Basically you end up with a super-energy efficient, super-strong home for about the same price as a conventional house less the shell savings. View Building to learn more.

What are builders charging per square foot to finish a conventional house in your neighborhood? For example a 48′ dome can have over 3,000 sq ft. The building kit with options is approx. $60,000. Here locally in central Florida a conventional house can be built for around $100 to $125 per sq.ft. So a 3,000 sq.ft home would cost about $300,000 to $375,000 to finish without the land, land development and utility hookups. Lenders typically want 25% to 35% down of the finished price of the dome. That means $75,000 to $131,000 down. Lenders will accept part of the equity you have in the land towards the down payment amount; but they usually want a large cash down payment.  How does that fit in with your budget?

 

Q: How long will it take to completely build my dome home?
A: If you do no work yourself and hire subcontractors to complete the dome, it will take about the same amount of time to finish the dome as a conventional house. However the result is a super strong, super energy efficient home.

Q: What basic items will I need to erect my building kit?
A:
Depending on the size dome, to set the panels in place and concrete the seams you will need: Mortar mixer (4-8 cubic foot capacity — NOT a cement mixer!), cement trowels, sand (14 to 16 cubic yards), Portland cement Type 1 (40-100 bags) amount varies due to  number of entryways and dormers in your home. shovels, 5 gallon buckets, wheelbarrows, 3/8” polypropylene rope 50’-100’, 25’ Tape Measure, ladders 16’ and 32’, 16d common nails, extra 2×4’s, scaffolding, rental of a boom crane, labor to install the cement in the seams. View Items not in the Kit to learn more.

Q: What type of hoisting mechanism or crane will I need and for how long?
A:
The panels are placed using a man lift or crane that is capable of lifting 300-400 pounds, 25 feet up and 25 feet out.  Rentals on transverse lifts also called Boom Lifts, Horizontal Boom Fork Lifts, Roofing Lifts, Shooters are available from national rental chains. The rental companies can be found in your local telephone book.

With a four to six person work crew (depends on dome size) and proper bracing of the panels, a 45′ dome can be assembled in about 14 days.  In most cases, total crane operating time can be about 7 days for a smaller dome. For larger domes it may be most cost effective to rent a hoisting mechanism for a month. Then you can use the mechanism to not only lift the panels but to lift the buckets of cement that will be used to concrete the seams between the panels and concrete the entryways and dormers.

View Specifications for the panel weights for each dome size. 

 PANEL LIFTING SPIKES

Four lifting spikes are purchased from American Ingenuity for $100.   These are used for lifting of the triangular dome panels and the riser panels. 

The following information is in the Assembly Manual and includes sketches.

When preparing a panel for lifting, first bend the reinforcing wire mesh up almost in a vertical position to make the insertion of the lifting spikes easier.  Also having the mesh bent up will allow the panel to be placed without entanglement of the adjacent panel mesh. 

The lifting spikes are to be inserted at the midway locations along the panel’s edges. 

Push or hammer them into the EPS foam just under the concrete layer.  They should be parallel to the outer surface of the concrete. 

For safety reasons it is important that the lifting spikes are placed within 6″ of the center of the panel side. 

The spikes should be inserted so that the attached chain links can most easily to be threaded through the reinforcing wire mesh. 

Enlarge the opening in the reinforcing wire mesh so that the attached chain can go toward the center of the concrete side without obstruction.

Connected chains that will support 3 times the weight of the panel to the spike chain.  We recommend that you use a closed loop connector that can not release if there is no tension on the chain. 

Connect the 3 chains together so that the convergence point will be at a distance from the panel concrete surface equal to half the distance (length) of a panel side.  The chains should converge with about 90 degrees (square) between the two chains when viewed perpendicular.

Adjustments to the length of the 3 chains will allow you to tilt a panel to be better aligned with the location where it will be placed.

Some deviation in the spike placement and the convergence point height is allowable if you take in consideration how the forces are affected and follow all cautions listed below.

If the chains converge close to the panel the chains will be pulling more against each other and less in the direction intended for lifting the panel.  Reducing the convergence height to ¼ of the distance between spikes doubles the chain tension. 

Increasing the convergence height causes the panel to hang lower, reducing the height you can lift the panel.  Also when any chain is near perpendicular to the panel there is a serious risk of the spike being pulled out while lifting.

CAUTION

Because there are numerous things that could allow the panel to fall while lifting.  In addition to the chains and their connection, a sudden jerk from the lifting device, slack in the lifting cable and human errors and other things can cause the panel to fall.

The only way to assure safety is to assume that the panel can fall at any time.  Anytime a panel is lifted Never allow anyone under the panel or within range of its possible impact.  Even after a panel is set in place and supported movement of other panels or supports could cause it to fall. 

Don’t consider a panel secure until it has been C-ringed and concreted on two sides to adjacent secure panels and all of the concrete had time to adequately harden.

Not being full time safety conscious could result in fatality consequences.

Once a panel has been placed into its position at the dome shell, the lifting irons can be pulled out of the panel’s edge with a couple of strong outward jerks to the 3-link chain tail at the end of the lifting irons.

Q: What kind of vapor barrier will my dome have?
A:
Approximately one quarter of the energy consumed by an air conditioner is used to extract water vapor from inside the house. Water vapor easily passes through most building materials and is readily swept into homes through joints, seams and through the attic. Our E.P.S. insulation provides a good vapor barrier and our building method provides an air tight home.  Due to this tightness, you will run exhaust fans to exhaust moisture or in colder climates use a Heat Recovery Ventilator to remove moistre.  To learve about HRV, please view HRV.  To learn more about E.P.S. as a vapor barrier view Vapor Barrier.

Q: How will the concrete in my dome withstand the effects of freezing temperatures?
A:
Concrete is an excellent and common building material in all temperate zones throughout the world. Concrete is only affected by freezing temperatures when it is porous and absorbs water. The richness and density of our concrete prevents water absorption which spoils the surface when it freezes. Our concrete is also formulated with an air entrainment admixture which further improves the freeze-thaw characteristics. The exterior paint is an additional seal to any water that could freeze inside the concrete.

So that the concrete you mix on-site has the same properties as the panel concrete, we ship those same concrete ingredients with the Building Kit….synthetic fibers, liquid admixtures and a bonding agent. The concrete recipe using Portland Cement, sand, and ingredients is in the Assembly Manual. These ingredients improve the concrete’s characteristics, create super toughness, extend durability, make concrete impervious to water, give higher tensile and compressive strength, provide elasticity for expansion, and improve freeze protection.

The following is why we ship synthetic fibers with our Building Kit. Fibers in concrete work to reduce the formation of shrinkage and cracks in concrete’s plastic state while helping to improve shatter resistance and reduce water migration. The result: tougher concrete. Synthetic fibers are used in the first layer of concrete but are not needed in the second layer.

The concrete  in your dome out performs other exteriors because of its specially developed formula. Because of its exceptional composition, it actually gains strength over the years. The exterior concrete on the prefabricated panels adheres directly to the steel mesh and EPS without the need of a bonding agent. The concrete is in excess of 3500 psi which is stronger than it needs to be.  Although on site, you apply a bonding agent between the two layers of concrete and onto each panel’s flat bonding ledges and sloping bonding ledges.

To apply concrete in the seams the temperature should be above freezing, preferably at least 60 degrees. Do not allow the newly mixed concrete to freeze for two to three days. If you use a concrete accelerator do not allow the concrete to freeze for 1 ½ to 2 days.

The following is why we ship a Bonding Agent with our Building Kit. Concrete, or a cement mixture, will not bond to a dry absorbent surface such as dry concrete. The reason is easy to understand when you examine the curing process of cement. When new concrete is applied over old, dry concrete the moisture from the new concrete will be absorbed by the dry concrete especially at the surface where they meet. When the new concrete is robbed of its moisture at the joining surface it will not cure properly and therefore will not bond.

Bonding agents are designed to improve the adhesion between layers of concrete by acting as a glue and coating and sealing the dry concrete to prevent it from robbing the moisture.

To assure that the 2nd layer of concrete placed in the seams bonds will with the concrete of the panels, you should:

  1. Wet the prefabrciated panels with water and allow them to soak up all the water they will.
  2. Apply bonding agent on the concrete at the edge of the panel and on any concrete that has been placed in the seam. Allow the bonding agent to set for 30 minutes before applying the second layer.
  3. Keep the newly applied concrete moist during the concrete hydration.  Keep the old concrete around the newly applied concrete wet.

There are two special features designed into the panel of your kit to improve the bond and strength of your dome:

  1. The panels have a ledge molded into the edge of the concrete where the seam concrete is most needed to bond. This ledge increases the bonding surface, thereby increasing the ultimate strength of the joint.
  2. The steel mesh which extends from the old concrete to the new concrete is a small mesh with compliments the effect of the fibers in securing the joint.

The weather and the mix of the concrete (amount of water, etc) will effect the curing time of the concrete. Usually by the time you place a complete row of panels and are ready to start the next row, the concrete has cured enough. Take a nail and if you can scratch the concrete it has not cured.  Do not apply another row of panels until the concrete has cured in the prior row.

Q: What type of interior finish is on the triangle and riser panels?
A:
It consists of Georgia Pacific 1/2″ DensArmor Plus Gypsum wallboard adhered to the E.P.S. insulation with wallboard adhesive. It employs fiberglass mat facing instead of paper on both sides of the board. The core is silicon treated gypsum providing excellent moisture resistance, fire resistance and adhesion properties. It isn’t even damaged by multiple immersions in water. It won’t harbor spores that create sick homes.

The glass mats embedded into the core on both faces, results in dimensional stability and prevents warping. The glass mat is encapsulated with a coating which reduces skin irritation from exposed glass fibers. The moisture-resistant inorganic core has superior mold, mildew and fire resistance. The 1/2 DensArmor showed no mold or mildew growth when tested per ASTM D 3273.  

The wallboard finishing includes applying joint compound and tape on the seams and painting the wall board or finish the seams with a mixture of cement and perlite. The cement recipe is in the Assembly Manual.

Q: How much weight will the second floor support?
A:
At least 40 pounds per square foot, the same as other houses. Ai can easily design for a more demanding load such as waterbeds, libraries, exercise rooms, whirlpool tubs, or spas.

Q: How is the second floor attached to the dome shell?
A:
Most often the second floor joists are set on top of the first floor walls, the same as in conventional framing. In areas where additional support is needed, or where there are no first floor walls, the floor may be hung from the dome shell by anchoring a 5/8″ threaded rod vertically into the concrete of a seam. One rod can hold 3,000 lbs. Because of the incredible strength of our dome we are able to use the shell to support the second floor.  The suspension rods and plates can be purchased from Ai.  These items are listed on a form called a Parts List which is one of the two pages in the American Ingenuity official Building Kit Order Form.

Q: Can I use steel studs and steel second floor joists in my American Ingenuity Dome?
A:
Yes, we can design your dome to utilize steel joist and steel studs by designing them into your Building Plans. There are many benefits in using steel framing over wood framing. Steel joists can span great distances; thus, larger rooms are possible because fewer supports are needed for the floor above. Durability is also a benefit. Unlike wood, steel framing will not rot, shrink, swell, split or warp; and because of its zinc coating, it will not rust. Steel framing is impervious to termites, rodents and is non-combustible. The environment benefits as well. Much of steel framing is made from recycled steel, and what little waste is leftover from construction can be recycled again. Also steel does not require pesticides or other toxic substances used to protect wood. Steel is priced competitively with wood and is easy to install; plywood flooring and wall board are attached with screws. Like our dome, steel studs are fire and termite resistant, affordable and earth friendly. A perfect match.

Ai does not recommend concrete second floors.

 

Ai can design your building plans for steel framing and second floor steel joists. However we do not supply any of these items with the building kit. Go to your yellow pages under Industrial Supplies or Wall Board Suppliers and you should find businesses that sell steel framing and steel joists.

 

Metal Framing:

  • If the first floor of the dome is concrete, there is an additional price for Ai to change the building plans to design with steel studs and joists for the second floor.
  • If the dome has a basement or raised first floor, it is an additional price to design basement studs and first floor joist with steel.
  • The cost of metal framing is slightly higher than wood. You should only use metal framing if your subcontractor has worked with it before.
  • Metal Framing is not more fire proof. In a fire it will deform quicker than wood.

Some of our dome plans are now designed to show the interior wall and floor framing utilizing steel studs and joists. There are many benefits in using steel framing over wood framing. Steel joists can span great distances; thus, larger rooms are possible because fewer supports are needed for the floor above. Durability is also a benefit. Unlike wood, steel framing will not rot, shrink, swell, split, or warp, and because of its zinc coating, it will not rust.

Steel framing is impervious to termites, rodents and is non-combustible. The environment benefits as well. Much of steel framing is made from recycled steel, and what little waste is left over from construction can be recycled again. Also, steel does not require pesticides or other toxic substances used to protect wood.

Steel is priced competitively with wood and is easy to install; plywood flooring and wallboard are attached with screws. Use metal framing only if the subcontractor doing your framing knows how to work with it. Metal framing is not necessarily more fire proof. In a fire the metal framing will deform quicker than wood will.

Please call our office at 321-639-8777 for additional cost for metal framing design in Building Plans:

Q: Can I install conventional doors and windows in the dome exterior? And where are they installed?
A:
Yes conventional doors and windows can be used in the dome. The doors and windows are installed under the entryways and dormers within 2×4 walls that you build on-site. View Window Sizes and Building Options for more info.

Q: How is the exterior wall within an entryway or dormer built?
A:
It is constructed on-site using typical 2×4 wood framing techniques allowing you to personalize an important part of your dome, including your choice of locally purchased standard doors and windows. Using your own custom design the entryway wall exterior finish may be stucco, siding, brick, rock, or any material you choose.  Prior to applying stucco, steel mesh is attached to 1″ thick EPS.  Conventional windows and doors are purchased locally to please your taste and budget. Be sure to use energy efficient windows with double glass and insulated doors. 

Ai’s past clients have told us how difficult and expensive it is to purchase steel mesh locally…small 15′ roll costs $15.  As a result, Ai can calculate how much 1/4″ x1/4″ or 1/2″x1/2″ steel mesh you will need for the exterior framed wall for each entryway and dormer and add the mesh to your Parts List at a reasonable cost per sq.ft.  Ai can also calculate how much 1″ EPS you will need for your entryways and dormers and add 4’x8′ sheets to your Parts List.

Q: How are the electric and plumbing lines installed in the wall of the dome shell?
A:
Almost all of the electrical and plumbing will be contained in the interior frame walls, in the same manner as conventional housing. To install electrical wiring in the exterior dome walls: simply cut a groove in the E.P.S. insulation and wall board and insert the wire. Fill the groove with spray foam and finish the area with joint compound and tape. To install electrical boxes, conduit, or plumbing pipes: cut the E.P.S. insulation and wall board slightly larger than needed, insert the box or pipe and fill in the opening with spray expanding foam. The spray foam will harden in about half an hour, holding the box or pipe secure. To learn more view Electrical and Plumbing.  Ai ships approximately 8 cans of expanding foam (20 ozs) with your kit along with a metal dispensing gun and one can of cleaner at no cost. The dispensing gun makes it so you do not have to use up the can all at once. 

Locally you can purchase small cans of spray foam that are dispensed with a plastic tube…which gets clogged, etc.  Ai’s clients save money by purchasing more cans of expanding foam from us…..this item can be added to your Parts List as well.

Q: How are plumbing vent pipes installed in the dome shell?
A:
The plumbing vent pipes can be routed sideways through the interior framing and can sometimes be joined together before they exit our dome. Where the vent pipe is to exit through the dome shell, all you need do is make a hole through the panel in the appropriate location, extend the pipe through, concrete back up against the pipe, caulk and paint. The plumbing vent pipes are sealed to our concrete dome with caulk, e.g. urethane or butyl rubber. A plumbing boot like the type used on shingled houses is not used. View Vent Pipes to learn more.

Q: Can the dome have a fireplace and how is a fireplace installed?
A:
Yes the dome can have a fireplace. We suggest that dome owners try to locate their fireplace toward the middle of the dome, rather than along the outside edge which would cause the flue to very high on the outside. This puts more of the flue pipe inside the house where it can radiate the heat. As long as the flue pipe is round, you simply bust a hole in the concrete, enlarge the hole in the foam so that you can replace the foam with 2” of fiberglass insulation, then concrete around the vent pipe, caulk and paint. Use a nonsilicon caulk like urethane or latex. A fireplace can be added to any dome. But it may affect the second floor framing, so the stock plan might need to be modified. View Fireplaces to learn more.

Q: How are domes connected together?
A:
Domes are linked at the entryways or door dormers. Our dome kits include a standard 4′ high riser wall allowing them to be linked together despite a difference in diameters. View Links to learn more.

Q: What is the link between the domes made of, etc.?
A:
Domes are connected together with a link. The link connects to the adjacent dome at entryways or door dormers. The thickness of the E.P.S. in a link is usually 7″ when it takes the place of an entryway and 3 1/2″ when it connects like a door dormer. The width of the link depends on the size of the domes and whether they are connected like an entryway or door dormer. The length of the link varies from 2 ft. to 10 ft. Because the riser wall is a standard 4′ high, all domes will match each other despite a difference in diameters.

You do not use or order an entryway or dormer at the locations where a link connects to either dome.  The cost of the link varies depending on its width and length. 

Link panels are not concreted or wrapped with steel mesh. The 7″ E.P.S. Link panels are precut but they will require custom trimming and custom fitting where they connect to the domes. After the E.P.S. panels are in place they get covered with steel mesh and then concrete is applied to the specified thickness.  Steel Mesh can be purchased from Ai.  Also you can order the link panels with wallboard adhered.

Q: Can I have balconies off the second floor?
A:
Yes, in a 36′ or larger dome can have up to five second door dormers. A door dormer is installed above a standard entryway and a railing built resulting in a balcony. In a 34’ dome, the second floor door dormer will only accept a 6’ door that is 24” wide. This size door is a special order at Home Depot, etc.  The 36’ or larger domes can accept a standard 6’8” door.

 

In order to walk on top of the entryway, at our factory Ai cuts a four inch deep trough in the top side of two of the entryway panels. On site during the assembly of the entryway, not only is the top of the entryway stuccoed but a rebar is laid in the trough and the trough is filled with concrete.

To install the posts to hold the balcony railings, drill and install concrete anchors into the top of the entryway and install concrete screws into the side of the door dormer. The top railing is bolted to a concrete seam on each side of the door dormer. The Building Plans have details explaining this.

Q: What type of paint should I use on the exterior of my dome?
A:
Ai recommends a two coats of good quality exterior concrete paint.Your dome can be painted in any of color, avoid darker shades. You purchase the paint locally.  The primer must say to be used on masory or concrete.

PAINT, GALLONS REQUIRED Based on 150 sq.ft. per gallon of coverage for each coat applied. The surface area refers to the exterior surface area.

Dome Size
22′ 25′ 27′ 30′ 34′ 40′ 45′ 48′
Surface
1,036 1,189 1,484 1,611 1,994 2,645 3,255 3,652
Gallons of Paint
7 8 10 11 14 18 22 25

Take the Exterior Surface Area and divide by 150 to determine an approximate number of gallons for each coat of paint for each size dome. Yes, the exterior surface is just the cement surface itself, and does not include the dormers or entryways. For each entryway add 220 sq.ft. for each window dormer add 30 sq. ft. for each door dormer add 50 sq.ft.

Typically the dome is repainted every 4-5 years, it depends on your personal preference. The sides of the dome can be painted using an extension ladder and paint roller on a pole. Yes you can walk on any of the domes. If you do not have a cupola you install an eye bolt in the top of the dome to tie a rope through. To paint the top of the dome you can stand on the dome with the rope tied to you.

Q: In most of the photographs the domes are painted white, how can I make the dome exterior more conventional?
A:
The following are some exterior appearance possibilities:

  • Install stone, cedar, or wood on the vertical walls around the doors and windows in the entryways and dormers.
  • Install a wooden deck off a second floor balcony. Or you could connect two second floor balconies by a continuous wood deck.
  • Paint the dome a warm tan or soft moss green color.
  • Landscape with trees around the dome. Or install trellis with roses, vines, etc. that can climb up to the second floor deck concealing the first floor of the dome.
  • Build a porch or deck off the first floor.
  • Install canopies off the top of the entryways and doors.

Q: Would you explain briefly what is involved in the assembly of my dome kit?
A:
By simply placing the component panels, interconnecting the steel mesh, and concreting the seams you complete the structural framework, the exterior finish, the insulation and most of the interior shell wall board for your home’s shell. View Construction Overview to learn more.

  • Foundation: Once you’ve chosen a home site, you may build your dome on a slab, raised wood floor, or basement foundation – or even on pilings if necessary.
  • Temporary Support System: During the kit assembly process, the panels of larger domes are held in place by a wooden support system. It is disassembled after the seam and building optionsare concreted. Much of the 2.4’s can be reused as interior wall framing. The system is erected with your 2×4’s and our steel hub kit, which is returned to us upon completion of the dome. On our smallest domes, a simpler radial support system can be used, in which each panel is braced by temporary supports. View Rib Support or Radial Support to learn more.
  • Panels: Following the detailed instructions in the “Assembly Manual”, four foot tall riser panels are anchored to rebars extending out of your prepared foundation. The riser walls are interconnected with subsequent rows of triangular panels. The steel mesh of adjacent panels is overlapped and hooked with C-rings (commonly called hog rings) The upper panels of larger domes need to be placed using an elementary hoisting system or small crane.
  • Seams: As the rows of panels are positioned; the seams are first half filled with the special fiber concrete mixed at the job site. Additives (synthetic fibers and liquid admixtures) supplied with your kit render the same formulation as the panel concrete. Once all the seams are half filled: you start at the top of the dome and come down the dome using the bonding agent and fiber concrete to fill the seams; you finish the seam tops by sponge rubbing them to match the sand texture of the prefinished panels. To vary the exterior appearance to your taste, the seam concrete can be shaped flat or rounded.
  • Openings: The openings for doors and windows are created by structural entryway and dormer panels. They are set in place, connected to the other panels, then finish stuccoed with a layer of our special formula concrete. The six panels that make up one entryway for a 30′ – 48′ dome, consist of 3 1/2″ EPS wrapped in steel mesh and are concreted on the bottom side. On site you cement the entryway seams, lip top and the top sides. The window and door dormer panels consist of 3 1/2″ EPS wrapped in steel mesh and are not concreted. On site you concrete the dormers.  Due to the width of the 22′ & 27′ garage entryway panels they consist of 3 1/2″ EPS not concreted and not wrapped with steel mesh.
  • Painting: After the final coat of seam concrete, additional sealing with two coats of good quality exterior concrete paint is applied.
  • Completion: After your kit is assembled; you have the freedom to finish your home as you desire. Your choice of standard windows and doors are installed within the dormers and entryways in a stud wall which can be finished in concrete, stone, or wood. To finish the shell interior wall board, fill the wall board seams with joint compound and tape. Then paint the shell wall board with 50/50 mixture of joint compount and paint. Or the wallboard seams can be finished with a mixture of cement and perlite with a jont compound skip trowelled over the wall board and then primed and painted.  Interior walls are constructed then finished to taste. The second floor joist rests on loading bearing first floor walls and or are suspended from the dome shell.
  • Assembly: This advanced building system makes it easier to construct an American Ingenuity dome than a conventional house or a wooden dome. No exterior walls to frame, No roof trusses to set, No sheathing, tarpaper, or shingles to apply, No soffits, exterior trim, insulation or siding to install.

Some building departments require an Energy Report when the building plans are submitted.  The Report calculates the energy efficiency of the building envelope….walls, exterior doors and windows.  Ask your building department what is required to obtain a residential building permit.  Do they require an Energy Report and Engineer Sealed Plans? At no cost to you, if you supply your property site address or tax ID number & building department name, Ai will call the building department, email them a sample set of dome building plans and ask what is required to issue a permit on the concrete dome.  Ai will email what was said, contact person name and phone number so you can also confirm.

In most states other than California and Florida the building department will accept a REScheck Energy Report.  Ai can complete the REScheck Energy Report once you provide specific door, window and equipment answers.  Ai emails elevation views of each type entryway and dormer with rough opening sizes and recommends door and window sizes.  Please call Ai at 321-639-8777 for current Energy Report cost.

In Florida (Energy Gauge Report) and California (Title 24 Energy Calculations) hire a local company to complete the report with Ai emailing them dome dimensions and R value.  The Florida Energy Report has evolved into a very detailed and technical report.  Each dome client provides the company their window and exterior door info and what type water heater, AC/furnace they will use along with the direction their front entryway faces.  The window info includes the window size, frame type, double pane, impact resistant glass, Low E number, U factor, SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient), etc.

American Ingenuity works with engineers who can seal the Ai dome plans for 47 states (not including Hi, ND,IN or Washington DC).  The engineer seal certifies that the Ai dome complies with that states building codes. Please call Ai for current engineer seal costs.

What paperwork is required to obtain a building permit in Florida? To obtain a residential building permit in Florida, all new construction requires Engineer Sealed Building Plans, a Florida Energy Report and other documents.  To build the dome, some Florida Building Departments will also require Florida Engineer sealed Structural Calculations.  You can purchase the Building Plans, Florida Engineer Seal and structural calculations from American Ingenuity.

 

 

Building a Concrete Home – Panel Composition.  Because of fires, super storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and increasing air conditioning & heating costs, home owners are researching concrete home construction and finding the American Ingenuity concrete dome kit.  Building an Aidome from prefabricated concrete panels makes home construction easier and results in a super-energy efficient dome whose exterior panels comes with a 225 mph wind and F4 tornado guarantee. The process of stacking the panels, overlapping/locking the steel mesh of adjacent panels and filling the seams between the panels with special fiber concrete, produces the structural components of the home, the finished steel reinforced concrete surface, installs all the insulation and all the dome shell 1/2″ DensArmor drywall.    To learn about Building Kit Assembly click on Assembly.  An Expanded Assembly Manual is now available with each dome kit order.

How long does it take to assemble the dome kit if I use the Kit Assembly Specialist? Depending on the size dome, and if your building kit has two entryways and four dormers with dome built on concrete slab, the shell assembly with one layer of concrete in the panel seams and on the entryways and dormers can take about 9 to 26 days. Assembly time depends on the kit size, number of workers in your team, your foundation type, weather and the type of hoisting mechanism. Click on Kit Assembly Specialist to learn more.

Side of view of panel being installed. The panel exterior is 3/4″ concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh. After the mesh is overlapped and locked between panels, on site special fiber concrete is mixed and hand trowelled in the seam areas in two applications — bonding agent is applied between the two layers. The seam areas are about 3″ deep by 5″ wide with average of 2″ thick concrete.

Side of view of panel being installed. The panel exterior is 3/4″ concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh & fibers. After the mesh is overlapped and locked between panels, on site special fiber concrete is mixed and hand troweled in the seam areas in two applications — bonding agent is applied between the two layers. The seam areas average 2″ thick fiber concrete.

 

Concrete Home
Exterior Dome Panels Have No Wood To Burn or To Rot or For Termites To Eat
No Shingles or Roof to blow off in high winds

To support the panels during dome kit assembly, a temporary wooden rib system is installed. Once all the seams are concreted and the entryways and dormers are concreted, the dome is self supporting and the wooden rib system is removed. Most of the wood can be recycled as interior framing.

A side view of a component panel can be seen above. The panel exterior is 3/4″ concrete reinforced with fibers & galvanized steel mesh. After the mesh is overlapped and locked between panels, special fiber concrete mixed on site is hand troweled in the seam areas in two applications — bonding agent is applied between the two layers. The seam areas average of 2″ thick concrete.

What are the American Ingenuity triangular and rectangular shaped panels made from? Center core of 7″ Expanded Polystyrene R-28 Insulation (not Styrofoam!), exterior is ¾” thick concrete reinforced with fibers & galvanized steel mesh with interior of 1/2″ Georgia-Pacific DensArmor Plus High-Performance gypsum drywall board (which is moisture resistant, mold resistant gypsum and noncombustible).  None of the materials in the panel are combustible or contain a food source for mold growth.

Superior Insulating Technology The core of each panel consists of a seven inch block of R-28 rigid modified expanded polystyrene (E.P.S.) insulation. The E.P.S. Insulation that Ai utilizes contains NO HBCD, NO TCPP, NO CFCs and NO formaldehyde and is not Styrofoam.   The EPS that Ai utilizes has a flame retardant added to it, therefore the EPS is noncombustible and is protected by the 1/2″ DensArmor wallboard which is non-combustible and provides the Code required 15 minute thermal barrier.   

Your American Ingenuity concrete home kit is affordable and strong because it is engineered as a system of prefinished component panels. Each panel is cut at a computer-generated angle so that it fits flush with the adjacent panel. The edges are precisely beveled at the seams where steel mesh and concrete will unite to complete the structure.

Q: Do you have an engineering statement about your dome panels that can be reviewed?

A:  Yes, to view the statement click on Engineering.

After the foundation is installed, the dome shell assembly consists of:

  • Erecting a temporary wooden rib system with supports under each hub.
  • Using some type of hoisting mechanism place the component panels one row at a time upon the rib system.
  • Overlapping the steel mesh from adjacent panels. Locking the steel mesh with “C” rings and pliers. Depressing the mesh into the seams.
  • Installing rebar, cables, hardware, (headers, king studs for doors and windows)  and suspension rods in appropriate seams per the building plans.
  • Watering down prefab concrete in the areas where new concrete will be applied. Applying one layer of fiber concrete in the seams and on the entryway/dormer panels one row at a time. Depending upon the dome size, there are four to five rows of panels.
  • Once the last row is installed then the second layer of concrete is applied in the seams between the panels and on the entryways and dormers. Bonding agent is applied between the two layers.  Cured concrete in the seams and around the area where new concrete is being applied is watered down prior to bonding agent and new concrete being installed.  The new concrete is misted per the Assembly Manual.
  • Only the seam areas between the panels and the entryways/dormers/cupola/link are concreted. Do not concrete over the finished prefab concrete on each panel.
  • Finishing exterior framed walls and Installing your locally purchased doors and windows.
  • Removing the temporary wooden rib system. Most of the wood can be recycled into interior framing and second floor perimeter knee wall framing.
  • Watering down the concrete exterior 3-4 weeks to remove efflorescence prior to priming and painting the concrete exterior.
  • Hiring conventional subcontractors: framer, electrician, plumber, drywall finisher, cabinet installer, HVAC, etc. to finish the interior of the dome.
  • Priming and painting the exterior of the dome.
  • Finishing the seams between the interior shell wall board with joint compound, fiberglass tape and applying joint compound in a skip trowel method over all the shell drywall.  Ask Ai for latest interior shell finishing document.
  • Priming and painting the shell wallboard.

To learn more about Hoisting Mechanisms click on Hoisting.  To learn more about entryways, dormers, etc. click on Building Options.

For special discounts, click on Sale.   For Building Option Pricing click on Basic Kit Prices and then scroll down the page for the building options chart.  

American Ingenuity’s Component Panel’s steel mesh, concrete, EPS insulation and DensArmor wallboard contain no food source for mold growth and are therefore mold resistant.  The Georgia Pacific wallboard is not conventional sheet rock. Conventional sheet rock consists of  conventional gypsum and paper backing.  Sheet rock when it gets wet crumbles and molds with the paper matting as a food source for mold growth.  The DensArmor gypsum when it gets wet does not crumble.  It has fiberglass backing on both sides is no food source for mold growth. 

Tell us more about American Ingenuity’s panel materials.

Concrete: The panel concrete is a special formulation containing synthetic fibers and liquid admixtures. Locally purchase bags of Portland cement and masonry sand.  After the mesh is overlapped and locked between panels, special fiber concrete mixed on site is hand troweled in the seam areas in two applications — bonding agent is applied between the two layers. The seam areas are about 3″ deep by 5″ wide with average of 2″ thick concrete.  Prior to applying new concrete, water down all concrete around areas where work will be done. 

Mix the ingredients with a Mortar Mixer NOT a cement mixer!  Ai ships with your building kit the same fibers and admixtures that are used in the panel concrete so the seam concrete which is mixed on site will have the same properties as the panel concrete. These ingredients improve the concrete’s characteristics, create super toughness, extend durability, give higher tensile and compressive strength, provide elasticity for expansion and improve freeze protection.  The first layer of seam concrete contains two liquid admixtures and synthetic fibers.  The second layer does not require fibers; however now due to advances in fiber technology there are small 1/4″ fibers which can now be added to the second layer.  These smaller fibers for the second layer can be purchased from Ai.

The concrete in your concrete home out performs other exteriors because of its specially developed formula. Because of its exceptional composition, it actually gains strength over the years.

The exterior panel concrete, which is 3/4 inch thick, adheres directly to the steel mesh and E.P.S. insulation without the need of a bonding agent.  The panel concrete is hand applied, hand troweled, and hand sponged at American Ingenuity’s Rockledge Florida factory.  During the on site process of concreting the seams, entryways, dormers, etc., a bonding agent is applied on the first layer of concrete before the second layer is applied.  Bonding Agent is supplied with the kit with additional bonding agent being purchased from Ai. This bonding agent is not diluted onsite.  It is used full strength and must rest 30 minutes before new concrete can be applied over it.  Prior to applying bonding agent, water down cured concrete.  Before applying second layer of concrete, water down all cured concrete in the seams and around where the new concrete will be applied.  The final layer of concrete is sponge float finished on site.

Steel: Galvanized steel wire mesh is encased in the concrete of each component panel and extends out over the insulation’s beveled edges. As your dome panels are assembled, the mesh of each panel overlaps minimum 2″ and is hooked to that of the adjacent panels with C-rings (commonly called “hog rings”). The dome then becomes encircled by steel mesh.

E.P.S. Insulation that Ai utilizes contains NO HBCD, NO TCPP, NO CFCs, NO formaldehyde.  The EPS thickness is 7″ (R28).  The seven inches of sturdy, rigid, nontoxic R-28 expanded polystyrene (E.P.S.) insulation forms the core of each component panel. This is NOT Styrofoam!  The E.P.S. Ai uses is a closed cell with a 1 lb. per cubic foot density. The insulation is permanent, chemically and thermally stable; resistant to mildew; provides no nutritive value to animals, plants, microorganisms; non-irritating to skin.  The insulation will not rot, shrink, absorb moisture, compact, or deteriorate due to age or the weather. It also acts as a vapor barrier for your home, providing stable performance year after year. To learn more about E.P.S. as a Vapor Barrier click on Vapor Barrier.

ANALYSIS OF EXPANDED BEAD POLYSTYRENE

The Expanded Polystyrene (E.P.S.) Insulation that American Ingenuity utilizes is seven inches of sturdy, rigid R-28 modified E.P.S. insulation, which forms the core of each component panel. The E.P.S is one pound per cubic foot density (pcf).  EPS is NOT Styrofoam.

The E.P.S. insulation will not rot, shrink, absorb moisture, compact, or deteriorate due to age or weather. It also acts as a vapor barrier for your home, providing stable performance year after year.  The E.P.S. that American Ingenuity utilizes in its prefabricated panels:

  • is permanent
  • is chemically and thermally stable
  • is resistant to mildew
  • provides no nutritive value to animals, plants, microorganisms
  • is non-irritating to skin
  • contains NO Chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) and is formaldehyde free
  •       Contains NO HBCD (hexabromocyclododecane) and NO TCPP (1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate

What kind of vapor barrier will American Ingenuity dome have?  Approximately one quarter of the energy consumed by an air conditioner is used to extract water vapor from inside the house. Water vapor easily passes through most building materials and is readily swept into homes through joints, seams and through the attic. The E.P.S. insulation that Ai uses provides a good vapor barrier.   And the Ai building system provides for an air tight house.

During the US Dept of Energy Study on energy efficiency in  housing designs, the blower door test showed the American Ingenuity dome to be 56% tighter than the conventional test structure and 29% tighter than the Dow house.  To see if air was passing through walls of the dome, tests using infrared were performed. Thermal irregularities in the dome were shown to be insignificant.

Per the manufacturer of the E.P.S. which American Ingenuity uses, “the E.P.S. is closed cell and will not absorb more than 2.5% of water based on volume”.  E.P.S. is often used as flotation for docks because it will not absorb water. 

Per E.P.S. manufacturer’s data sheets the following description was given to explain how the E.P.S. is affected by Moisture:  “To retain their original insulation value, all insulation materials must remain dry.  Water is a good conductor of heat so a high moisture content in the insulation results in a significant loss of performance.  This is particularly so with fibrous materials which must be positively protected by an efficient vapor barrier.  Two ways in which moisture can affect insulation materials are; water absorption from contact with damp surfaces or rain penetration or from interstitial condensation of water vapor.  E.P.S. is a closed cell material and has minimal water absorption and low water vapor transmission.  Both of these properties are to a large extent, density related, but also to the degree of fusion of the material.  Tables 4 and 5 show typical performance figures for good quality E.P.S. boards manufactured to Arco Polymers recommendations.”           

Table 4  Water Absorption

Density (pcf)                                  1.0 lb                            1.5 lb                             2.0 lb
(pounds per cubic foot)

Water absorption (% vol)        less than 2.5                  less than 2.0                  less than 2.0

Table 5 Water Vapor Transmission (WVT)

Density (pcf)                                                     Grains (hr/sqft) In/Hg (Perm inch)

1.0                                                                                            1.2-2.2

2.0                                                                                            0.6-0.8

2.5                                                                                            0.5-0.7

3.0                                                                                            0.5-0.7

The amount that a material will breathe is measured in perms or sometimes perm inches.

 “Note: FHA requirements for perimeter insulation are that the original K value of the material must not increase by more than 15% after repeated wetting and drying cycles.  Tests have been carried out on nominal 1.0 pcf density E.P.S. with an original K value (at 75 degrees F) of 0.26.  After submersion the K value was found to be 0.28–an increase of only 7.7%.”

 Climatic Changes:  E.P.S. board has been used as an insulation material in various types of building structures for over 35 years in climatic conditions ranging from Arctic cold to desert heat and has performed satisfactorily.  E.P.S. does not become brittle at sub-zero temperatures (in fact its K value improves) and suffers no loss of impact resistance at -100 degrees F compared with 73 degrees F.  The maximum recommended continuous operating temperature is 175 degrees F.  Roof surface temperatures in Southern States may reach this temperature for short periods, but with suitably designed roof systems E.P.S. can be used under these conditions.”

In Ai’s building system the water is stopped on the outside surface because the concrete is rich and dense enough to inhibit significant absorption and it is coated with a primer and two coats of good quality exterior concrete paint which further insures against leaks.  If a leak occurs the remedy is to check the area for hair line crack that gets repaired with elastomeric patching compound and another coat of paint.  If and when any water gets past the concrete very little will be absorbed by the E.P.S.

Now this brings up breathability of the E.P.S.  The amount that a material will breathe is measured in perms or sometimes perm inches.  E.P.S. will breathe enough to allow it to dry out inside our walls.  At the same time it is tight enough to also serve as a good vapor barrier. Ai’s insulating concrete panel (ICF) is made from expanded polystyrene (E.P.S.) molded into lightweight foam blocks. The foam itself provides excellent insulation with an R value of R-28. The R-value of E.P.S. remains constant. (R-values of traditional fiberglass insulation decreases when the material is wet or damaged.)  Ai chose to manufacture its dome component panels with Modified Expanded Polystyrene (E.P.S.) foam because of its fire performance, structural performance, and environmental advantages. Modified E.P.S. contains no formaldehydes, no CFCs, no HBCD, no TCPP or toxic chemicals, and uses fewer resources to manufacture than other insulation products.  E.P.S. provides you with superior thermal performance to better insulate your buildings, and no harmful CFC’s have ever been used to manufacture it.

You can now recycle your jobsite scrap through a network of manufacturers, re-processors, and retailers across the country. E.P.S. is a valuable resource than can be remanufactured into foam packaging or made into an amazing array of polystyrene products from office supplies to video cassette cartridges.  To locate your nearest E.P.S. collection site, call the RECYCLING HOTLINE at 1-800-944-8448.  Please recycle jobsite scrap.

Expanded Polystyrene (E.P.S.) Facts

The E.P.S. that American Ingenuity utilizes is manufactured from expandable polystyrene beads containing a hydrocarbon blowing agent and a flame-retardant additive that contains NO HBCD (hexabromocyclododecane) and NO TCPP (1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate. Ai’s insulation is made from Nova Chemicals M-77 E.P.S. product.

The EPS Ai utilizes is a closed cell, lightweight, resilient, foamed plastic composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms. There are two common types of polystyrene foam, Extruded Polystyrene or X.E.P.S. (Popularly known by its Dow trademark, Styrofoam) and Expanded Polystyrene (E.P.S.). American Ingenuity utilizes only Expanded Bead Polystyrene that contains NO HBCD, NO TCPP, NO CFC’s and NO formaldehyde. Ai does not use Styrofoam.

During the processing of E.P.S., steam heat softens the beads and causes the blowing agent to expand to produce moisture-resistant multi-cellular particles, which increase in size up to 40 times their original volume.  Following a period of stabilization, during which time the beads lose their moisture, the blowing agent condenses out and air diffuses into their cellular structure, the pre-expanded beads are molded into blocks of insulation.

The benefits of E.P.S. thermal insulation products are its lightweight, has stable long-term thermal resistance, no R-value loss over time (Source: 1985 Study conducted by Structural Research, Inc. for NRCA, MRCA, and SPI), and cost effectiveness when compared to other rigid board insulations on the basis of R-value.

Is E.P.S. a water, vapor or air barrier?

E.P.S. is considered water resistant and vapor permeable and at the density and thickness that American Ingenuity utilizes, the material acts as both a vapor retarder and an air barrier. This characteristic essentially moves the dew point to the exterior side of the concrete wall, minimizing interior humidity in the summer, and at the same time eliminates air infiltration in all seasons which is recognized as a major cause of R-value loss in fiberglass insulation. Air exchangers or heat recovery ventilation systems are highly recommended!

Is E.P.S. foam toxic?

E.P.S. is an inert, non-biodegradable organic plastic foam which will not rot and is highly resistant to mildew. According to National Bureau of Standards Combustion Tests, data collected from seven labs concluded that under the worst case fire scenario, fumes from E.P.S. are no more toxic than those from wood (Douglas Fir).  

Is E.P.S. Flammable?

Due to the flame retardant added to the EPS during expansion, the EPS is not combustible but will melt and draw back from a heat source.  Tests have shown that the smoke and soot produced from the melting EPS is less than is produced by burning Douglas Fir wood.  Of course no one wants to breathe smoke or soot…that is why there are smoke detectors to alert occupants to fire.  The requirements of all the major code organizations for foam plastics is that they have a flame spread of not more than 75 and a smoke development rating of not more than 450. The foam used in Ai’s component panels has a flame spread rating of 15 and a smoke development rating of 125 based on ASTME84-87 tests, well below the code requirements.

If you are in an extremely cold climate (Vermont, South Dakota, Canada) you may want to purchase 9″ EPS R36 insulation.  Just remember if you purchase the thicker insulation, this will increase the size of the panels, which will cause a 45′ r 48′ kit to require two trucks for delivery. To learn more about the properties of the E.P.S. click on E.P.S. data and then scroll down the page to Analysis of Expanded Bead Polystyrene.

1/2″ Georgia Pacific DensArmor Plus Gypsum Wall Board

Drywall/WallBoard: Consists of Georgia Pacific 1/2″ DensArmor Plus High Performance Gypsum Panels adhered to the E.P.S. insulation with a wallboard adhesive  with moisture treated core.  DensArmor Plus High-Performance Interior Panels are noncombustible (as defined and tested in accordance with ASTM E136 or CAN/ULC S114) interior panels that consist of a moisture-resistant gypsum core with coated fiberglass mats. The fiberglass mats provide superior protection from incidental moisture.  The treated core and the coated facings made with fiberglass offer greater moisture resistance and improved dimensional stability than regular gypsum board. The product resists warping, rippling and buckling.

The DensArmor has zero flame spread and zero smoke development and complies with the 15 minute thermal barrier test as described in 2010 Florida State IRC Section R316.4.

Georgia Pacific’s Dens-Deck roof board is a patented nonstructural glass mat-faced, noncombustible, water-resistant, gypsum core panel.  Georgia Pacific does not add any flame retardant to its gypsum products.  The DensArmor contains no HBCD and no TCPP.

Q: Does the interior shell wall board that American Ingenuity uses support the growth of mold?
A:
. DensArmor Plus Panels are highly resistant to the growth of mold, and have scored a 10, the highest level of performance for mold resistance under ASTM D3273 test method. DensArmor Plus Interior Panels are the first drywall panels to be GREENGUARD indoor Air Quality Certified and GREENGUARD Children & Schools Certified for low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by a leading third-party organization, GREENGUARD Environmental Institute.  In addition, DensArmor Plus interior Panels are the first drywall panels listed as GREENGUARD microbial resistant.  This listing means Dens-Armor Plus Panels, which feature fiberglass mats instead of paper facings used on the surface of traditional gypsum board products, resist mold growth.  The microbial resistant test is based on ASTM D6329, a testing standard set by ASTM International, which develops testing guidelines and procedures for building materials, products, systems, and services.

Green, brown or black algae can appear on the wallboard. Algae just needs water and sunlight to grow.  Algae can be removed with a combination of chlorine and water or oxygenated bleach and water.

The wallboard is adhered to the EPS with a wallboard adhesive.  The glass mats embedded into the core on both faces, results in dimensional stability and prevents warping. The glass mat is encapsulated with a coating which reduces skin irritation from exposed glass fibers. Please use a mask when cutting the DensArmor.

Fire Protection: Per Georgia Pacific:

  • 1/2″ Dens Armor Plus High Performance Gypsum Panels are gypsum panel products, designed for interior use, are manufactured to meet the temperature rise criteria of a thermal barrier as described in Section R316.4 of the 2010 Florida Residential Building Code.
  • In addition to having a non-combustible core per ASTM E 136, Dens Armor Plus has been evaluated by Underwriters Laboratories LLC per UL 723 Standard for Test for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials. DensArmor Plus has a Flame spread/Smoke Development of 0/0.
  • The Finish Rating Thermocouple Temperatures obtained during the evaluation (WFCI Project No. 06047A) was conducted at Western Fire Center (WFCi) in Kelso, WA. WFCI is a recognized testing facility per the Gypsum Association (GA-600).
  • The Finish or Membrane Protection Rating was determined to be 0.15:40 for 1/2″ DAP. Please note the average ambient temperture was 21.0 degrees C for the 5 Finish Rating Thermocouples.
  • Properties of Dens-Armor: Noncombustible, Water Resistance, Dimensional Stability, Decay Resistance, Resistant to Warping, Rodent and Fungus Resistance, Torch Safe, High Compressive Strength.

The wallboard seams can be finished similar to drywall by applying joint compound and adhesive backed mesh tape on the seams. To blend the taped seams to the drywall finish, apply joint compound in a skip trowel fashion over the dome shell drywall.  Please call Ai for latest drywall finishing document.  Prime and paint the drywall.

 If I am not ready to assemble my dome immediately, can it be stored outside? Yes, but not in freezing weather. If you expect to have your kit outside for more than two to three months, when you order your kit request that the E.P.S. edges be painted.   Call us for details at 321-639-8777.

What do the component panels weight?

Dome Diameters 22′ 27′ 30′ 34′ 40′ 45′ 48′
Triangular (lbs)

155-180

245-295

120-150

160-200

230-275

275-355

315-400

Riser (lbs)

255

315

230

260

315

350

380

How are the panels supported during assembly?  Ai recommends using the temporary “wooden rib system.” The rib system consists of your own 2×4’s (cut to length and holes drilled to our specs) and steel hubs on loan from American Ingenuity to erect a free standing geodesic framework. The 2×4’s can be purchased from Ai (precut, holes drilled with ends painted) and shipped on the truck with your kit. The deposit on the hubs is $1,600 for a 5 month rental time…$20 a month rental thereafter, with the client paying to ship the hubs back to Ai to receive their deposit back less any additional months rental and any cost for any missing or damaged hubs. The bolts/nuts/washers are purchased for $128 and are not returned to Ai.  An Expanded Assembly Manual is now available with each new dome order.

The “Rib System” dictates the exact panel placement. Once all the seams/options have been concreted and entryways/dormers framed in the “Rib System” is removed and recycled into the interior framing and the hubs returned to us.  Click on Rib to learn more.

How are the panels hoisted into place? And what equipment is attached to the panels to make lifting easier?

  • The typical method for lifting the panels is by man lift, crane or transverse fork lift.
  • Monthly rentals on transverse lifts also called Boom Lifts, Horizontal Boom Fork Lifts, Roofing Lifts, Shooters are available from National Rental Chains.
  • Four Panel Lifting Spikes are purchased from Ai for $120 and attached to your locally purchased chain and couplers.  To learn more about the spikes click on Lifting Spikes.  Please scroll down the page to find the spikes info.

 

 The following covers Choosing a Contractor to assemble the prefabricated dome kit.
Starting Second Row of Panel Assembly

Starting Second Row of Panel Assembly- 45′ Dome

Over 40% of our clients are owner builders and assemble their own concrete shell themselves. The Prefab Kit panels come marked with numbers and letters to match the Assembly Manual that goes with the building kit. The building plans also have a nomenclature sheet showing all panels with all panels numbered and lettered.  If you do not have the time or do not want to assemble the dome shell kit, Ai knows of an independent specialist that will supervise your workers or your contractor’s workers and assemble the shell. By using a shell sub, this will greatly take the heat off your contractor to estimate the shell assembly  costs as he has not assembled one of our kits before. To learn more about this service click on Kit Assembly Consultant.

 

Using three to five good laborers and depending upon the size dome and type of hoisting mechanism utilized, shell assembly (kit with two entryways and four dormers) can take from 9-16 days. Once you decide on your floor plan, the number of entryways and dormers will be known allowing the use of the info on the consultant page to estimate kit assembly time.To view pictures of the kit assembly, click on Dome Kit Assembly and Construction Overview.

You or your contractor hire conventional subcontractors to do the normal jobs like forming and pouring the slab, plumbing, electrical, framing, etc.

 

A few years ago prior to knowing of a consultant who would supervise the shell assembly, some of our dome owners had to hire contractors or individuals that had never assembled an Ai dome kit. As a result the contractor had to overcharge the dome owner because they did not know what problems they would run in to. Many times they would charge as much as the cost of the building kit for the labor cost to assemble the kit.

 
The Kit Assembly Specialist works directly for you as an independent subcontractor and can provide you with references for previous Ai domes built.  Using this consultant will assure that your panels are assembled in the correct location and in a timely fashion.

 

If you are interested in utilizing the Specialist, call our office at 321-639-8777 Monday through Friday 9-5 eastern time. 
Please visit your local library to read books that cover building your own home. A helpful web site is rsmeans.com They sell construction manuals, construction estimating CD’s, etc.

 

The methods used for lifting the panels include:

 

Man lifts or small cranes that can lift 400 – 500 lbs; 25 ft up and 25 ft out, Highlifts (all terrain scissors forklifts often used by roofers).

 

Monthly rentals on transverse lifts also called Boom Lifts, Horizontal Boom Fork Lifts, Roofing Lifts, Shooters are available from National Rental Chains like US Rentals, Hertz Equipment Rentals, United Rentals, etc. The companies can be found in the telephone book.  To learn more click on Hoisting Mechanisms.

Choosing a Contractor or Sub-Contractor

Making a choice: 

There are many considerations when selecting the contracting firm to build your new dome home. To help you make this important choice, find out all you can about contractors in your area.

 

The more you know, good or bad, the better prepared you will be for a project of this scale and complexity.

 

If you are building your dome yourself as an Owner-Builder, you will be operating as the contractor and accepting all those responsibilities. This will include making the choice of all the subcontractors who will be working on your dome, such as the electrician, carpenter, and plumber.

 

If you are building with a construction loan, your lender may require a written contract between you and a licensed contractor, binding both of you until the completion of the job.

 

Just like people, there are contractors of every type out there – honest and dishonest, good and not so good. If you take the time to be selective you can find one of the great.

 

While each contractor is reviewing your plans to arrive at an estimate for his work, you will be able to evaluate his nature and characteristics.

 

With a good and trustworthy contractor, building your home can be one of your most exciting and rewarding accomplishments.

 

What to look for:

  1. Search the experience of the contractor and talk to previous customers.

  2. Visit his job sites.

  3. A Contractor who:

o Shows an interest in doing something unique.

o Has a positive attitude.

o Is a creative thinker – he looks for solutions rather than complaining about problems.

o Exhibits professionalism in his business.

o Is organized in his work.

o Displays neatness on his job sites.

o Has a good credit history.

What to look out for:

  1. A contractor who promises too much, too quick, for too little. A contractor who says, “Just trust me…..”
  2. A contractor who can’t supply you with names of previous satisfied customers, copies of insurance forms, a permanent business address, or occupational license numbers.
  3. If a contractor is a poor manager and about to go out of business, his credit with suppliers is one of the first places it will show up. Ask where he has credit accounts and call to see if he is in good standing with his suppliers.
  4. If someone gets injured on your property during construction, you will most likely be held responsible for all expenses unless your contractor has Workman’s Compensation Insurance. Check to be sure that he does.

Where to look:

  1. Scan through the yellow pages and their ads, making lots of calls. Approach friends, family, business contacts, and people you work with for recommendations.
  2. Question the building materials suppliers, eg. concrete delivery companies know of reliable subs for foundations.
  3. Inquire of your building official if he has any suggestions.
  4. Check with your Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau.
  5. Contact local chapters of trade organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders. 

By reviewing as many prospects as you can over the phone, and through a process of elimination, you will be able to narrow the list to a few contractors to review your plans for a quote.

Agreeing on payment:

Because of the uniqueness of this project compared to most projects a contractor has, it will be very difficult for him to determine the exact cost to build your dome. Any experienced contractor has, at one time or another, lost money by bidding a job too low. So if he is not confident of what his costs will be, he will tend to overbid. If he does underbid, once construction begins he will see he is losing money and will start to cut corners, do poor quality work, and try to get out of the job before completion.

 

He may wish to bid your project on a “cost-plus” contract, in which the contractor charges for the expense of his materials and labor plus a percentage for profit. This is detrimental to you because the more he spends, the more he makes. We recommend a modified “cost-plus” arrangement in which the contractor is paid for his cost plus a predetermined dollar amount for profit. To learn more about determining how to pay your Contractor click on Paying Contractor.

When to pay:

Financial institutions never pay a contractor until each particular phase of work is completed. If you have the responsibility, and not your mortgage company, to pay the contractor, do the same and only pay the contractor in prearranged installments called draws. For example: 10% or $xxx after the foundation is complete, 10% or $xxx after the shell is complete, etc. If he does not have enough capital or credit to see him through a phase of construction, he is not an established businessman.

 

Never pay ahead for work that has not been done yet. And always withhold final payment until the entire job is finished and you are happy with the results. That is the best insurance you have to make sure he will return and complete the project.

 

Make yourself familiar with the lien laws for your state. If your contractor or subcontractor does not pay for the materials used in your house, even if you have paid him for those materials, the supplier may be able to place a Mechanic’s Lien upon your property, requiring you to pay them also. To learn more click on Mechanic’s Lien.

 

Contracts:

  1. Be sure everything that is important to you and everything you expect is written into a contract.
  2. We recommend you have a detailed, written understanding of the contractor’s responsibilities, what he is to do, and the items that are to be included. This can be done in an informal manner and can simply be an itemized list of what the contractor agrees to do and when, what you agree to do and when, and how much he will be paid and when.
  3. Include a general statement that all work will be done in a professional manner.
  4. If you have the option, we recommend an agreement which will allow either party some opportunity to back out or renegotiate the remainder of the jobs to be completed. If your contractor really wants out of the job, it is in your best interest to let him go. If you are dissatisfied, this will also provide you with an escape clause. It is not uncommon to change contractors during construction of any home.
  5. To encourage the contractor to complete the project in a timely and cost effective manner, include rewards for finishing early and below the estimated cost.
  6. Include a provision to reduce his profits for significant overruns and delays.
  7. A contract that rewards the contractor for good and productive service is the objective.
  8. Be sure both of you sign and date the contract. Keep a signed copy for yourself in a safe place where it is accessible when you need to refer to it.

 

The following info gives a construction overview of the American Ingenuity Panelized Dome Kit

finishing seams

Workers sponge finishing final second layer in the seams between the panels.
Sponging produces a “sponge sand finish” which blends the seam fiber concrete to the prefabricated panel fiber concrete.
45′ dome home on the left linked to 34′ garage dome.

To view assembly pictures of 45′ dome home & 34′ dome garage, view Dome Kit Assembly.

Q: Do you have an engineering statement about your dome panels that can be submitted to my building department?

A:  Yes, to view the statement click on Engineering.

The American Ingenuity geodesic dome shell kit is designed with unique and practical materials. Ai developed simplified, effective construction techniques, invented a component panel and created a home which offers the ultimate in energy efficiency, strength and practicality. Ai has been in business, with the same owners, since 1976 and has domes in 47 states and thirteen foreign areas.

Whatever size floor plan you seek, whether for a modest starter home or a grand estate, American Ingenuity domes are flexible enough to adapt to your conditions.  The dome kit can be a Do It Yourself project with panels assembled by owner builders or the home owner can hire a contractor who hires the independent kit assembly consultant. To view info about DIY, click on owner builder.

To view stock plans for each diameter dome, click on Stock Plans Pdf.  If you do not see a stock plan to fit your lifestyle, Ai can design modified or customized plans per your sketches and descriptions.

American Ingenuity’s new DVD is $7 includes mailing costs.  To order please call our office at 321-639-8777 – Mon – Fri 9-5 eastern time.  To view at no cost, click on Free DVD.

Building plans include the basic drawings for the dome that are needed when you acquire a building permit. The plans are composed on our computer aided drafting system as stock plans, or custom plans based on your individual requirements and design. Some of the pages are a 3-D elevation and a 3-D perspective view. These plans include all the structural drawings, show the placement of the electrical outlets, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures; however, they do not have the electrical, plumbing, HVAC layouts. We have found if the layouts are included, then the inspectors require the subcontractors to follow the diagrams when usually the subs like to do their own layouts.

Where can I see one of your finished domes? Ai has facilities in Florida where it manufactures the kits. Ai has sold domes into 47 USA states and thirteen foreign areas. We would like to have model homes throughout the country but it is not economically possible. If we had models throughout the country, Ai would need to triple the price of its building kit.  There are over 800 American Ingenuity Domes throughout the country.  We are thankful a few dome owners allow us to give out their name and number after we have answered the callers basic questions.   To learn more view Visit our Dome Offices.

Exterior community pic dome on stilts in woods

Dome Built on Basement w’ perimeter deck

Only a few of our dome owners allow us to give out their name and telephone number.  Ai promises the dome owner that we will not take advantage of their courtesy and we will only give out their name to those who are serious and knowledgeable of the information on our web site. That way the dome owner is not answering basic questions that we can answer or is answered on our web site. After Ai answers your basic questions, we will review our dome referral listing for the dome owner closest to you who allows us to give out their name & phone number.  Ai has also promised to not give out the dome owner’s address to assure that they will not have surprise visitors.

Dome Finished Costs:

The finished costs on the domes depends so much on where you live, what the labor costs are in your area and what price points you select for your windows, doors, cabinetry, flooring, bathroom fixtures, kitchen appliances, lighting fixtures, etc. You can ask at your local hardware store or ask a local contractor what the finished price per square foot is running for a conventional house. That is approximately what it will cost to finish the domes (if you do no labor yourselves), because everything in the interior is standard whether it is a conventional house or a dome house….plumbing, electrical, lighting fixtures, bathroom fixtures, flooring, kitchen cabinets, windows and doors, etc. are the same. Basically you end up with a super-energy efficient, super-strong home for about the same price as a conventional house. To learn more view Ai Dome versus Stick Built.

About 40% of our clients assembly their kit while others hire a Builder who hires the independent kit assembly Consultant.  The Component Panels and Building Plans  come marked with panel nomenclature. If you do not want to manage the assemble of the dome kit, Ai knows of independent working consultants which travel around the country assembling the dome shell using your concrete workers or your contractor’s concrete workers. To view a list of possible Builders, click on builders.

Using three to five good concrete workers and depending upon the size dome and type of hoisting mechanism used, shell assembly of  22′ – 48′ domes to the stage of having one layer of concrete in the seams and on the building options (Kit with one entryways and two dormers) can take from 14 to 26 days. To learn more about hiring the Specialist view Kit Assembly Specialist/Consultant.

You or your contractor hires local conventional subcontractors to perform the conventional jobs like forming and pouring the slab, plumbing, electrical, framing, etc. Ai believes you should not pay some one to come in from out of state to do work that your local subs can perform.

Prior to the Kit Assembly Consultant supervising the dome kit assembly, our clients had to hire a contractor who generally had never assembled an American Ingenuity Dome before.  As a result the contractor would need to over-charge because he did not know how long it would take or what problems would arise.  The Kit Assembly Consultant works directly for you as an independent subcontractor and can provide you with references for previous Ai domes built.  Using this consultant will assure that the temporary wooden rib system and your building kit is assembled correctly and in a timely fashion.  You or your builder hires concrete workers who mix the concrete to the special recipe and trowel the concrete into the panel seams and onto the entryways and dormers.  The Consultant/Specialist does not apply concrete, he is there to supervise the job site workers.

Hiring the consultant for one week can save you two to three weeks or more of shell assembly time.

The consultant works for around $295 a day plus travel costs, motel, and car rental costs while at the job site. These costs include travel from his home base to the job site and a return to his home base at the completion of the job.

If you are interested in utilizing the Consultant, please call our office at 321-639-8777.

Contact your local Home Builder’s Association for the names of contractors and subcontractors in your area. American Ingenuity maintains a list of dome owners, contractors or subcontractors who have assembled Ai dome shell kits. To view this list view Builders & Assemblers.

A helpful web site is rsmeans.com They provide construction manuals, construction estimating CD’s, etc.

The following is a quick overview of Ai’s panelized kit contents and our building process to give you an idea of what is is required in building an American Ingenuity dome prior to the purchase of your personal dome. When you purchase a dome shell kit from us, the full “Assembly Manual” is included and is much more extensive and precise.

The American Ingenuity dome building kit includes one entryway and all the panels to assemble the dome shell. The triangular and riser panels are preconcreted, insulated and have wall board. The dome shell kit package includes: Triangular Panels, four foot tall Riser Wall Panels, Entryway Panels, Galvanized Steel Mesh, Concrete Fibers, Two Concrete Admixtures, Reinforcing Tension Wire, Concrete Bonding Agent, Connecting C-Rings, C-Ring Pliers, Cans of Expanding Foam, Metal Dispensing Gun for the expanding foam and the Assembly Manual. To learn more about the Kit Contents view Contents. To learn what is not included in the Kit view Not Included.

The interior wall board on the riser and triangle panels consists of Georgia Pacific 1/2″ DensArmor Plus Gypsum Wallboard adhered to the E.P.S. with wallboard adhesive. It employs fiberglass mat facing instead of paper on both sides of the board. The core is silicon treated gypsum providing excellent moisture resistance, fire resistance and adhesion properties.  It won’t harbor spores that create sick homes. To learn more about this board view Panel Composition.and scroll down the page to the wallboard section or go to Georgia Pacific’s web site DensArmor and click on the its product specs.

For freedom and flexibility of design, you can select additional building kit options which are determined by your choice of floor plan. The options include: additional Entryway Panels (garage, high profile, or standard), Window Dormer Panels (first floor and or second floor), Door Dormer Panels (first floor and or second floor), Cupola Panels, Link Panels and R-36 Insulation. Within the entryways and dormers, on site a 2×4 or 2×6 PT wall is built and your locally purchased doors and windows are installed. To learn more about the Building Options view Options.

No interior items are included in the kit except for the interior shell wall board. Ai believes you should not pay shipping on items you can purchase locally such as; plumbing, electrical, framing, flooring, kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixtures, stairs, fireplaces, windows, doors, etc.

The basic building process consists of 1) placing the preconcreted insulated panels, entryway, door dormer and window dormer panels onto a temporary wooden rib system; 2) overlapping and locking the steel mesh with “C” rings and 3) concreting the seams and options. There is no need to concrete over the entire dome exterior. Only the panel seams and the building kit options are concreted on site. Prior to installing entryway, door dormer and window dormer panels, review your plans for any stud that needs to extend thru the EPS and for any anchoring hardware that needs to be installed; i.e. J bolts (top plate in door dormer & entryway framed wall), power studs (into sill plates), bolts,nuts, washers (into base entryway panels).  The entryway, door dormer and window dormer panels are installed in the row of panels that they are in and receive a first layer of concrete when you apply the first layer of concrete in the seams.  Prior to applying the scratch coat of concrete, the anchoring hardware or stud that extends thru the eps of the entryway or door dormer has to be installed. The next row of panels cannot be installed until the concrete on the entryways, dormers and seams has passed the scratch test.

The temporary wooden rib system and its bracing cannot be removed until 1) all panels (entryways, dormers, risers, triangles, link, cupola) are installed with two layers of concrete; 2) all framing is installed within the entryways and dormers and concrete has cured for two weeks.

Prior to priming and painting the concrete, tap on all seams to see if any sound hollow or the concrete shifts or vibrates.  If this occurs then this concrete needs to be removed and new fiber concrete installed in that seam.  Also  allow the concrete to be rained on for one month to remove efflorescence. Examples of Paint which Aidome owners have had success with are:  

  • Behr’s top of the line exterior latex paint is Marque. Seabrook Texas dome owner loves this paint. He uses semi-gloss. Marque has the most titanium.  – Home Depot
  • Ames Research Labs: Maximum – Stretch, at participating ACE & True Value Stores 
  • Sherwin Williams: Loxon XP Paint, Loxon Primer and Conditioner
  • Richards Paint: Rich Flex 245; use Rich Flex Alkali Resistant 100% Acrylic Masonry Primer
  • Behr’s Premium Elastomeric Masonry, Stucco & Brick Paint –Home Depot
  • Seal Krete Paint (pigmented) –Home Depot

Once your kit is assembled, install framing and electrical.  Then the wall board on the interior of the dome shell is ready to be finished similar to the method drywall board seams are finished. To accommodate some electrical wiring, grooves are cut through the wallboard and the EPS to allow for the insertion of electrical wiring.  Grooves can be cut where baseboard will be installed to hide the grooves.   To blend the taped electrical areas to the DensArmor finish, skip trowel joint compound over the DensArmor drywall. Call Ai at 321-639-8777 for further info.

A Brief Description of Ai’s Building Options and other items

Standard and High Profile Entryway panels for the 30-48 domes, utilize 3 1/2″ E.P.S. wrapped in steel mesh, are preconcreted on the underside surface and have a precast trough on the outer edge. You place rebar into the trough, fill the trough with concrete and concrete the outside surface and apply a second layer of concrete to the underside. The openings under the entryways are framed in on the site to fit your choice of locally purchased standard windows and doors.

G Type Entryways for the 15′, 18′, 22′ and 27′ domes, utilize 3 1/2″ EPS, but are not wrapped in steel mesh or concreted. You can purchase the steel mesh from Ai and at no cost to you Ai will install the mesh on the garage entryway panels.

Window and door dormer panels consist of 3 1/2″ E.P.S. wrapped with steel mesh ready for on site stucco. The openings under the dormers are framed in on site to fit your choice of standard windows and doors that you purchased locally.

To learn which domes come with which building options; i.e. second floor single opening window dormers or door dormers, standard entryways versus high profile entryways versus garage entryways, please view Building Options or call us or email us.

Link: Link panels consist of E.P.S. insulation and are not concreted or wrapped with steel mesh. Link panels are custom fit to the dome panels on site.  Link prices vary depending upon the width and length of the link and whether you order the link panels with wallboard.

Domes are connected together with a Link made of the same materials as the dome panels; E.P.S. insulation. The Link connects to the adjacent domes in the same locations as an entryway or sometimes a door dormer. The thickness of the EPS in a Link is usually 7″ when it takes the place of an Entryway and 3 1/2″ when it connects like a door dormer. The width of the links depends on the size of domes and whether they are connected like an entryway or door dormer. The length of the Link varies from 2 ft. to 10 ft. Because the riser wall is a standard 4’ high, all domes will match each other despite a difference in diameters.  Steel mesh can be purchased from Ai and on site the mesh is attached and then the link panels are concreted.

Cupola: Is the “cap like” item that can be installed on the top of the dome.  Ai does not recommend a cupola due to the cost of installation and need to purchase five windows.  The windows allow for hot or cold air to come in the dome, thus increasing your heating and AC costs.

Its purpose is to give additional headroom for a third floor loft in the 40′ or larger domes. The topside exterior of the five panels of the cupola and the underside exterior of the overhang (eave) are prefinished steel reinforced concrete, while the topside & edges of the eave are stuccoed onsite.

The top five insulated panels of the dome make up the cupola top with our overhang panels added on site. We recommend that you build the cupola only if you want a third floor loft. The cupola is a way to add height to the top center of the dome and another way to have opening windows. With the installation of a cupola, there is enough headroom in the 40′ and larger domes to have a third floor loft.

Hot air and moisture will rise to the top of the dome. If you build your dome without a cupola, we recommend installing a vent at the peak of your dome in within an interior second floor wall for ventilation. The electric fan vent has the added advantage of being easily controlled with a switch or timer. You can purchase vents used in sailboats that are quiet. The vent fan is installed in an interior wall near the top of the dome to exhaust the moisture and or hot air. The ducting for the vent fan runs through the interior walls and if need be in the floor joist to exit under a first floor entryway. That way there is no hole in the top of the dome to protect from leaking. Or you can install a Heat Recovery Ventilator  in colder climates.

Does a copula change the structural integrity of the geodesic dome? In hurricane areas you would want to have shutters over the cupola windows. The cupola does not weaken the rest of the dome, but the cupola is more vulnerable to wind loads because it sticks up at the top. In high winds the overhang panels could come off; although in 30 years the eaves or overhang panels have never come off any of the Ai domes. Because the overhang panels are nonstructural if they did come off, they would simply be replaced after the storm.

Interior Framing: The interior framing of the dome is built much like conventional housing and can be either wood or metal. Some of the second floor can be hung from the dome concreted seams by suspension rods allowing for very “open” first floor plan designs. The American Ingenuity dome is capable of supporting a large amount of weight, including the 2nd floor, from the concrete dome shell. This weight is suspended by threaded steel rods which anchor into the concrete seams and extend vertically down into the dome. 3,000 lbs. can be supported by a 5/8″ threaded rod suspended in one of the concrete seams. To learn more view Interior Finishing and Framing.

Suspension Rods: The location of the suspension rods is determined by your floor plan selection. The Building Plans will show the suspension rod’s positioning. The suspension rod with nut sets on a 3″x 7″ steel plate, which is embedded in the concrete seam. The seam is reinforced with #4 rebar & two layers of galvanized steel mesh. The second floor can support at least 40 pounds per square foot, the same as other houses. We can easily design for a more demanding second floor load such as for waterbeds, whirlpool tubs, spas, libraries, etc.

Electrical and Plumbing: Almost all of the electrical and plumbing will be contained in the interior frame walls and installed in the same manner as conventional housing. To install electrical wiring in the exterior dome walls: simply cut a groove in the E.P.S insulation and wall board, insert the wire, use spray foam in a can to fill the groove and finish the wall like you would do conventional sheet rock with joint compound and tape. To install electrical boxes, conduit or plumbing pipes: cut the E.P.S. insulation and wall board slightly larger than needed, insert the box or pipe and fill in the opening with spray expanding foam. The spray foam will harden in about half an hour, holding the box or pipe secure. To learn more view Electrical and Plumbing.

AC/Heating Ducts: We leave the AC ducting diagram to your subcontractor, but generally the ducts run through interior walls, in the second floor joists and or behind the second floor knee wall. The vents are either in the interior walls or in the floor of the second floor. To learn more view AC/Heating and Fireplaces.

Click on picture below for a full size view

Foundation with Road Mesh and 6 mil Vapor Barrier
Pouring the Foundation

 

Foundations: Your dome can be built on your choice of foundation including: concrete slab, raised wood floor, stem wall or pier foundation, full or partial basement, stilts or pilings. To learn view Foundations.

Because of the reduced surface area of a dome and its thin shell construction, our domes weigh less than the average house, but are remarkably stronger. American Ingenuity domes are considerably lighter than a concrete block house. A finished 27′ dome shell weights about 25,000 lbs.; a finished 48′ in diameter dome weights about 42,000 lbs.  Besides the weight of the dome, the load of your first floor and second floor will be calculated with load bearing walls designed into your foundation to support this load.

Prior to ordering building plans, determine your soil type and what type footing & foundation you need. Will it be normal footings under a concrete slab or will there need to be augured footings down to cap rock or wood pilings driven 40’ into the ground prior to the footing installation, etc.?  To determine what type footing you need, you may need to hire a Soil’s Engineer and have a soil bore test.  The soil under the footing and slab has to be compacted to 98% density for a minimum of 2,000 psf of bearing pressure. You cannot build on clay and you cannot back fill your basement walls with clay.  Basically if you can build a regular house on your soil, you can certainly build a dome.

If three to five feet of fill needs to be brought in to reach the correct finished floor height, your foundation may need to be a stem wall with concrete slab or wood floor.  If your property is in a flood zone, the building plans have to show the finished floor height. Contact your government department that handles Fema or flood zone info to find out if your property is in a flood zone.  If you are in a flood zone, you will need to submit to Ai a letter stating the government official name that gave you the height and their phone number.  Ai does not determine this height.  If your home is not built at the correct finish floor height and you are in a flood zone, you will not be able to obtain insurance.  And without insurance you cannot obtain a mortgage.

What is unusual about the foundation is the shape and rebars are designed to come out of the foundation and are concreted into the dome riser wall seams, into the front and back of entryway and first floor door dormer base panels and certain places under first floor window dormers.  There are rebar hooks installed in the perimeter footing to come up under the horizontal riser wall seams. Check your entryway, door dormer and window dormer, link, cupola plans for anchoring hardware, etc.  Always use a vapor barrier with your slab of 6 mil. plastic sheeting and 6″ x 6″ steel mesh or fibers.

Truck Departing with Kit
Rib System Being Assembled

Shipping: The above photo shows a building kit loaded onto a semi truck ready for shipment to the client. The domes behind the truck are two of our factory domes, a 48′ and a 45′ with the 60′ dome not pictured. For more info view Shipping.

Support Systems: Ai recommends the installation of a temporary wooden rib system to support the panels during the kit assembly. The rib system is illustrated by the photo on the right. The rib system consists of your own 2×4’s (cut and drilled to our specs), bolts/nuts/washers purchased from Ai and steel hubs on loan from American Ingenuity to erect a free standing geodesic framework. A deposit is placed on the hubs and is refunded to you when you mail or UPS the hubs back to Ai. The bolts/nuts/washers are not returned to Ai.  Ai can purchase the 2×4’s, cut, drill and paint them and ship them on the truck with your dome kit.  Pricing varies depending upon the 2×4 cost.  Please call our office, 321-639-8777 Monday through Friday 9-5 eastern time for pricing.

During Assembly additional supports are used to brace the steel hubs, to brace panels, to brace both sides of the riser panels and to brace the entryway and door dormer panels.  The “Rib System” dictates the exact panel placement. For more info view Rib.

Once all the seams and building options have been concreted with two layers of concrete, openings framed in with concrete curing two weeks, the “Rib System” is removed and recycled into the interior framing or second floor knee wall framing and the hubs returned to us.

5.10 Construction Sabin two rows assembled

Panel Assembly: The panel assembly process begins positioning of the four foot high riser panels on the floor and then assembling the rib system. Apply expanding foam under the riser panels to seal them to your foundation. Plumb the risers and fill any gaps between them with E.P.S. insulation wedges or expanding foam.

Then overlap the steel mesh from adjoining riser panels, lock the mesh with C-rings every 2″, apply the first layer of special formulated concrete following the concrete guidelines for watering down all the premade concrete around where you are working.  Do not get concrete on the panel’s flat bonding ledges or the sloping bonding ledges…only partially cover the steel mesh.  Your first layer of concrete is thrown through the steel mesh and fills the seam area behind the mesh. Two different tension cables are inserted on the locked mesh in two locations.

Once you apply one layer of concrete into the seams and onto the entryways, dormers, cupola, link, etc., you or your workers come down the dome from the top and apply a second layer into each of the seams using a bonding agent between the coats of concrete and on the flat bonding ledges and the sloping bonding ledges. (bonding agent comes with your Ai dome kit). The new concrete must be kept moist to allow for the concrete hydration. The Assembly Manual that is shipped with each kit gives specific guidelines for concrete application and mixing.

Panel Concrete: The panel concrete is a special formulation containing synthetic fibers and liquid admixtures. Ai ships these same fibers and admixtures with your building kit. These ingredients improve the concrete’s characteristics, create super toughness, extend durability, make concrete impervious to water, give higher tensile and compressive strength, provide elasticity for expansion, improve freeze protection.

The concrete in your dome out performs other exteriors because of its specially developed formula. Because of its exceptional composition, it actually gains strength over the years. Locally, you purchase bags of Portland Cement (type 1 or 111) and sand (masonry or stucco sand) and add in the fibers and admixtures per the recipe in the Assembly Manual. The concrete is mixed with a mortar mixer NOT a cement mixer.  Do not use a cement mixer because it does not have paddles.  Paddles are required to get a thorough mixing of the cement, sand, fibers and admixtures.

2.51 seam area lifting panel Kaufman picture assembly 209

Hoisting Mechanisms: The typical method for lifting the panels is by a man lift or crane or transverse forklift. Monthly rentals on man lifts, transverse lifts also called Boom Lifts, Horizontal Boom Fork Lifts, Roofing Lifts, Shooters are available from National Rental Chains.

If you want to speed up the kit assembly, considering renting a scissor lift for inside personnel movement (instead of using ladders and scaffolding) and a Straight boom lift – man lift or cherry picker- for outside personnel work (instead of ladders, planks and scaffolding).   

Rolling Scaffold
Rolling Scaffold

 

These photos illustrate the use of planks on the exterior for filling and finishing seams and concreting the options. You install the panels and trowel concrete into the seams. The first layer of concrete fills the seams up to the steel mesh. After all the seams are half filled with concrete, then a second layer of cement is troweled into the seams after bonding agent is applied.  Seam concreting is done one row of panels at a time.

Most of fourth row of panels installed.

Most of fourth row of panels installed.

Seam Finish: The concreted seams are usually finished in one of two styles:

Start at the top of the dome and work down. This will allow you to practice on easier seams and ones that are less visible and any spills will not be on finished work. The concrete seams are usually finished in 1 of 2 styles:

1. Flat: The quickest, highlights the geometry, the least cost and least labor intensive. The concrete fills the seam up to the edges of the prefinished concrete of each panel and is troweled to a flat surface between those panel edges. When complete there will be two concrete edges along each seam where the panel concrete meets the concrete that fills the seam. The edges of the concrete panels can be used to screed the flat surface making this the quickest method of finish, the lowest cost with the least labor.

2. Rounded: requires the most skill to be consistent but like the flat seam it can be completed with two coats. The concrete is mounded in the seams and shaped to create a rounded transition between adjacent panels. This method should be used when a rounded appearance is desired.

 

Interior Scaffold
Beginning Framing

Additional supports under the steel hubs are required to hold the weight until all the seams and options are concreted and framing is installed in the entryways and dormers. Then the extra supports and temporary wooden rib system are removed. The dome shell is self supporting. Interior walls and second floor joists are conventionally built.   

Interior Showing a Suspension Rod

The left photo illustrates a conventional interior wall covered with drywall.  The photo on the right illustrates how the opening under the entryway was 2×4 framed and insulated with E.P.S.(waiting for plywood sheathing & either 1/4’x1/4″ or  1/2″ x 1/2″ steel mesh & stucco to be applied).  Above the standard entryway is a door dormer.

Past Ai clients have found it difficult and expensive to purchase steel mesh locally; as a result the steel mesh used to frame in the entryways and dormers can be purchased from Ai and added to your Parts List.  A Parts List is a page within American Ingenuity’s official Dome Building Kit Order Form…that lists the items that come with the Ai kit at no cost and lists items you can purchase from us….for example the suspension rods and top and bottom plates that help support the second floor, extra cans of expanding foam (20 ozs), steel mesh, Simpson joist hangers, additional Admixture A and B, additional C -rings, C- ring pliers, additional bonding agent, 1″ EPS in 4’x8′ sheets, 2×4’s cut, drilled and painted for the temporary wooden rib system, etc.

Ai’s building kits come with the interior wall board (Georgia Pacific 1/2″ DensArmor Plus gypsum wallboard that is moisture resistant and mold resistant) already adhered to the triangles and riser panels with drywall adhesive. On site apply joint compound and tape to finish the seams between the wall board. On site the wall board is primed with two coats of primer.

In summary, there is now no need to plaster or apply dry wall board to the shell interior because the triangular and riser panels come with 1/2″ DensArmor Plus drywall.

 
Concrete Finish Being Textured
Complete and Ready for Cleaning Prior to Painting

 

An owner/builder is finishing her concreted seams with a sponge. The seam sponge finish matches the panel texture.
A finished dome prior to painting. This is a 34′ dome home connected to a 22′ dome one car garage.

 

Unpainted Concrete Dome
Paint Being Applied

 

A 40′ dome before painting.
Apply concrete primer and two coats of paint.  Ai dome owners prefer Ames Research Laboratories primer & paint. 

 

The Finished Product!
Some finished Concrete Domes

 

The above dome is a 34′ in diameter built on a full basement. Behind the deck railing is a standard entryway that was framed in on site to accept a door and window. This dome was painted a blue grey; however, you can paint your dome any color tan or moss green, etc.
Another finished American Ingenuity dome. The dome on the left has a standard entryway framed in to accept six small windows. The wall under the second floor dormer contains two small windows. And the cupola on top was framed in to accept five opening windows.

 

Dome with two standard entryways on basement

Dome with two standard entryways on basement

45' dome on full basement

45′ dome on full basement

27' exterior side view with 40' dome

27′ dome garage linked to 40′ dome home.

  pic_schoon4linkdoorgar0288-250

40′ dome home linked to 34 garage dome.

 

45' dome living room.

45′ dome living room

Painting the American Ingenuity Dome:

The component panels do not come with any paint on them.  Ai. does not add any color to the concrete.  On site you concrete the seams so if we painted the panels or added color to the concrete it would not match your painted seam concrete.  The concrete shell is painted with two coats of good quality exterior concrete paint after the entire kit is assembled.

  • Stain is not used because stain will not seal the concrete.
  • The painting of the dome includes a concrete primer and two coats of good quality exterior concrete paint.
  • The dome can be painted any color, tan, green, blue, etc. preferably a light to medium color to reflect the sunlight.

Around 1948 Latex paints became the first water-based alternative to oil-based paints.  Many improvements have been made but perhaps the most significant is the introduction of Acrylic Resins.  Paint of 100% Acrylic is more resistant to ultraviolet rays, retains its color longer, is less prone to chalking, retains its elasticity, is more alkaline resistant and can be cleaned up with water.

It is not difficult to paint the dome….there are no soffits or gutters to have to deal with.  You know when to repaint the dome when you rub your hand on the paint and it chalks.  Best to roll the paint on to get a good mill thickness.

Typically the American Ingenuity dome is repainted every 4-5 -6 years, it depends on your personal preference.

  • Clean the dome prior to painting killing algae with bleach/water mixture or oxygen bleach and water and then pressure washing.
  • The sides of the dome can be painted using an extension ladder and paint roller on a pole.
  • Yes you can walk on any of the domes.  If you do not have a cupola, install an eye bolt in the top of the dome to tie a rope through to attach to harness.
  • To paint the top of the dome stand on the dome with the rope tied to your harness.
  • To access the top of the dome either climb out a cupola window or put an extension ladder to the top of a second floor dormer and then walk onto the top of the dome.

Ai dome owners recommend the following primer and paints:    (In the Dome Kit Assembly Manual is a section on waterproofing the dome.)

  • Ames Research Labs: Maximum – Stretch, at participating ACE & True Value Stores (if using Ames see separate Ames doc because specific type sealants and primer need to be used….NOT TT3)
  • Sherwin Williams: Loxon XP Paint, Loxon Primer and Conditioner
  • Richards Paint: Rich Flex 245; use Rich Flex Alkali Resistant 100% Acrylic Masonry Primer
  • Behr’s Premium Elastomeric Masonry, Stucco & Brick Paint –Home Depot
  • Seal Krete Paint (pigmented) –Home Depot

Exhaust fans and energy recovery ventilator or heat recovery ventilator are installed in the dome to exhaust water vapor from showering, laundry, cooking, etc.

Specialty paints like epoxy are unable to stretch and the epoxy paint can “in some areas” crack and allow water to pass through.  Also any paint that would have a high gloss would highlight flaws in the seam finish.  A paint that would withstand UV light or last longer would be advantageous but keep in mind that it is much easier to paint a dome than a conventional house.