intersection | AiDomes

Building Envelope

An effective building envelope is a key element for an energy –efficient home.  Value-engineered framing increases the thermal resistance of the building envelope without compromising structural integrity by eliminating unnecessary framing members.  This can result in up to 25 percent reduction in the amount of wood used.  With lumber prices high, optimizing the use of wood can significantly lower the framing cost and reduce the resource impact of new home construction.

Wood loses or gains heat more quickly than insulation.  In frame construction, studs, joists and rafters are placed at regular intervals throughout the building envelope.  The cavities formed by these framing members are filled with insulation.  The unnecessary use of wood displaces insulation and degrades the thermal efficiency of the building envelope.

Standard construction practice places framing members at 16 inches on center.  Most building codes allow this spacing to be increased to 24 inches by using deeper framing members (i.e. 2×6’s instead of 2×4’s).  This also reduces labor costs.

The size and location of doors and windows has an impact on the thermal efficiency of the building envelope.  Figure 1 shows a window opening in standard framed wall.  The location of the window opening requires the installation of additional studs to support the frame.  By utilizing value-engineered framing and adjusting the location of the window opening as shown in Figure 2, unnecessary studs are eliminated.

At exterior corners and the intersection of interior partitions and exterior walls, additional studs are required to support the drywall.  Figures 3 and 4 show how these studs create pockets that are difficult to insulate and air seal.  By making the modifications shown in Figures 5 and 6, these pockets are eliminated.  Using “drywall stops” can further increase the thermal efficiency at these locations.

Look for Energy Star labeled homes to include value-engineered framing for improved thermal performance of the building envelope.

Value-engineered framing can provide many benefits including:

  1. Improved Comfort:  By increasing wall insulation and eliminating air spaces, value-engineered framing increases the overall R-value and integrity of the building envelope.  This results in walls that are warmer in winter and cooler in summer.  This is important because approximately 40 percent of our physical comfort is due to the radiant heat exchange between our bodies and the surrounding interior surfaces.  Value-engineered framing reduces this radiant heat exchange, thus maintaining a more consistent level of comfort throughout a house.
  2. Reduced construction cost:  Value-engineered framing can reduce the amount of lumber and labor needed to construct a home.  This results in construction cost savings.
  3. Lower utility bills:  Value-engineered framing reduces the amount of heat and air that flows through the building envelope.  This results in lower utility bills, making homes less expensive to operate.
The exterior walls and roof of the American Ingenuity dome contain no wood to interrupt the insulation.  The seven inch thick blocks of Expanded Bead Polystyrene that Ai uses is comparable to eleven inches of fiberglass insulation. During the shell kit assembly, a temporary wooden rib system is used to support the component panels until the seams between the panels and all the entryways and dormers are concreted…then the rib system comes down.  There is no wood in the exterior walls and roof of the Ai dome to interrupt the insulation…no wood to burn…no wood to rot and no wood for termites to eat.  The exterior of the Ai dome is steel reinforced concrete that does not contain shingles.
So the Ai dome exterior is a tight envelope because it does not have wood interruping its insulation and the insulation is super-thick; as a result the Ai dome saves its clients 50% to 70% on their heating and cooling bills.  For example, American Ingenuity can cool its 3,700 sq.ft. office domes to 76 degrees during work times for less than $133 a month in the hot Florida summer months.
45' dome front entrance in spring.

45′ dome on full basement sold in Missouri.  Front entrance in spring.

American Ingenuity dome owners lover their domes, with very few domes ever going on the resale market.  As a result there is no resale value on the Ai dome.  However if our clients ever think they might sell their dome, Ai recommends they build at least a 40′ (3 bedroom, two bathroom size). Plus the resale value of a dome or any other home, is improved when it;

  • matches the neighborhood in size and value
  • exhibits quality construction
  • is landscaped well
  • energy efficiency and strength factors are advertised

When Glenda has an open house quite often she has someone who wants to buy her domes. Why we think this occurs so often is that once the dome is built the buyer can see it, touch it, feel it and look at the low energy bills. The perspective buyer does not have to select a floor plan, buy land, obtain a building permit, obtain construction financing & permanent financing, install a foundation, find and coordinate subcontractors, etc. To put it bluntly they do not have to go through all the construction phases to get a house built.

Until recently there has been little information available regarding the resale value of the American Ingenuity domes. No one wanted to sell.

In the summer of 2005, an Ai dome owner was moving out of state so he had to reluctantly sell his special dome. His 40’ geodesic dome home linked to a 27’ two car garage was sold in Upstate South Carolina, near the intersection of I-85 and I-26, within a 30 mile radius of the metropolitan Greenville/Spartanburg, SC area.

The dome had 1,382 sq.ft. of living space, while the garage and attic added 680 sq.ft of space. The sale netted $189,000, not including the value of the land.

Applying the local construction cost for typical, new residential dwellings and for garage structures, a new conventional residence with the same square footage would have cost $167,000 to build.  The dome sold for approximately 13 percent above the current conventional residential construction costs yet it was 5 years old. In addition, the dome sold in four months and there were other potential buyers disappointed that they arrived too late.

Because of no resale values, lenders require 25% to 35% cash down payment based on the finished price of the house.  Therefore before purchasing building plans, determine your budget and talk to lenders about financing down payments. Best to build the smallest size home possible because construction costs usually exceed expectations. Please click on18 page  Financing Booklet to view ins & outs of financing.

The following came from our Buying Land document. Please contact us to receive the entire document plus our Dome Too Large document prior to purchasing property or determining your dome size.

American Ingenuity (Ai) is happy that you are considering our Geodesic Dome Building Kit for your future home. You have made a big decision to build your dream home, and building with an alternative housing structure that comes with 225 mph wind and F4 tornado warranty that saves 50% to 60% on heating and cooling over conventional house is a smart decision.   Below is info on determining budget, financing and buying land document which can be emailed.

Please click on Planning Process to view planning steps.

DETERMINING NEW HOME BUDGET: Prior to purchasing your land or if you own property, first determine the overall budget you can afford for your new home, land and land development. It is sometimes best to purchase a small piece of affordable land instead of large acreage. This way you keep your land cost down so you have more cash money available for your mortgage cash down payment or more cash to build if you are an owner/builder. To keep your construction costs down, best to build as small a dome as possible; therefore you are on your property living in a super-strong, super-energy efficient dome home saving money on your heating & cooling costs to add on a second dome later. For example a 40’ dome (3 bedroom, two bath) can have 1,800 sq.ft. A 36’ dome (2 or 3 bedroom, two bath) can have 1,400 to 1,600 sq.ft. If your finished cost per square foot for your area is $105, then building the smaller 36’ dome automatically saves you $20,000 to $40,000 in construction costs. A 27’ dome (two bedroom/two bath) can have 800 sq.ft. Building a 27’ dome vs a 36’ dome automatically saves you $60,000 to $80,000 in construction costs. For an approximate cost to build in the area you are considering please contact Ai at 321-639-8777.

FINANCING GENERAL CASH DOWN PAYMENT AMOUNTS: If you will be financing, determine the amount of cash down payment needed. Loans for alternative housing such as a geodesic dome are often harder to come by, and lenders generally require between 25% and 35% cash down. On an approximate $200,000 build for the structure and land development, this could mean a cash down payment of between $50,000 and $70,000. Keep in mind lenders may or may not take under consideration your equity in your land, when lending for the structure and land development. Therefore, if needing a loan to build it is wise not to invest all your liquid assets into the purchase of the property because a large cash down payment will be required on the home loan. Feel free to call us at 321-639-8777 for a friendly chat to clarify these items.

American Ingenuity tries to look out after each perspective client to assure that they are not “blindsided” or shocked about some property issue that could stop them from building their dream dome. The following is a web site that can be used to locate property by state and region without using a real estate agent:

If building site already owned, initially use the buying land doc to determine what will be needed to build on your property. If purchasing land, American Ingenuity highly recommends that prior to purchasing property obtain answers to the questions in the buying land document.  Call and have us email the buying land doc and checklist.  321-639-8777 Monday – Friday 9-5 eastern time.


 Fannie Mae Guidelines for

Estimating Market Value of Non-Traditional Housing

The following information came directly from the FANNIE MAE SELLING GUIDE: SECTION 404.01 – CONFORMITY TO NEIGHBORHOOD

In the appraisal and underwriting process, special consideration must be given to properties that represent special or unique housing for the subject neighborhood. Non-traditional types of housing-such as earth houses, geodesic domes, log houses, etc.-are eligible for delivery to us, provided the appraiser has adequate information to develop a reliable estimate of market value.

It is not necessary for one or more of the comparable sales to be of the same design and appeal as the property that is being appraised (although appraisal accuracy is enhanced by using comparable sales that are the most similar to the subject property). On a case-by-case basis, both the appraiser and the underwriter must independently determine whether there is sufficient information available to develop a reliable estimate of market value.

Great News – If your lender would like to utilize an appraiser who has appraised an Ai dome for a loan and who has visited an American Ingenuity 15 year old finished dome, please call Ai for appraiser’s info. 321-639-8777 Monday – Friday 9-5 Eastern time