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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 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.

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.

For waterproofing the concrete exterior, Ai dome owners recommend Ames Research Laboratories primer, tape and paint which can be purchased from ACE, True Value Hardware, Build-Rite Do It Center, etc/  Or call Ames at 888-345-0809 to purchase directly from them. For info on dealers in your area and their Super-Primer, Peel & Stick Contouring Tape and Maximum Stretch Paint click on  Ames.

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.