interlocking | AiDomes

This article covers Ai’s 48′ Dome Panel’s Load Test.

load test

48′ Dome Panel Load Test

load of almost four tons of sand & bags of Portland Cement on panel

The above photo shows the additional 40 bags of Portland cement that were set on top the sand loaded panel, bringing the total weight on the panel to almost four tons. The center deflection increased to less than 3/8 inch. The grand total deflection of less than 3/8 inch with almost four tons of weight was astonishing to us. Our panel withstood 170 lbs. per sq. ft. of load.

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.

In October 2000 Ai performed a load test on one of its 48′ triangular shaped prefab building kit panels. The test was performed on Ai’s largest panel using the standard 7″ thick E.P.S. insulation, ¾” thick concrete exterior reinforced with galvanized steel mesh and a fiber reinforced plaster on the interior. The strength of the component panel can best be determined by measuring the deflection of the panel as a load (weight) is applied in increments. The panel was placed horizontal. Its weight and the weight of everything placed on it was only supported along the outer edge of the panel. The loading of the panel was done by adding sand in 470 lb. increments. Plywood sides were attached to the panel edges so sand could be spread evenly, providing a uniform load.

The deflection was measured in the center and six other locations. At all measured points a steel ruler was attached to the panel extending high enough to be visible when the panel was fully loaded with sand. A surveyor’s transit allowed the engineer to measure the deflection.

After 3,783 lbs. of sand was dumped on the panel its center had deflected less than 1/16 inch. Three days later, the deflections had only increased to 3/32 inch. Our own amazement at the strength made us even braver; so we cut through the interior plaster on the bottom of the panel. Even then the deflection was less than 3/16 inch.

Ai had not expected this exceptional strength. We could not mound the sand any higher so we set a pallet of 40 cement bags on top of the sand thinking, “This could do the panel in.” That doubled the weight and the center deflection increased to less than 3/16 inch.

The grand total deflection of less than 3/8 inch with almost four tons of weight was astonishing to us.

A 120-mph wind will exert a pressure of 30 lbs. per sq. ft. on a vertical wall and a snow load exceeding 90 lbs. per sq. ft. is rare. Typically snow loads are 20 to 50lbs. per sq.ft.  American Ingenuity’s triangular shaped 48′ component panel withstood 170 lbs. per sq. ft.

load test 2

This picture was taken after Ai had loaded 3,783 lbs. of sand onto our 48′ dome panel. After the sand was dumped on the panel its center had deflected less than 1/16 inch. Three days later, the deflections had only increased to 3/32 inch. Our own amazement at the strength made us even braver; so we cut through the interior plaster on the bottom of the panel. Even then the deflection was less than 3/16 inch.

The men in the photo from left to right are:

  • Michael Busick, inventor of American Ingenuity’s building panel and building method
  • Luke Miorelli, mechanical engineer
  • An engineer who was an independent observer
  • Leo Cherbano, American Ingenuity’s plant manager

 I would like to completely bury the dome. Is this possible? 

  • Ai does not recommend this; however iIf you want your Ai dome completely covered with soil, let us know the depth and Ai will quote a fee to hire local engineer to calculate load of the soil, determine rebar spacing that will be installed on top of the finished dome, depth of concrete to be gunited on to the dome and what posts will be needed to support the weight of the soil and concrete on the dome.
  • A dome like an arch, increases its effectiveness as it is compressed so it will support partial earth berming or any snow load. We have fortified our reinforced concrete with space-age fibers and special admixtures, as well as galvanized steel. As the panels of the dome are assembled, the beveled seams between them are concreted, creating a network of interlocking arches of structural beams.
  • Our dome lends itself very well to earth berming because of the strength of the dome shape and the totally concrete exterior wall, with no materials to rot. Ai’s domes have been bermed with as much as 4 feet of backfill. However, if you earth berm your dome, install a drain system to draw water away from the foundation. Plans for this french drain system are included with our basement plans.
  • The Ai Dome could be bermed higher or even buried, but we do not recommend it because the additional expense of labor and extra concrete would probably not be worth the gain. A dome or a structure that is not buried would never have to withstand loads greater than 100 lbs. per sq.ft. If a structure is buried the earth could put loads in excess of 500 lbs. per sq.ft.  Ai does not design our standard dome for those extreme conditions that would normally never occur.  However the dome can designed to withstand these loads.
  • Four feet is the maximum height of back fill that can go back against the dome as currently designed. Back fill higher than this would cause more expense and complications than is likely to be worth while. Consider landscaping with plants to enhance the appearance that you want.

This page describes the American Ingenuity Prefab Dome Home Kit Contents.

(click arrows to change picture)

What Does The American Ingenuity Prefabricated Component Panel and Dome Kit Consist Of?

The prefab component panels consist of a center core of seven inches of rigid, nontoxic R28 expanded polystyrene (EPS)  insulation NOT styrofoam. On the exterior of the EPS is 3/4 inch concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh and fibers. On the interior of the EPS is 1/2 inch Georgia Pacific DensArmor – mold resistant and water resistant gypsum drywall.   The 1/2 inch wallboard is moisture resistant, mold resistant gypsum drywall which contains fiberglass matting instead of paper matting. There is no food source for mold growth in any of the panel’s materials. During kit assembly it could rain.  After the drywall is allowed to dry it goes back to its original consistency.  The wallboard is not conventional sheet rock that will crumble and mold when it gets wet. The seam areas between the panels, once filled with on-site fiber concrete averages two inches thick. Engineers tell us the steel reinforced concreted seams act like steel beams.  To learn about the prefabricated panel’s composition, click on Composition.  The building plans standard foundation is monolithic slab. However Ai can design the dome to be built on basements, pilings, stem wall, etc.  To lean more, click on Foundations.

The Ai Dome Building Kit (22′-48′) consists of all the component panels for the dome’s exterior shell and panels for one entryway. Your floor plan selection determines how many more entryways or dormer panels your kit contains.  Entryways and dormers are structural awnings which extend out from the dome.  Under them a 2×4 or 2×6 framed PT wall is built on site to accept your locally purchased windows and doors.  To learn more about the entryways and dormers, click on Building Options. The kit does not include doors or windows or interior items other than the interior wallboard on each triangle and riser panel. Ai believes you should not pay shipping on another semi-truck for standard items which can purchases locally from Lowes or Home Depot or off Craig’s List, or eBay, etc..  To view items not included in the kit, click on Not Included.

The Domes first row of panels are four foot tall rectangle riser panels and entryway base panels.  The majority of the rest of the prefab panels are triangle in shape with panels to complete the entryways and dormers. The slab is poured on site.  If you desire a nine feet seven inches or ten foot ceiling height in first floor rooms that have a ceiling, then a two foot tall additional riser panel can be purchased from American Ingenuity.

To view the pricing for Ai’s basic dome building kit which includes one entryway, view Basic Kit Prices. To view  info about current discount on the dome kit with one entryway, view Discount.

Your floor plan selection determines the type and number of additional entryways, window dormers, door dormers, cupola and link.  Click on Building Options to learn more. To view the listing of our stock plans which includes the type and number of building options for each plan, click on  Stock Plans & Kit Prices.

The triangle and rectangle shaped component panels consist of:

  • A center core of seven inch rigid block of R-28 expanded polystyrene insulation (EPS)…comparable to 11″ of fiberglass batting.This insulation is not styrofoam.
  • On the exterior of the insulation is a layer of ¾” concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh and fibers.
  • On the interior of the insulation is 1/2″ Georgia-Pacific DensArmor Plus High Performance gypsum wallboard adhered to the EPS with wallboard adhesive.  Ai specifically utilizes DensArmor and not conventional sheet rock because during the kit assembly it can rain. Sheet rock when it gets wet crumbles and molds. The DensArmor is moisture resistant and mold resistant. The gypsum contains fiberglass matting on each side. The DensArmor contains no food source for mold growth.
  • To view our web site file that covers panel composition, please view Composition.

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.
  • 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 prior to priming and painting the concrete exterior to let efflorescence escape.
  • 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.

Besides the shell component panels and one entryway, the Building Kit includes:

  • Concrete fibers which are mixed with your bags of Portland cement and masonry sand
  • Two concrete liquid admixtures which are mixed with your Portland cement and sand
  • 2 Galvanized Steel Cables which wrap around the dome
  • Concrete bonding agent which is used to bond the two layers of concrete together
  • Connecting C-rings (commonly called hog rings) to lock the galvanized steel mesh
  • C-ring pliers
  • 20 oz. Cans of Expanding Foam
  • Expanding Foam metal dispensing gun
  • Can of cleaner for gun
  • Assembly Manual

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

To learn what items are not included in the Building Kit, view Not Included.

The American Ingenuity Building Kit Order Form contains two pages.

Each floor plan varies as to the number of entryways, window dormers and door dormers. Once Ai’s CAD department completes the design of all the blueprints within your building plans, Ai will know the items needed for the assembly of your dome kit and can complete an official Building Kit Order Form which lists exact items and pricing.

The following description is to give you a heads up as to what is included within the two pages of the Order Form.

The first page of the Order Form lists:

  • The kit size and its regular pricing (any discount is on the kit with one entryway pricing and is not on the building options)
  • All the individual building options (entryways, window dormers, door dormers, cupola, link, etc), each are listed separately with quantities and pricing
  • Discount is listed
  • Any deposits are listed
  • If purchasing a 22’ or 27’ dome, the garage entryway is not wrapped in steel mesh.  1”x1” steel mesh can be purchased from Ai with Ai wrapping the mesh onto the garage panels at no cost to you.
  • If your floor plan contains a link:
    • a price will be listed for the Expanded Polystyrene panels based on the link size.
    • a price will be listed if wallboard is adhered to the EPS panels with wallboard adhesive.
    • on site after the link panels are custom fitted to the dome panels, rebars are installed per the building plans, 1”x1” galvanized steel mesh is affixed to the link and is locked to the dome steel mesh.  After the steel mesh is affixed to the link, the link panels are concreted on site. The steel mesh can be purchased from Ai and shipped on the truck with your kit.
  • Pricing for the items from the Parts List. See below for a description of the Parts List.
  • Order Form states “Shipping To Be Determined Four Weeks Prior to the Shipment Date”
  • If international order, client pays the freight forwarder directly for shipping.  To complete the required customs paperwork, etc. Ai charges $200.
  • Lifting Spikes: $120 for the purchase of 4 lifting spikes, (items are not returned to Ai). Set good for the assembly of one dome.
  • 255 Bolts, Nuts & Washers to bolt the steel hubs to the 2×4’s. ($128 for three frequency dome)
  • Cut, drilled and painted 2×4’s can be purchased from Ai. 
  • For USA shipments the semi-truck’s flat bed can be loaded from all sides with a fork lift.
  • For international orders, the container cannot be loaded from all sides so Ai has to rent a telescoping forklift to load the container.  A telescopic forklift has forks which extend out so stacks of panels can be placed into the container through the back door.  Approximate rental cost is $800 for one day.  The number of days rental is determined by the number of containers.
  • Date pricing is good through.
  • Place for your signature and for American Ingenuity’s signature

The second page of the Order Form is the Parts List which consists of two parts.

The first part of the Parts List is a listing of items that come with the kit at no additional cost:

  • cans of expanding foam, metal foam dispensing gun and can of cleaner
  • 2 cables that go around the dome
  • admixture A for concrete mix
  • admixture B for concrete mix
  • synthetic fibers for concrete mix
  • bonding agent applied between two layers of concrete
  • C-rings and C-ring pliers

The second part of the Parts Lists is a listing of items not included in the kit that can be purchased from Ai:

  • The second floor edge beams do not attach directly to the dome shell.  The floors are supported by load bearing first floor walls and suspension rods. The rod is installed in the dome seam per the building plans. The rods besides suspending the perimeter edge beams also support areas of the dome’s second floor wood floors where there are no load bearding walls under them. 5/8″ Suspension rods with nut and washer are purchased from Ai. If there are no second floor walls to enclose the rod, the rod is visible and covered on site with PVC or wood.
  • At the top and bottom of the suspension rod there is a top plate (Z plate, Flat plate or modified Z plate) and a bottom plate (U Channel). Ai purchases the steel, cuts the steel, drills it and bends it to specs.
  • If there is a first floor door dormer, a ¼” cable is needed around its lip edge.  Can be 23’ to 50’ depending on dormer size.
  • Concrete Accelerator (needed if mixing concrete in late fall when temperatures could be freezing at night).
  • Simpson hangers (connect the second floor edge beams to the joists). There are three to four different sizes.
  • 1/4” x 1/4” or 1/2″x1/2″ galvanized steel mesh for the entryway and dormer vertical framed walls.
  • Additional metal dispensing gun to dispense expanding foam.
  • Additional cans of cleaner to clean the metal foam dispensing gun.
  • Additional Bonding Agent.
  • Additional Admixture A & B.
  • Additional 1/4″ fibers for the second layer of concrete.
  • Additional C ring pliers.
  • Additional pounds of C rings (Hog rings) that are used to lock the steel mesh together. C rings are easily dropped so clients tend to purchase 6 – 12 additional pounds depending on the size dome.
  • Additional cans of expanding foam.  Grooves are cut in the dome shell wall board & EPS to insert the electrical wiring or conduit for wiring.  After the electrical wiring is installed, the grooves are filled with expanding foam, the expanding foam is cut flush and then the wall is finished with the fiberglass tape and joint compound. The dispensing gun allows your workers to start and stop the foam without having to use the whole can at one time.

Ai can add or remove items from the Parts List upon request.

Earth Berming Or Burying The American Ingenuity Concrete Dome House

The Ai dome lends itself very well to earth berming because of the strength of the dome shape and the totally concrete exterior wall, with no materials to rot. Our domes have been bermed with as much as four feet of backfill. However, if you earth berm your dome, we recommend a drain system (French Drain) to draw water away from the foundation. Plans for this drain system are included with our basement plans.

Can your concrete house be bermed higher than four feet? The American Ingenuity Geodesic Dome could be bermed higher or even buried, but we do not recommend it because the additional expense of labor and extra concrete would probably not be worth the gain. A dome or a structure that is not buried would never have to withstand loads greater than 100 lbs. per sq.ft. If a structure is buried the earth could put loads in excess of 500 lbs. per sq.ft. and we do not design our standard dome for those extreme conditions that would not normally occur.

Four feet is the maximum height of back fill that can go back against the dome. Back fill higher than this would cause more expense and complications than is likely to be worth while. Consider landscaping with plants to enhance the appearance that you want.

I would like to completely bury the dome. Is this possible?

Yes. Ai will need to hire a local engineer to review your soil report and provide designs for our CAD department to incorporate in your plans.  Once the dome kit is assembled, then vertical and horizontal rebar is installed and the concrete is gunited onto the entire dome surface the number of inches recommended by the engineer.  To support the weight of the additional concrete on the dome, supports may need to be installed to support the dome exterior.  His fee is based on the size dome and the amount of fill that will cover your dome.

A dome like an arch, increases its effectiveness as it is compressed so it will support partial earth berming or any snow load. We have fortified our reinforced concrete with space-age fibers and special admixtures, as well as galvanized steel. As the panels of the dome are assembled, the beveled seams between them are concreted, creating a network of interlocking arches of structural beams.

When the dome is bermed, a French Drain is installed around the base of the dome. The steps are:

  • Cover any part of the basement wall that will be in touch with soil with a tar emulsion (designed for this purpose). This waterproof coat should extend down to (and if possible, under) the polyethylene vapor barrier.

  • If you wish, you may add additional waterproofing. Apply roofing felt over the tar emulsion, overlapping the edges 6″ and sealing the felt with more tar. Place the roofing paper over the outside of the vapor barrier to shed water. Then, give the whole wall one more coat of tar. This extra investment will provide a superior measure of protection against moisture. Please, don’t cut corners.

  • Place a perforated drainpipe (at least 3” in diameter. – 4” diameter. For long lengths), holes down, into the gravel bed. The pipe should be below the floor level and drop 1” for every 8’ of length. This discharges water into an area lower than the dome itself and allows quick drainage away from the building. Lay pipe in the gravel bed and cover gravel with two layers of roofing felt to prevent dirt from penetrating into the gravel.

  • Backfill the entire area.

The following contains a photo gallery showing
the American Ingenuity’s Panelized Home Kit Assembly process.

(use arrows on right and left side of main picture to view other photos in the gallery.)

To view You Tube Videos about construction of Aidome, click on these videos:

Video 1:   This video is part of a series of video detailing Aidomes 22ft in diameter dome when finished with local materials is one bedroom/one bath.   Customer ordered 2 – 22′ kits, one to live in while visiting parents and one to rent out.  Kit assembly and site prep is performed by Kevin Kirchmer with Infinite Improvements Construction.

Video 2:  Construction Process Video 2.  Prefab AiDome Home Kits – Shows Types of Foundations. 

Video 3:  Construction Process Video 3.  The dome home is considered dried in if local workers have framed in exterior doors and windows & finished the exterior wall around the doors and windows. To make weather tight, after all concrete work is done, the exterior concrete is watered down at least once a week to remove efflorescence for 3-4 weeks. Remove any algae with combination of bleach water or oxygenated bleach water and then exterior concrete is pressure washed. Next step is to apply white primer, seal any hair line cracks with patching compound and then paint the exterior with two layers of elastomeric paint. The interior finishing is completed by the owner builder or his builder’s subcontractors; i.e. interior framing, plumbing, electrical, installation of kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixtures, drywall work, etc.

To view other pictures of panel assembly, go to  Construction Overview  and to Kaufman pics. To view the DVD for free, go to Free DVD.   To view engineering statement about American Ingenuity dome, go to Engineering.

To view an article which covers why build a geodesic dome for your new home that summarizes the major info about the Aidome building system and component panel, please click on Why Build a Geodesic Dome.

An American Ingenuity geodesic dome panelized home kit is purchased in kit form. About 40% of Ai’s clients are owner builders while others hire a Contractor who hires the Kit Assembly Consultant.  The Component Panels, Building Plans and Assembly Manual come marked with panel nomenclature. If you do not want to manage the assemble of the dome kit, Ai knows of independent working consultants that travel around the country assembling the dome shell using your concrete workers or your contractor’s concrete workers. If you are on the east coast Ai knows of a Virginia builder who can be hired with his crew to construct an ICF basement and assemble the dome kit.  To view info on the independent Kit Assembly Consultant/Specialist, click on Consultant.

Due to spam filters your email requests may not make it to American Ingenuity and our email replies may not make it back to you.  If you email Ai and do not receive a reply in one to two days, please call us – 321-639-8777.  While you are on the phone, we will send you a test email and have you send your email to us.

First step after your foundation is in place is to install the first row of component panels, then assemble a temporary wooden rib system to install the rest of the panels on. Some form of lifting device is used to place the panels. By placing the component panels, locking the steel mesh from adjacent panels, concreting the seams and concreting the entryways, dormers, link, cupola, the structural framework, the exterior finish, the insulation and interior shell wall board are installed.

Once all the panels are in place, seam areas & entryways/dormers with two layers of fiber concrete,  the dome is self supporting & the wooden rib system is disassembled. Some of the wood from the rib system can be utilized for interior framing or for second floor perimeter knee wall.  There is no wood in or on the dome shell to rot, no wood to be eaten by termites, no wood to burn. No shingles to blow off in high winds.

The Consultant supervises the rib system assembly, panel placement and application of the first layer of concrete into the panel seams and onto the entryways and dormers. Fibers and liquid admixtures are shipped with each dome kit. In a mortar mixer fibers, liquid admixtures,Portland Cement, masonry sand and water are mixed to produce special mortar mix which is hand trowelled into the seam areas between panels and on to the entryway and dormer panels. 

Then either your workers or your builder’s workers complete the second layer of concrete in the seams & on the entryways and dormers. To learn more about selecting a builder, view Builders, Contractor & Determining Contractor Pricing.  For interior finishing complete yourself or hire local subcontractors to complete the plumbing, electrical, framing, window/door installation, wall board finishing, cabinetry, etc.

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 245use Rich Flex Alkali Resistant 100% Acrylic Masonry Primer
  • Behr’s Premium Elastomeric Masonry, Stucco & Brick Paint –Home Depot
  • Seal Krete Paint (pigmented) –Home Depot

The interior shell wall board is finished similar to conventional drywall. Or you can apply joint compound to the DensArmor Plus gypsum wallboard in what is sometimes called a skip trowel finish, apply primer and then paint. Or to cover any wall board imperfections and blend the wall board to the sanded joint compounded seams, mix a 50/50 batch of paint and dry powder joint compound.  Apply the mixture with a paint roller.

To view Ai’s new dome video, view on Dome Video.  The standard foundation for the Ai dome is an on grade concrete slab.  However the dome can be built on columns or pilings or a basement. Click on Foundation for more info. Call Ai for more foundation info, 321-639-8777.

To view assembly and finished pictures of a 45′ Ai dome built on a basement, view Stroupe Dome.  To view info about the rib system, click on Rib System.  To view a video showing panel assembly, click on Ulm 40′ Dome on Superior Wall Precast Concrete basement.

Electrical wiring is installed within interior framed walls, within some of the 1/2″ grooves between the interior shell wallboard and within grooves cut through the shell wallboard and EPS.  When wiring is inserted in the grooves, the grooves are filled with expanding foam and the area finished with tape and joint compound. Prime the DensArmor drywall and coat with 50/50 mixture of joint compound and paint. 

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.

A helpful book that gives you overall insight in building your own home is called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Building Your Own Home by Dan Ramsey.  We also recommend that you visit your local library and research construction books which cover the concepts on building your own own.  A helpful web site is rsmeans.com.  It has construction manuals, construction estimating CD’s, etc.

Once you decide on your floor plan, use the info from the Kit Assembly Consultant to estimate number of days needed for that plans’ assembly.