noncombustible concrete | 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.


Dome Consultant link from Video

How Does The American Ingenuity Geodesic Dome COMPARE TO THE MONOLITHIC DOME?

Are Aidomes as sturdy as Monolithic domes? Yes, our domes are as sturdy as Monolithic domes and Ai’s has a rigid noncombustible  concrete exterior vs Monolithic Dome has an outer membrane.   To view video of monolithic dome and a fire and info about Ai dome’s fire resistant concrete exterior, click on Ai Concrete Exterior.  The Aidome exterior comes with a 225 mph wind and EF4 Tornado Warranty.  One of Aidomes withstood the impact of a 30″ in diameter hickory tree impact with no damage.  An Aidome withstood Hurricane Andrew and a tornado at the same time with no structural damage – only a hairline crack and small piece of concrete broken when the tornado slammed a two wide steel horse trailer on the dome.  To view  strength info about Aidomes, click on Acts of Nature.   Why did Ai stop guniting concrete on to the exterior of its dome – too labor intensive and a waste of concrete.

The Ai dome exterior walls cost 1/3 to 1/2 less than a Monolithic dome exterior.  Although you have not asked, Aidomes are equally if not more energy efficient. Ai’s dome kit contains seven inch thick insulation which is comparable to eleven inches of fiberglass batting.

The assembly of the monolithic dome requires expensive concrete spraying equipment and is not a do-it-yourself project. The American Ingenuity Dome Kits were specifically designed for the owner builder. All of the panels are premarked with numbers and letters which are described in the Assembly Manual and on the Nomenclature Blueprint in the Building Plans.  Ai’s dome kits can be assembled using a mortar mixer, conventional cranes, man lift or hoisting mechanisms with no need to spray concrete over the entire dome surface. The Ai component panels already have 80% of the exterior prefinished concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh and fibers on the exterior. The Aidome kit requires less on site concrete work because it is only the seam areas between the component panels and the entryways and dormers which require concreting. The seam area between the panels is about 5” wide and 3” deep with the on site seam concrete application averaging two inches thick.  To view info about being an owner builder, click on DIY.

In 1976 American Ingenuity built its first geodesic dome utilizing reinforced concrete over expanded bead polystyrene (E.P.S.) insulation. Road mesh was hand tied onto propped up E.P.S. panels, the concrete was then gunited or pumped over the propped up E.P.S. insulation. Each time Ai built a dome this way, we knew there had to be a better way resulting in a prefabricated component panel being invented and receiving a patent.  Countless designs and manufacturing construction techniques were analyzed in the early years as Ai developed a new generation in dome housing. Ai has outgrown two previous models as we progressed to a five dome office and factory complex.

Spraying concrete on a structure 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 Ai geodesic 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 finish the concrete as it is curing. Also a continuous sprayed concrete structure will cause the concrete to cure all at once.  Preconcreted panels allow for the panel concrete to cure prior to the seam concrete being applied.  For those homeowners who do not want to assemble the American Ingenuity dome kit themselves, the homeowner can hire a local builder who hires the independent kit assembly consultant to supervise the builder’s workers during the kit assembly.  To view our web site info about the Specialist/Consultant, please click on Specialist.

THERMAL MASS IN RELATION  TO MONOLITHIC DOMES

Generally speaking, in a home, thermal mass is the amount of stuff inside the house that retains heat. Although thermal mass accounts for the fact that some things have a greater “thermal capacity” to store heat than others, to understand its effect you can think of it as the total weight of everything contained in the house. With more thermal mass (heavy stuff) inside your house more heat will have to be added or removed to change the temperature. Expressed another way, if heat is not being added the temperature will be slower to change. Does Thermal Mass affect the energy efficiency of the house? NO.  As heat in the house is lost through walls, windows etc, the temperature drops.

The thermal mass releases (loans) heat into the house slowing down the temperature change. When the heating system turns on it must replace heat lost to the outside and it must also replace (pay back) the heat given off by the thermal mass. There is no long-term gain or loss; all of the heat given off by the thermal mass must be replaced. The amount of heat required to maintain the temperature inside a house is solely dependent on the amount of heat that escapes to the outside. All houses have walls, floors, and usually fixtures, appliances and stuff that will retain heat. A large amount of thermal mass can cause long on/off cycles of the heating system when shorter cycles would stir the air more frequently providing more comfort and uniform temperatures inside.

The recent generation of thermostats are a proven money saver by lowering the inside temperature (which lowers the heat loss to the outside) during those hours you are away at work, etc.  A large thermal mass makes it much harder to change the temperature; therefore reducing the savings.

Why is the Ai dome so energy efficient?  

Ai’s kit has standard 7″ thick EPS R28 insulation. The cost to build one of our kits runs about the same to build as a traditional home but our home has insulation comparable to 11” of fiberglass batting!  (using the 7″ EPS).  A traditional house would require 2×10 to come close to our dome….but it would have wood interrupting the insulation.  The thick insulation, reduced exterior surface area (30% less surface area than conventional shaped home) and uninterrupted insulation causes low cooling and low heating bills.

As far as functioning in cold, snowy environment, American Ingenuity domes have been built in such cold climates as Canada, at 7,500 feet elevation in Utah, 3,400 feet elevation in North Carolina, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin, Vermont, New York and all cold states in the USA except for New Hampshire, Rhode Island and North Dakota.  It is easier to heat an Ai dome that to cool one. To heat the furnace does not need to overcome heat generated from sunlight, clothes dryer, dish washer, body heat, light fixtures.

Below are examples of heating and cooling info on Aidomes.

  1. To view Glenda’s 1,075 sq. ft. dome home’s electric bill please view 34′ Dome Home Energy Recap   (total electric house with solar hot water panel – has actual copies of the electric bills).  I can cool my 1,075 sq.ft house for less than $27 a month in the hot Florida summer months.  (76 degrees when home and 79 degrees when not). As we discussed the Ai dome is even easier to heat than to cool.  To Heat you do not have to overcome sunlight, heat generated by the clothes dryer, dishwasher, computer, etc. This generated heat is utilized.
  2. Ai’s dome offices of 3,700 sq.ft. can be cooled for less than $85 a month (you can view actual electric bills at this link) in the hot Florida summer months to 74 degrees during the day Mon-Sat and 77 degrees at night and on Sunday.
  3. One of our domes built in South Carolina received the Energy Star  It has geothermal pipes.  Home Energy Partners certified his home used 61% less energy than in comparably-size housing.   The dome owner installed a geothermal cooling & heating system. To view pictures & info about his geothermal system, click on System.  Klaus’s total monthly average energy bill was $49. This includes the electricity and propane costs for his entire 1,600 sq.ft. – 40 ft. dome.
  4. Here is a quote from the Charles family about their PA 40 dome on full basement with Geothermal and radiant floor heating:  Mr. & Mrs. Charles: ““We live in the mountains of PA. The winters up here can be brutal. Our Ai Dome is a 40ft with Link on a 9″ thick livable basement. {Den, Office/Computer room, Kitchenette} The entire interior, to include the mechanical room, is heated and cooled by a Geothermal, Water furnace, Radiant floor system. Our zone controllers are set on 74 degrees winter and summer. Our sole power source, at present, is the grid. Our costs per month range from $99 to a high of $120. We were amazed that our cost now are less than when we lived in a 14 by 73 ft. mobile home while building the Dome. Our decision to build an American Ingenuity Dome home was the best decision we have ever made.”
  5. Jim Collar’s Utah Ai concrete dome buildings (45 linked to a 30’) operate off the grid by using photovoltaics’, masonry heater fireplace and passive solar water tubes. To learn more, click on  Off The Grid.
  6. Per Eric Brindley, “Our 2,600 sq.ft. 48’ dome located in Edgewater Florida is very efficient and strong. It has been hit by several hurricanes and tropical storms with no damage at all. My neighbor’s conventional house was severely damaged by the storms. I keep the house at 72 degrees in the summer and warmer in winter. My electric bill is around $100 a month with no water/sewer bill because I’m on well/septic.”
  7. If a person does not need to air condition their home, then if window dormers or windows within entryways are placed opposite each other cross ventilation can occur and cool the dome.  Our factory has three Ai domes which are not air conditioned.  In the heat of the Florida summers, you can walk in the domes and they are cooler than the outside air.  Floor fans circulate the air.  The super insulated dome is cooler inside with no air conditioning than a conventional house.
  8. Glenda owned a 34’ dome built at 3,400 feet elevation that could reach -8 degrees in the winter. Its south facing high profile entryway allowed sunlight to come in the dome.  When we wanted to carry wood and burn the fireplace, the fireplace and the sunlight from the entryway was enough to heat the dome.  At night we utilized a kerosene feed heater set at 68 degrees and the fire place for heat. During the winter we would use around 100 gallons of kerosene.
  9. Yes a fireplace can be installed in the dome.  Just let us know about where you want it located and our CAD department with use its 3D elevation view to locate the flue pipe’s exit from the dome.  It needs to be 8” from the center of a seam. On site a hole can be cut in the prefab panel.  Instructions on how to cut the hole are in the Assembly Manual.