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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.

To read about energy efficiency and the American Ingenuity Dome, view Efficient Ai Dome.

The following information came from:

The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Program’s web site is Energy Star.

Air will leak through a building envelope that is not well sealed. This leakage of air decreases the comfort of a residence by allowing moisture, cold drafts and unwanted noise to enter and may lower indoor air quality by allowing in dust and airborne pollutants. In addition, air leakage accounts for between 25 percent and 40 percent of the energy used for heating and cooling a typical residence.

The amount of air leakage in a house depends on two factors. The first is the number and size of air leakage paths through the building envelope. As shown in Figure 1, these paths include joints between building materials, gaps around doors and windows, and penetrations for piping, wiring, and ducts. The second factor is the difference in air pressure between the inside and outside.

Pressure differences are caused by wind, indoor and outdoor temperature differences (stack effect), chimney and flue exhaust fans, equipment with exhaust fans (dryers, central vacuums) and ventilation fans (bath, kitchen. To prevent air leakage, it is important to seal the building envelope during construction prior to installation of the drywall. Once covered, many air leakage paths cannot be accessed and properly sealed. There are many products available for air sealing including caulks, foams, weather stripping, gaskets and door sweeps.

Air sealing the building envelope is one of the most critical features of an energy efficient home. Look for the results of a “blower door” test (typically included with a Home Energy Rating) to ensure that your Energy Star labeled home had all air leakage paths identified and sealed using appropriate materials.

Once a house is tightly sealed, you will want to make sure there is adequate fresh air for ventilation. It is better to use controlled or active ventilation than to rely on air leakage. In many Energy Star labeled homes, an active ventilation system is installed along with air sealing to ensure that fresh air is provided.

Benefits: air sealing the building envelope can provide many benefits including:

  1. Improved Comfort: A tighter building envelope reduces the amount of unconditioned air, drafts, noise, and moisture that enter your home. Proper air sealing will also minimize temperature differences between rooms. As a result, tight envelopes can maintain a more consistent level of comfort throughout a house.
  2. Improved indoor air quality: A tighter building envelope reduces the infiltration of outdoor air pollutants, dust and radon as well as eliminating paths for insect infestation. Properly sealing the building envelope will also reduce moisture infiltration from outdoor air in humid climates.
  3. Increased quality: Building codes establish the legal minimum construction standards. Energy Star labeled homes, constructed to exceed these codes with air sealing, can offer a better quality product.
  4. Lower Utility Bills: Air leakage accounts for 25 percent to 40 percent of the energy used for heating and cooling and also reduces the effectiveness of other energy-efficiency measures such as increased insulation and high-performance windows. Thus. Air sealing results in lower utility bills.
  5. Fewer condensation problems: Condensation can lead to mold and mildew problems. In hot, humid climates, moisture can enter into wall cavities through exterior cracks and result in costly damage to framing and insulation. In cold climates, gaps in the interior walls allow moisture from warm indoor air to enter wall cavities and attics. This moisture can condense on cold surfaces and lead to structural damage. By significantly reducing air leakage, Energy Star labeled homes can reduce or eliminate these problems.
  6. Reduced obsolescence: Based on recent trends for improved efficiency and higher indoor air quality, tighter building envelopes are expected to become standard practice for the building industry. Since it is both difficult and costly to make the building envelope tighter after a house is constructed, it is best to seal all joints, holes and seams during construction. Energy Star labeled homes constructed to exceed current building codes are therefore, expected to be less vulnerable to obsolescence.
  7. Improved resale position: Air sealing a home can provide the many impressive benefits discussed above and lead to a more comfortable, quieter and better quality home with lower utility bills, fewer condensation problems and reduced obsolescence. These benefits can translate into higher resale value.

Resources used:

    1. The Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings (Wilson and Morrill), 5th edition, 1996, available from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy at 510-549-9914
    2. Homemade Money (Heede and the staff of RMI), 1995, available from the Rocky Mountain Institute at 970-927-3851
    3. Caulking and Weatherstripping fact sheet available from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse (EREC), POBox 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116, (1-800-363-3732)

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
Exterior Surface
Gallons of Paint

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

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.

This article covers Cisterns & Rain Barrels. Rainwater coming off the dome can be caught in troughs and carried to your cistern. One of American Ingenuity’s clients in Tortola British Virgin Islands installed a cistern.

The following information came from the web site

The application of an appropriate rainwater harvesting technology can make possible the utilization of rainwater as a valuable and, in many cases, necessary water resource. Rainwater harvesting has been practiced for more than 4,000 years, and, in most developing countries, is becoming essential owing to the temporal and spatial variability of rainfall. Rainwater harvesting is necessary in areas having significant rainfall but lacking any kind of conventional, centralized government supply system, and also in areas where good quality fresh surface water or groundwater is lacking.

Annual rainfall ranging from less than 500 to more than 1,500 mm can be found in most Latin American countries and the Caribbean. Very frequently most of the rain falls during a few months of the year, with little or no precipitation during the remaining months. There are countries in which the annual and regional distribution of rainfall also differ significantly.

For more than three centuries, rooftop catchments and cistern storage have been the basis of domestic water supply on many small islands in the Caribbean. During World War II, several airfields were also turned into catchments. Although the use of rooftop catchment systems has declined in some countries, it is estimated that more than 500 000 people in the Caribbean islands depend at least in part on such supplies. Further, large areas of some countries in Central and South America, such as Honduras, Brazil, and Paraguay, use rainwater harvesting as an important source of water supply for domestic purposes, especially in rural areas.

Technical Description

A rainwater harvesting system consists of three basic elements: a collection area, a conveyance system, and storage facilities. The collection area in most cases is the roof of a house or a building. The effective roof area and the material used in constructing the roof influence the efficiency of collection and the water quality.

A conveyance system usually consists of gutters or pipes that deliver rainwater falling on the rooftop to cisterns or other storage vessels. Both drainpipes and roof surfaces should be constructed of chemically inert materials such as wood, plastic, aluminum, or fiberglass, in order to avoid adverse effects on water quality.

The water ultimately is stored in a storage tank or cistern, which should also be constructed of an inert material. Reinforced concrete, fiberglass, or stainless steel are suitable materials. Storage tanks may be constructed as part of the building, or may be built as a separate unit located some distance away from the building. Figure 1 shows a schematic of a rooftop catchment system in the Dominican Republic.

All rainwater tank designs (see Figures 2a and 2b) should include as a minimum requirement:

  • A solid secure cover
  • A coarse inlet filter
  • An overflow pipe
  • A manhole, sump, and drain to facilitate cleaning
  • An extraction system that does not contaminate the water; e.g., a tap or pump
  • A soakaway to prevent spilled water from forming puddles near the tank

Additional features might include:

  • A device to indicate the amount of water in the tank
  • A sediment trap, tipping bucket, or other “foul flush” mechanism
  • A lock on the tap
  • A second sub-surface tank to provide water for livestock, etc.

The following questions need to be considered in areas where a rainwater cistern system project is being considered, to establish whether or not rainwater catchment warrants further investigation:

  • Is there a real need for an improved water supply?
  • Are present water supplies either distant or contaminated, or both?
  • Do suitable roofs and/or other catchment surfaces exist in the community?
  • Does rainfall exceed 400 mm per year?
  • Does an improved water supply figure prominently in the community’s list of development priorities?

If the answer to these five questions is yes, it is a clear indication that rainwater collection might be a feasible water supply option. Further questions, however, also need to be considered:

  • What alternative water sources are available in the community and how do these compare with the rooftop catchment system? – What are the economic, social, and environmental implications of the various water supply alternatives (e.g., how able is the community to pay for water obtained from other sources; what is the potential within the community for income generating activities that can be used to develop alternative water sources; does the project threaten the livelihood of any community members, such as water vendors?)
  • What efforts have been made, by either the community or an outside agency, to implement an improved water supply system in the past? (Lessons may be learned from the experiences of the previous projects.)·
  • All catchment surfaces must be made of nontoxic material. Painted surfaces should be avoided if possible, or, if the use of paint is unavoidable, only nontoxic paint should be used (e.g., no lead-, chromium-, or zinc-based paints). Overhanging vegetation should also be avoided.

Water Barrels

The following information came from Aaron’s Rain Barrels web site

A rain barrel is a rainwater harvesting system that is connected to a down spout tube from a house or building. We make quality rain water barrels that collect, store and divert rooftop runoff during a rain shower.

An Aaron’s Rain Barrels is a better designed rain barrel. We offer you our #1 selling recycled plastic barrel or a traditional whiskey barrel. Our preferred rain collection barrel connects directly to your rain gutters down spout tube, has an overflow valve and is only made from the best quality parts so they last a lifetime.

There is more to making rain barrels then just adding a spigot to a barrel. If things are not done just right your rain barrel will leak within a few weeks.

The following info answers some of American Ingenuity’s most commonly asked Dome Plans FAQ – frequently asked questions.

Bay window off dining room over looking deck.

Bay window off dining room over looking deck in 45′ dome dining room.

American Ingenuity (Ai) has a plans design department that can customize any floor plan to fit your lifestyle. The Oliver’s wanted a bay window to overlook their deck.   As a result an entryway was installed with this beautiful window.  To view plans sale pricing and kit sale pricing for each specific stock plan, click on Stock Plans & Kit Sale Pricing.   Please scroll down the page to find the chart.

Q: How do I view your stock floor plans for the prefab home dome kit?

A:  Click on Stock Plans to view stock plans for each of Ai’s ten size dome kits.  Once you are on the page scroll down to see the hyperlinks to click on. To view plans & pictures for Tiny Home, click on Tiny Domes.    If you do not see a stock plan to fit your lifestyle, Ai can modify or customize a plan or Ai can design a custom plan from your sketches and notes.  If you want stock plan layouts mailed, call Ai at  321-639-8777 for printing cost and mailing cost.

Q: How do we determine what size dome is best for my family?

A: First check the 10 Steps to Building Ai Dome and second review stock plans on our website to see how the area within a dome is utilized

  • To view info to assist in custom plan design, click on these four links: Getting Started, Floor Planner Guidelines, Revising Stock Plans and Things to Consider.
  • Then compare these sample floor plans with the rooms and square footages of houses you are familiar with by using the to-scale ruler in the back of the booklet or on the emailed plan.
  • Compare your finances and construction costs to avoid designing a project that is beyond a realistic budget. On our home page, download our Financing Booklet.  FYI, a smaller dome could be built first with a link where a second dome can be added later. 
  • Think about the future will you need to increase or downsize your home size?
  • If you had to move what size home would sell best?

Q: Does American Ingenuity have an engineering statement about your prefabricated dome panels that can be submitted to my building department?

A:  Yes, to view the statement click on Engineering.

Q: What size dome do I build if I do not want a second floor?
The 15′, 18′, 22′, 27′, 30′, 34, 36′ and 40′ domes would be suitable for homes with only a first floor. However any of the domes can be built without a second floor.

Because of the shape of the dome, a second floor is a natural. If you choose to construct a larger dome and include the second floor, you can install an elevator, chair rail on your stairs or a lift to access the second floor. Click on Rail Chairs to learn more.

You could design all your living space and master bedroom and bath on the first floor, and put a guest bedroom and bath on the second floor and use the second floor rooms for guests or for storage.

Q: Can the dome be made handicap accessible?
A: Yes. All of the dome floor plans can be modified to be handicap accessible. The cost to do this depends upon the complexity of the plan. Contact us for a price quote. Click on Accessible to learn more.


Ai’s philosophy is that each person pays for only what they need.  Ai does not burden the price of the building kit with plan’s pricing, engineer seal cost or energy report cost.  Building plans are purchased  three months to 1 1/2 years prior to kit shipment.  About 50% of the building departments require engineer sealed plans and an energy report to issue a permit. As a result each customer pays for their plans separately from the building kit and pays for a seal and energy report only if their building department requires them.


Q: What items should I consider when planning to build an American Ingenuity geodesic dome?
The building industry is not only behind the times, it moves slowly! We cannot stress enough the importance of starting your preparations early for all aspects of building. What you think may take two months can easily consume four or five months or more. To have any hope of beginning the actual construction on time you must at least double the time you think it will take to acquire blueprints, financing, building permits, contractors or subcontractors. Optimists should triple their expectations.

Once your land has been acquired, blueprints are usually the first step.

  • Some Building Departments require that blueprints be sealed or approved by one of their state architects or engineers prior to giving permits, which takes additional time. Click on Building Permit to learn more.
  • Mortgage lenders move slower than you may anticipate. Click on Financing Overview to lean more.
  • Remember to allow time to have the land cleared, prepped and ready for the foundation. All permits pertaining to electrical, telephone, water, septic tanks, sewer hookups, driveway and building….will take time. Click on Planning Process to learn more.
  • Also increased demand for American Ingenuity Dome Kits has forced us to assign shipping dates as much as 8-12 weeks in advance. If you intend to begin building in the summer start the process one to two years before. Other expectant homeowners will be clogging the system by spring, so if you are the early bird they will be waiting behind you instead of vice versa.

Q: How do I plan for expansion -building an additional dome at a future date?
When designing your first dome, you can prepare for future expansion by placing an entryway or link at the location where you will later connect another dome. If we are providing you with customized plans, we can design them for the future expansion. When you order your first dome, we can provide instructions and materials that will make the connection easier.

Q: Can the domes have basements or be built upon stilts or pilings?
Yes. To complete these designs, a local engineer is hired to calculate the load of the dome and its interior floors to determine joist size and spacing and wall/column/piling design.  Ai then incorporates his designs into your building plans.  Call for engineer pricing.  Any of our domes can be built upon a basement, stilts or pilings. You determine how many openings you want in the basement walls for garage doors or for windows and doors, and you determine if and how many of the basement sides you want bermed with dirt. Full basements are the same size and shape as the dome first floor. Click on Foundations to learn more.

Also what do you use for floor joists? Wood, steel, manufactured trusses, whatever you prefer. How thick of a basement wall is required for the domes? Basement walls are usually 8″ thick when made of poured concrete but will likely increase depending on the height of the basement wall and the height of the backfill.

Ai can provide a design, which places the dome on concrete pilings. Sometimes Ai recommends an above ground basement with breakaway walls instead of pilings.

Bear in mind that building any structure upon pilings will increase the cost significantly and require you to climb a flight of stairs each time you go in the house. If in your location, it is a requirement then you have no other choice.

Q: Do you sell basement wall kits?
No. Ai manufacturers dome housing kits. We do not manufacture or build basement walls. Although we do design the basement building plans using premade wall panels, ICFs or concrete blocks. You would need to contact a local subcontractor for basement construction costs and to find out what type basements are best built in your area.

Q: What is the standard foundation included with the stock plans?

A: Concrete slab. For Ai to design a basement or concrete columns or stem wall or pilings, etc. an engineer fee is added to your Plans Quote. This is to cover the cost for an engineer to review your Geotechnical Soil Report, calculate the load of the dome and the load of the two floors within the dome and give joist/edge beam size/spacing and foundation info for our CAD department to incorporate within the plans. Please call for engineer pricing.

Q: Can I have windows above doors in an entryway?
Yes. By using high profile entryways in your building plans, you can include glass or standard windows over a door, set of doors, or bank of conventional windows. The glass above the doors or windows could be half-moon shaped or be stained glass, etc. Any room with a cathedral ceiling, such as a foyer or living room, can benefit from this striking architectural feature. Click on Window Sizes to learn more.

Q: Will l feel closed in, in the dome?
No. In our domes you can install an abundant number of windows and doors. Your budget and your floor plan selection determine the number of doors or windows you will have. There can be up to five entryways on the first floor of the 30’ through 48’ domes and you can have up to five window dormers or door dormers on the second floor of the 27’ or 34’ through 48’ domes.  (No second floor window or door dormers are available in 22’ or 30’ domes.  If there is a first floor standard entryway, there can be a second floor door dormer above it.  Instead of installing a door, install a tall window (2’x5’) to let light in a room or to let light into a high vaulted ceiling area.

 Q: Do your Building Plans come with an Engineer’s seal?
No. Although over 30 different engineers have reviewed our Building Plans, the plans do not come with an engineer’s seal for the following reasons.

Less than half of our dome owners need engineer sealed Building Plans to obtain a building permit and rather than adding the engineer cost to all plans or burden the price of the building kit, it is more economical to have the plans sealed as needed.

  •  As the designer and manufacturer, we would not hesitate to guarantee the structural integrity of our dome and we do just that with our guarantee.
  • Each state only accepts a seal from an engineer who is registered in that state which prevents us from applying any seal that would be universally accepted.
  • When an engineer seals a set of plans he is taking responsibility for the structural design for a single dome in the location intended and the seal would not apply to other projects.

Q: What format do I email floor plan drawings to you?
jpeg format or bmp format (windows bit map). Alternatively, if you are using AutoCAD, we can accept the documents in dxf format or dwg format saved in 2013 or older program. Please include your name, telephone number and the best time(s) to contact you.  

Q: What programs can I use to read dxf format?
You can read and edit the dxf files if you have AutoCAD program, any other computer aided drafting program, a photo editor program like adobe or paint shop. You can read the dxf files but not edit them using Microsoft word and power point. The web site has a computer aided drafting program that can be downloaded and used  free for 30 days.

You can use computer programs to draw your floor plans; although, we can use a hand drawn sketch that is faxed to us just as easily as a CAD drawing. We have to reenter all of your information into our system and we will likely agree upon some changes for your benefit.

Q: What is a cupola?
A Cupola is “sort of like a hat with windows that sits on top of the dome”. When a person wants to have a third floor loft in the 40′ or larger domes, the cupola adds about 2′ of headroom to the top center of the dome. The top five pentagon panels rest upon 18″ tall concrete “legs”, that are built on site. Between the concrete “legs” framing is built to install rectangular windows that you purchase locally. See the floor planners in the Stock Floor Plan Booklet for loft heights and square footages.

The topside exterior of the five panels of the cupola and the underside exterior of the eave are prefinished, while the topside and edges of the eave are stuccoed onsite.

Cupolas are not necessary for ventilation and extra light. Domes do not need more light than conventional houses. If you build your dome with or without a cupola, we recommend installing a vent in the top center of the dome and in all bathrooms, on stove and cloths dryer. The electric fan vent has the added advantage of being easily controlled with a switch or timer or humidistat.

The outline of the third floor loft matches that of the cupola. Bear in mind the 225 mph warrant does not apply to a cupola.

For an observatory on top of the dome, you would not need a cupola. The top or any part of the dome will easily support the weight of people. All that would be needed would be a railing around the top and some way to access the top of the dome, i.e. sculptured concrete steps. Click on Building Options to learn more. 

Q: Why do the square footages on the Specifications Page differ from the square footages listed on the stock floor plans?
On the Specifications Page the first floor and second floor square footage listed is the maximum amount of square footage possible. The first floor square footage is maxed out because only one entryway is considered. The second floor square feet (sq.ft.) listed is what is possible if you built in the second floor leaving only one fifth open to the first floor. The first floor ceiling height would then be 7 1/2′ in the 30’ and 34′ domes and 8′ tall in the larger domes.

The first floor square footages on the stock floor plans vary from the Specification Page because:

  • More than one entryway was designed in each of these plans. Every additional entryway on the first floor of the dome will reduce the first floor square footage.
  • In the stock floor plans, the second floor square footage varies from the Specifications Page because some stock plans have one third of the second floor left open while others can have up to half of the second floor left open. Providing you with a dramatic high-vaulted ceiling over your first floor living and dining rooms.
  • The second floor square footage on stock plans consists of all the illustrated second floor space to the knee wall. On site the second floor knee wall is built along the dome perimeter out 2×4’s and covered with drywall to a height of two to three feet. AC ducting and second floor suspension rods can be hidden behind the knee wall. Electrical outlets can be placed on the knee wall.

Residential Building Plan sets contain all the blueprints typically provided with any type of housing and include floor plans, exterior elevations, dome shell section view, top view showing panel nomenclature, floor joist framing plans, structural details, and locations for plumbing and electrical fixtures.  To view stock plans for each of our ten different size dome kits, click on Stock Plans.  If you do not see a plan to fit your lifestyle, Ai can modify its stock plans or design custom plans for a reasonable fee. 

If you do not have the time or do not want to assemble the dome shell kit, American Ingenuity knows of a Kit Assembly Consultant that will come to your site, and supervise your laborers or your contractor’s laborers and get the dome shell kit assembled with one layer of concrete in the seams and on the entryways and dormers.

Q: Prior to purchasing Residential Building Plans, what do I need to consider?

A: You need to assure you have answers to the following questions:

  1. Does the deed for your land have any restrictions on domes?
  2. Are you within 1-2 years of building?
  3. 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.
  4. What is required from your building department to obtain a building permit?
  5. Do you have your financing secured?
  6. If the answers to the above questions are positive then you can fax or email us your modified sketch.

Click on Planning Process to learn more.

Q: If I purchase Building Plans for one size dome and later change my mind, can I get a refund?

A: No Ai cannot issue a refund.

Q: When should we purchase our dome building plans?

A: Ai recommends that our clients design their floor plan when they are one to two years from building their dome. If you design your plan before then, you may see model homes or get ideas from other plans that may cause you to want to change your original floor plan ideas.

Q: When can I move into my dome?

A: If you have to obtain a building permit before you can build, then you have to submit a set of Building Plans. If you do not have to obtain a building permit then you can move into the dome once the shell is weather tight. But typically the building department will not allow you to live in the dome until the interior and exterior are finished per the building plans.

Q What are the contents of your Residential Building Plans? A: Stock sets generally have 13-17 pages per each set. Building plans include the basic drawings for the dome that are needed when acquiring a building permit. They are composed on our computer aided drafting system as stock plans, or based on your individual requirements and design. Some of the pages are a 3-D elevation and a 3-D perspective view.

American Ingenuity’s Building Plans contain all of the typical drawings and details – usually 13-17 sheets. The blueprints included in your plans are based on the type of entryways, dormers and foundation that are designed in your plans. Some of the Blueprint names are:
• Cover Sheet
• Legend Sheet
• First Floor Plan
• Second Floor Plan
• Dome Panel Nomenclature
• Exterior Elevations
• 1st Floor Electrical Plan (shows location of electrical outlets, lighting fixtures, smoke detectors)
• 2nd Floor Electrical Plan (shows location of electrical outlets, lighting fixtures, smoke detectors)
• Foundation Plan
• Foundation Details
• 2nd Floor Framing Plan
• Typical Dome Section
• Standard Entryway Details
• High Profile Entryway Details
• 1st Floor Window Dormer & Door Dormer Details
• 2nd Floor Dormer Details
• Stair Details
• Cupola Blueprint if ordered
• Link Blueprint if ordered

These plans include all the structural drawings, show the placement of the electrical outlets, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures; however, they do not have the electrical, plumbing, HVAC layouts. We have found if the layouts are included, then the inspectors require the subcontractors to follow the diagrams when the subs like to design their own layouts.

Q: Do your Building Plans include the electrical, plumbing and HVAC diagrams?

A: No. Ai has found if these layouts are included, then the inspectors require the subcontractors to follow the diagrams when the subs like to design their own layouts based on their installation method. Ask you building department if these layouts are required for you to obtain a building permit. Ai will email finished floor plan layouts in pdf so your subcontractors can design the layouts.

Q: Why do you charge extra to modify your stock Building Plans?

A: If there is no change to load bearing walls, there will be no extra fee.  However quite often our clients send us sketches that require the load bearing walls to change. This change then affects the foundation sheet, the second floor framing sheet and other sheets.  Some of the footer locations in the concrete slab foundation are based upon the location of the first floor load bearing walls, which help support the second floor. Plus the dome riser panels set on a perimeter footer in the slab. Also parts of the second floor are suspended by rods into the dome shell. These rods are inserted and buried in the seam concrete during the shell assembly. So we need to design your floor plan per your sketch and then design the structural sheets that the slab subcontractor, shell assembler, framer, etc. need to follow. So yes you would pay us a fee for us to modify our stock plans per your sketch and produce sets of building plans.

Q: I understand that you can suspend parts of the second floor from the dome shell so we can have an open first floor plan. Is this true?

A: Yes, the second floor can be suspended from the dome shell and allow you to have as open a first floor as you desire. Keep in mind that it is more economical to use some of the first floor walls as supports. Long spans with floor joists will require more expensive materials to provide the strength for suspension rods that pass through the second floor.  The suspension rods and plates are purchased from American Ingenuity.

Q: How is the square footage determined in the Dome Plans?

A: Remember in a conventional house you have an attic that cannot normally be used. Because of the dome shape a second floor can be installed that is useable. So even if some square footage around the second floor perimeter cannot be used there is still more useable square footage in a dome than a conventional house with attic under truss roof.  Building Plans second floor square footage includes the area starting at five feet to the top of the dome. For example in 27′ dome the center of the 2nd floor is 9’1″ tall; the center of the second floor in 36′ dome 10 feet tall; the center of the second floor in 45′ dome is 13 feet 7 inches tall.  The second floor square footage is calculated from the top of the dome down to where the exterior dome walls slope to five feet.  Around the perimeter of the second floor at the five feet of height, bed headboard, or night stands, or desk or dresser can be placed.  The Tax Assessor uses these numbers, so your taxes will be less.

Click on Square Footage to learn more.

Q: I am concerned about having a second floor and using the stairs. What do you recommend?

A:  Ai can design a dome floor plan layout without a second floor.  Because of the spherical shape of the dome a second floor is a natural. To access the second and third floors instead of an elevator, install an electric winch powered lift in a 4’x4’ area or an elevator to get to the second floor, or you could use a stair railing chair. You could design all your living space and master bedroom and bath on the first floor, and design a guest bedroom and bath on the second floor and use the rooms for guests or for storage.  Click on Lifts and Elevators to learn more.

Q: I understand that very few of your clients ever sell their dome. As a result, the dome ends up becoming a retirement home, should I make it handicap accessible?

A: Yes. It is a easy modification to the plans to make the entire downstairs area wheelchair accessible, (32″ or 36″ doorways, handicap accessible shower stall, bathroom, etc.).

Q: How are two domes joined together and should I plan extensions onto my Entryways?

A: If you are planning a complex of domes, the plans are joined at entryways or door dormers to form a link. The link will vary in width according to the size of the domes’ entryways and can vary in length from 2 feet to 10 feet.

While many companies offer the alternatives of large links and room extensions to the dome, American Ingenuity feels they are not in your best interest. Among the reasons:

  • When floor space is increased using an extension or link, the exposed surface area is greater than for the square footage within a dome. This results in less energy efficiency and a higher cost per square foot.
  • Construction is more involved and time consuming
  • The overall scale, relationship between elements and proportion of the home are adversely affected.
  • The visual impact of the design is lessened.
  • Good chance of leaking where the extension long flat roof butts into the dome shell. The expansion and the contraction associated with temperature changes produces the flex or separation at the link. We have considered expansion joints but they are not trouble free either. We have concluded the adding of elastomeric patching compound with exterior paint where the link panels touch the dome panels is the best solution.  
  • Ai recommends simply moving up to the next larger size dome or arranging your space differently to increase the efficiency of your design. It will save time, energy and money.

Q: What do your building plan names mean?

A: The first two numbers are the dome diameter in feet, the next word is a Greek word (Omega, Alpha, Delta) and then we use two numbers (21, 22, etc) to complete the name.