contractor's | AiDomes

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American Ingenuity suggests 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 be very tall on the outside. This puts more of the flue pipe inside the house where it can radiate the heat.  However if needed the fireplace can be installed on an exterior wall.

Ai can custom design the location of a wood stove or fireplace in the dome, after given general desired location, flue pipe or fire place manufacturer and model number and flue pipe outside diameter.  During plans design the use of AutoCad’s three D layering allows for the location of the flue pipe to exit the dome minimum eight inches from the center of a seam.

How is the fireplace flue installed in the Ai dome? Contact Ai for a document that explains how to cut a hole in the panel, affix bolts to the dome, etc.

In the Ai Domes can I use a fireplace to heat them? Yes. Ai’s smaller sized domes (15′, 18′ and 22’) have such small heating and air-conditioning demands; it is practical to utilize a window air-conditioner and a space heater. 

Bear in mind in some states, including Florida, a permanent heat source has to be shown in your building plans and installed within your dome. This means a space heater would not be acceptable. You would need at least a baseboard heater installed to comply with the permanent heat source requirement.  Ask your building department if they have a permanent heat source requirement.

Can even your 45’ dome be heated with a fireplace? Yes if the heat from your fireplace is blown through your duct system to heat each of your rooms.  The following Home Power magazine article discusses how the Collar’s heat their dome with a fireplace.

What do you need when you are going to live in a high desert (7,500 ft. elev.) 40 miles from the nearest town with the winters reaching down 20 degrees below zero? That is where Jim and Mary Collar planned to build their solar retirement home. To extend electric power to their home site would cost $22,000.00 so the Collars decided to produce their power using photovoltaic solar cells with a back up generator. Their primary source of heat would be their fireplace.

In 1995 after researching many alternative-building methods, they found their home, an American Ingenuity 45’’Dome House and 30’’garage. The American Ingenuity dome kit was selected for its strength, energy efficiency and its affordability. They selected sub contractors for the construction of their two domes with Mary being the general contractor. Jim was commuting 40 miles to his job but on evenings and weekends they could work together. They were asked by the state of Utah to participate in “Utahs’1998 Tour of Innovative Homes” which is in conjunction with the American Solar Energy Society’s National Tour of solar Homes.

To view the complete article, click Utah Dome at 7,500′ elevation.


Zoning pertains to whether a residential, commercial or industrial building can be constructed on a property. Besides zoning ordinances controlling the use of the land, they determine setbacks from property lines, minimum required home size and height limits and similar things, Ai has never heard of a zoning restriction on domes but there can be requirements for the house to have shingles or bricks; therefore the concrete dome could not be built.  Health Departments determine set backs from a well and septic tank/drain field.  In Florida that set back can be 50 feet to 100 feet.  It is best to complete a site plan on the particular property you are interested in building on which shows the set backs, driveway location, home location, etc. so it can be determined what buildable area is left on the property to assure the size dome you want to build will fit or not. Please click on 3rd Step and scroll down the page to find the pdf for the buying land document with zoning checklist which lists zoning items at the end.

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

Do all Florida Counties allow the Ai dome to be built?

  1. Call the building department and obtain a list of what is required to obtain a building permit; is an Engineer Seal required on the building plans and an energy report?
    1. If building out of Florida, each building department determines if the dome building plans have to be sealed by an engineer licensed for that state and whether an Energy Report is required. The engineer seal and the energy report can be purchased when the building plans are purchased. The engineer seal cost is much lower than what engineering firms or architectural firms charge. A Florida seal for one dome on a slab is $600.   Ai can complete a Rescheck Energy Report for one dome on a slab for $190.
      If building in Florida,  all new home construction requires a Florida licensed engineer’s seal on the plans, Florida engineer sealed structural calculations and a special Florida Energy Report.  The sealed plans and the sealed calculations can be purchased from Ai.  Most Florida Counties will accept Florida Engineer sealed building plans and Florida sealed structural calculations completed on the exact size dome, exact number & type of openings at your properties exact wind speed and exposure class and their other required documents; i.e. Energy Report, window and door specification sheets showing Florida Product Approval on each, etc. to issue a permit.

      1. Good News!   As  of April 2018 Ai has been told by Florida’s Manufactured (Modular) Buildings Program with Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulations that our prefabricated panel DOES NOT NEED PRODUCT APPROVAL BECAUSE ALL THE MATERIALS IT IS MANUFACTURED FROM ARE EXPOSED AND OPEN FOR VIEWING BY THE BUILDING OFFICIALS and is subject to permitting by the local jurisdiction and are not required to bear insignia (Florida Product Approval).
        1.  Open construction per 2017 Florida Statutes Section 553.36 (4) states:  “Open construction” means any building, building component, assembly, or system manufactured in such a manner that all portions can be readily inspected at the building site without disassembly thereof, damage thereto, or destruction thereof.  All materials the panel is manufactured from are exposed:  galvanized steel mesh extends out all sides of the exterior concrete, center core of 7″ expanded polystyrene insulation is exposed and 1/2″ Georgia Pacific DensArmor drywall is exposed!
          1. Once you know your zoning will allow the concrete dome to be built, give Ai the name and contact info of the building official you have spoken with and we will call and explain this info. 
        2. Permitting by local jurisdiction per 2017 Florida Statutes Section 553.37 (6) which states: Manufactured buildings which have been issued and bear the insignia of approval pursuant to this part upon manufacture or first sale shall not require an additional approval or insignia by a local government which which they are subsequently sold or installed.  Buildings or structures that meet the definition of “open construction” are subject to permitting by the local jurisdiction and are not required to bear insignia.
      2. For example an Ai dome received a building permit in  2014 in Marathon, Florida (part of the Keys) which is south of  Dade County and in a higher wind speed, 180 mph, than Dade County without needing product approval.

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

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

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

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

Another view of panel being installed in third row of panels.

By clearly defining the level of participation you wish to have in the construction process, and you select a contractor with a suitable program, chances are you will have an enjoyable building experience.

If you choose to not be an owner builder, then you may want to hire a contractor to coordinate all the phases of your dome construction. To learn about choosing a contractor, click on Contractor.

To view pictures of the kit assembly, click on Dome Kit Assembly and Construction Overview.

To review the planning phases to own a dome home click on Planning Process. Remember you can hire a Kit Assembly Consultant who will supervise your workers or your contractor’s concrete workers to assemble the dome shell with first layer of concrete in the seams and on the entryways and dormers. That way your contractor will feel more comfortable bidding the dome and its finishing costs.

When contracting the construction of your new steel reinforced concrete dome, you will most likely use a residential building contractor who will work with you in one of four ways:

1. Bid or Estimated Price: Your contractor takes the set of plans, bids out all phases of the project to subcontractors, and provides you with a total cost to build your home (gross dollar total or total cost per square foot). In this case, you place all responsibility for the project in your contractor’s hands.

2. Cost Plus Flat Fee: Contractor does the same as described in the first version, but adds a flat fee dollar amount to cover for his/her involvement in the project. This allows you more participation in the building process, and covers your contractor for their time.

3. Cost Plus Percentage Fee (Cost Plus Contract): If you anticipate a good deal of participation in the building process, including changing and/or upgrading as you proceed through construction, many contractors will bill you a percentage fee based on the completed cost of the home. It is a way to cover you and the contractor when you make changes not anticipated during planning and bidding phases.

4. Fee Percentage Contract: When you wish to be extremely active in all aspects of construction and material selection, your contractor will offer you a fee percentage contract, or a percent of the total cost of building your home, no matter what you decide throughout the process.


This page gives info about foundation excavation, types of foundations American Ingenuity design team can design and foundation resource.
For information on foundations used for the American Ingenuity Domes click on Foundation Summary, Concrete SlabPilings, Basements  and  Raised Wood Floor.  American Ingenuity Domes can be built utilizing the same foundation choices as conventional housing.
The foundation types that Ai designs are a) a monolithic concrete slab; b) poured footing with a stem wall and then a poured slab on fill;  c) poured footing with a stem wall and then a raised wood floor; d) basement and; e) pilings and a platform. The type of foundation that is built for your new home will depend on which is more advantageous for your area and what you soil’s report requires.
For American Ingenuity to design any foundation other than our standard monolithic concrete slab, we must hire a local engineer.  The engineer wants to view your soil report.  In the soil report a soil’s engineer will analyze your soil tests and recommend the type foundation that should be built.  The engineer uses this data to provide Ai information & details to be included in your foundation design.
About soil compaction:  Generally the soil under the foundation is compacted to 98% density for a minimum of 2000 pounds per square foot of bearing pressure.  Clean, compacted fill with no subsurface vegetation or voids.  If your soil cannot compact to 2,000 psf, then the footer will be designer larger and the slab might be 6′ thick instead of 4″ thick if acceptable by your building department.
Misc. Foundation Info

The following information came from the book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Building Your Own Home, second edition by Dan Ramsey. Any sentences that are in italics were added by American Ingenuity.

Excavating for the Foundation:

Houses require foundations. Why? Foundations support and stabilize the walls and roof. That’s a pretty important job! Excavation is the removal of soil to make room for the building’s foundation. So before excavating, let’s learn about foundations.

The foundation itself needs a foundation. Most houses are so heavy that the foundation must be widened at the base to keep it from sinking into the ground. (An American Ingenuity Dome shell weights less than a conventional house shell due to the thin concrete on its panels.) The wide part of a foundation is called the footing. Its size depends on the kind of soil under it. Most footings are designed to carry 1,000 pounds per square foot. A two-story house will have a wider foundation footing than a single-story house. Typically, the footing is twice as wide as the wall. That is, the footing for an 8-inch foundation walls is usually 16 inches wide. However, don’t go by this; go by your house’s foundation plan.

The foundation wall can be just 1 foot tall or it can be, with support, 10 feet tall or more. Or it can be shorter on one side and taller on another. It just needs to be level on top where the floor will be installed, which I’ll tell you about in the next chapter.

How tall and wide is the foundation for your home? Refer to the foundation plans approved by your building department. It will include the foundation’s layout, dimensions, size, elevation and height.

A slab foundation is a solid floor set directly on the soil. Most modern garage floors are concrete slabs with a continuous wall foundation around the perimeter.

A pier foundation is a series of concrete piers and footings that support the structure. If made of pressure-treated wood, it’s called a pole or post foundation.

It’s important to know the type and size of the foundation now because it tells you what soil needs to be removed or excavated for the foundation. It’s best not to remove any more compacted soil than necessary when excavating for a foundation. The more the earth has been disturbed, the more difficult it is to ensure that the foundation won’t move in the future.

Valuable resources as you excavate for and install your home’s foundation include the following:

  • Local building department
  • Building material suppliers
  • Excavation contractors
  • Transit-mix concrete suppliers
  • Foundation contractors
  • Backhoe and loader operators
  • Construction engineers
  • Concrete block manufacturers and suppliers
  • Construction tool rental yards
  • Alternative foundation sources (treated lumber, stone)
  • The many websites, books, videos, and magazines listed in Appendix B

If you want to know even more about foundations, check bookstores or for a copy of my book Builder’s Guide to Foundations and Floor Framing (see Appendix B). It includes lots of illustrations, tables, and in-depth information on all types of residential and light commercial foundations.

This article covers Ai History – American Ingenuity History.

Exterior Office lots of green

American Ingenuity Office Domes (34′ on left – 45′ dome on right -3,700 sq.ft.) Built in 1993.

Exterior factory domes P4250122

American Ingenuity’s factory is housed in three domes.  48′ dome on right built in 1983, 45′ dome in middle built in 1986 and 60′ dome on the left built in 1991.   The 48′ dome was the first Ai dome built with the prefabricated panel.

     Exterior factory dome 60 P4250117

American Ingenuity 60′ Factory Dome built in 1991.

To view the American Ingenuity History, view History.

American Ingenuity began in 1974 as an electronics manufacturing firm located in Miami, Florida.  Its products included a slow acting lamp dimmer and solid state voltage regulator for motorcycles.

The company moved to Melbourne, Florida in 1976.  After two years of design research, the first American Ingenuity dome was built in 1976 to house Busick’s electronics business.   Founder Michael Busick employed the talents of the Director of the Florida Solar Energy Center, University engineering students and an architectural professor to design the very first expanded polystyrene (E.P.S.) and concrete geodesic dome.  This first dome became the office/model of American Ingenuity and by American Ingenuity’s current standards was a primitive design.  The dome was constructed by erecting the polystyrene (E.P.S.) panels, stretching steel mesh over the E.P.S., spraying concrete over the entire exterior and then plastering the inside of the E.P.S. This 50′ dome had no riser walls or preformed entryways or dormers.

Busick’s dome was located next to US Highway 1 in Melbourne.  People would stop in and ask him to build them domes like his.  Thus started his dome business.  In the early years, American Ingenuity was happy to sell one building kit a year.  The earliest states where kits were shipped were North Carolina and Texas; however, Florida remained the primary location for building.  With each one built, Busick gained valuable information to provide improvements for the next.

In 1980, American Ingenuity was incorporated in the state of Florida.

By 1983, a major improvement in the building method had been developed by Busick which provided for the prefabrication of building panels.  In 1983 American Ingenuity manufactured and built its first dome utilizing the prefabricated sandwich panel.  After this concept had been tested and implemented, Busick applied for a U.S. patent.  This improved building system was labeled “Generation II”.  It resulted in a dome design which reduced the time and cost of construction as well as improved the quality of the finished dome.

Also in 1983 Michael Busick married Glenda who besides assisting in the day to day operations of the company, played a major roll in the financial backing for the research and development of the American Ingenuity dome concept.  She handled the purchasing and selling of integrated memory chips to Office Equipment companies through out the United States.

Construction for American Ingenuity’s second model home was begun in 1984 using the prefabricated panels.  This time sheet rock was adhered to the inside of the polystyrene.  But during the assembly of the building kit, the sheet rock naturally got wet.  Because the sheet rock would crumble and mold, American Ingenuity decided to not ship the prefabricated panels with sheet rock.  So when the dome kit was assembled, the client would either adhere sheet rock or trowel plaster or stucco to the polystyrene insulation….a labor intensive project.

The energy rating for this second model home, as determined by the Florida Model Energy Code, was the lowest known with a rating of -14.   Also Busick designed the first second floor door dormer which opened onto the top of a standard entryway to produce a second floor balcony on a geodesic dome.  Another first of its kind.

The Model Dome in Melbourne Florida was completed in 1985 and a few months later entered in the 1986 Aurora Awards competition.  In May of 1986, Ai was notified that the American Ingenuity Model had won the award for the Most Energy Efficient Residences as judged by the Southeast Builders Conference, a division of the National Home Builders Association.  In August of that same year, the model also won the Grand Award for all energy efficient categories…beating out a passive solar home designed for one of Florida’s utility companies, Florida Power and Light.

In 1986 a United States patent was granted for the prefabricated polystyrene and concrete dome panels.

After receiving the patent and winning of the Aurora Awards, articles were written about the American Ingenuity Dome in such newspapers as Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel, in the magazines Progressive Builder, Florida Trend and was a feature cover story in the March 1987 issue of Popular Science

Additions to our 1983 48′ factory dome were a 45′ dome in 1986 and a 60′ dome in 1991.

Ai broke ground for its new dome offices which consisted of a 45′ dome connected to a 34′ dome in 1993.   The office domes won the Southeast Builders Conference 1994 Aurora Merit Award for Energy Efficiency for a Commercial Project.

In 1998, Michael Busick designed the 22′ and 27′ garage domes using 2 frequency geometry.  This geometry differs from American Ingenuity’s residential domes in that the 22′ and 27′ domes utilize fewer but larger panels.  By having larger panels A.I. can create a wider opening that is needed for a garage door.  Previously a 34’ dome was needed to pull two cars in side by side. Now Ais clients can have a two-car garage in a 27’ dome, which is more cost effective.  The 22’ dome provides an economical one car garage using 3½” E.P.S. insulation.  Either of these can be connected to another dome or built independently from the house.

Generally American Ingenuity’s clients are owner builders but around 2000, Ai had individuals inquire about wanting a working consultant to supervise their or their contractor’s laborers and get the dome shell kit assembled.  American Ingenuity can now connect clients with the consultant who will travel to their job site.  The consultant supervises the assembly of the dome kit which makes the assembly go faster and reduces costs.

In 2003, the staff at American Ingenuity researched materials to cover the interior of the polystyrene.  Ai’s staff settled on Georgia Pacific’s 1/4″ Dens-Deck roof board which is adhered to the E.P.S. with cement and perlite mixture.  The Dens-Deck 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.  Dens-Deck roof board is a patented nonstructural glass mat-faced, noncombustible, water-resistant, treated gypsum core panel.  It is water resistant, so if your kit gets rained on during construction, the wallboard will not be damaged. The gypsum once dried out, will return to its original state. During non-freezing temperatures, the dome kit can be stored on your site 2-3 months waiting on your foundation installation.  Due to code changes in November 2013, the wallboard has been upgraded to Georgia Pacific’s 1/2″ DensArmor Plus gypsum wallboard. Same moisture resistant/mold resistant gypsum as Dens-Deck just thicker.

Not only has Ai’s building kits improved, but American Ingenuity’s building plans have progressed from simple hand drawings to detailed computer designed blueprints.  American Ingenuity has progressed from a prototype structure to a home that has received a design competition award, three energy awards and numerous articles in national magazines and other media.

Ai’s goal in 1976 was to develop a simplified building kit which when assembled produced an affordable, super-strong, super – energy efficient home.  American Ingenuity’s goals now are: 1) to continue that goal; 2) provide prefab home kits for forward thinking home owners who are willing to think outside the box;  and 3) offer independent kit assembly specialists to supervise the dome kit assembly.