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Ai Concrete Dome Kit Home vs Shipping Container Home

After reviewing several sites regarding converting a shipping container into a home and what the American Ingenuity (Ai) Dome Building Kit offers, we have the following comparison to share.  When comparing companies housing products, please compare apples to apples, not just the container cost.  

  1. Do the other companies back up their product against Hurricanes and Tornadoes?  American Ingenuity offers a warranty up to a 225 mile an hour winds and or F4 tornado. Click on, Aidomes & Acts of Nature to learn more.
  2. To reach the 780 sq. ft. of living space (average 27′ dome)  will require two to three 40 ft. containers, at an average price for used containers (in good shape, another issue posted) of $2,000. New containers run between $4,500 and $6,000 that is $13,500 (for 3) minimum before shipping. The closest shipping (for this Florida example) for a container would be Miami.  Current shipping costs are about $800 per truck within Florida ($2,400).  So your investment before your retrofit would be over $15,900!   Adding the retrofit, insulation and drywall will add another $10,000 or more. (not including custom windows, doors, electric, plumbing etc.) For an estimated total of $25,900 (before sales tax). Remember material costs to finish a home is over 50% of construction costs. Prior to Florida Sales Tax, the American Ingenuity dome kit w’ shipping cost to a Florida site based on the 27’ Kappa 11 plan is $26,152, a difference of only $252 and you receive a home with greater strength – 225 mph wind & F4 tornado warranty on the dome exterior walls.   Please see Ai Pricing Chart below.
  3. When looking at  container conversion, how is the interior of the home finished?  Do you have to cut and solder the units for windows, entryways and multiple units?  Do you need to tear the flooring out due to possible contamination (another potential problem)?  Attach the insulation and wallboard? Ai’s kit’s triangle and riser panels come with the R28 insulation and ½” thick DensArmor gypsum wallboard (by Georgia Pacific) already adhered with wallboard adhesive. After the kit panels are assembled, the drywall seams are taped with adhesive mesh tap and joint compound.  To blend the drywall seams and the drywall surface, skip trowel joint compound over the dome shell drywall.
  4. Does the product or kit contain insulation? What type, and what is the overall R-Value for energy efficiency? Our kits have standard 7″ thick rigid, nontoxic EPS giving the structure an overall R-Value of 28. From what we have read container homes have major insulation problems with both keeping the home warm in winter and cool in summer, which may present a problem in your area.
  5. Does the companies product have a finished exterior? If using a container then will you need to seal the container with nontoxic paint adding siding or stucco (many containers have lead based paint that needs to be properly sealed so not to contaminate you). The American Ingenuity (Ai) dome’s exterior is 3/4″ concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh & fibers with the seams between the panels & the entryways & dormers concreted on site. You do not concrete over the entire shell. After kit erection the concrete gets primed and painted.
  6. Like a container conversion, Ai’s dome panels contain no wood in them.  They are steel reinforced concrete, as opposed to solid metal which will/ can rust.
  7. Will the companies that do the retrofitting call your building department and verify the structure can be built on your site?  At no cost to our Buyers, we call their building department, email a generic set of building plans and talk to the Plans Examiner to assure the dome kit can be built.
  8. Do companies that specialize in shipping container retrofits, provide you with building plans (Ai’s current sale price for 27 Kappa 11 building plans is $851), engineer seal for your state (Seal for one dome on a slab is $600) and energy report  (Ai price to complete the report for one dome on a slab is $190)?  If so what do they charge? If they don’t provide these services, please be aware you will need to hire an architect, and an engineer to seal your building plans.  Just last week, a Florida Resident visited our dome offices and said that engineer sealed building plans for a four container home built in Florida would cost $8,000.

Please keep in mind that the cost to build a finished moderately priced home varies from state to state. As an example in Central Florida (based upon figures from the average cost to build is about $138.00 per square foot for a home that is 750 sq. ft.  This is not including the cost of land, land preparations, permitting/impact fees, and utilities. It would include all your interior finishing including kitchen,  HVAC systems and appliances and monolithic foundation (slab). So a home that is 750 sq. ft. would run about $103,000 to build (this would include the cost of our dome kit). The cost to build one of our kits runs about the same to build as a traditional home but our kit home has insulation comparable to  11” of fiberglass and has super-strength.  A traditional house would require 2×10 framing (see Finished Cost) to come close to our dome….but it would have wood interrupting the insulation while the Ai dome has no wood in or on the shell to interrupt the insulation, or to burn or to rot or for termites to eat.

PDF for Downloading & Printing
27′ Kappa 11 plan
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27′ Kappa 11 plan


The following info covers Ai Domes & Tornadoes.    In August 1992 American Ingenuity domes were put to the ultimate test of strength when they faced the wrath of Hurricane Andrew as it slammed into south Florida. Winds at the nearby Tamiami airport were clocked at 212 mph, spawning over 100 tornadoes within the storm and leaving practically everything in its wake leveled. Nearly 200,000 people become homeless overnight. Even a tower at the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant, designed to withstand 200-mph winds, was irrevocably damaged by this fierce storm. We were not surprised, however, when we learned that our domes survived – in great contrast to the thousands of conventionally built houses of their neighbors.

Menendez -exterior

45′ Dome went thru Hurricane Andrew & Tornado with no structural damage.

Above is picture of a 45′ American Ingenuity dome home built in 1989 that was in the direct path of the devastating storm, bearing the worst Andrew & a tornado could deliver; yet it suffered no structural damage. A two wide metal horse trailer was impelled against the dome leaving a paint skid marking on the dome where the trailer slide around the dome to the other side. The horse trailer caused a crack in the riser wall and a chunk of concrete to break loose. The dome owner, caulked the crack and mixed up fiber concrete and filled the chunk and then painted the area.

Due to the type and direction of the debris scattered around the dome’s neighborhood, an engineer from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (F.E.M.A.) surmised that a tornado had struck the area. The engineer’s own Alabama home had been hit by a tornado a few years ago, so he was impressed by the integrity of the dome on an emotional as well as a professional level. The dome structure had withstood not only the force of a hurricane but a tornado as well. The incredibly intense winds ripped open double entry doors and 12′ sliding glass doors, which had been covered with protective plywood sheathing. Even though the wood and glass doors of the entryways succumbed to the wind and allowed interior water damage from the rain, the dome itself stood strong.

The Ai dome’s F4 tornado warranty covers the dome’s exterior shell and does not include windows and doors.  High speed tornado winds pick up debris which can be hurled through windows and doors.  As a result if you live in an area prone for tornadoes, consider building within the dome a safe room with concrete walls to protect your family from flying debris coming through windows and doors. At end of this article is definition of Tornado Alley.


free Wikipedia tornado

The tornado picture is from Wikipedia and is of tornado near Anadarko, Oklahoma. The funnel is the thin tube reaching from the cloud to the ground. The lower part of this tornado is surrounded by a translucent dust cloud, kicked up by the tornado’s strong winds at the surface. The wind of the tornado has a much wider radius than the funnel itself.

The following info came from  Where is Tornado Alley?

The borders of Tornado Alley are not clearly defined. They vary, depending on the criteria used — frequency, intensity, or events per unit area. Generally, a tornado alley map starts in central Texas and goes north through Oklahoma, central Kansas and Nebraska and eastern South Dakota, sometimes dog-legging east through Iowa, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana to western Ohio.

While the “Wizard of Oz” still conjures up images of Kansas as a tornado-prone area, that state is not the most highly impacted state when it comes to tornadoes. According to the National Climatic Data Center, Texas reports the highest number of tornadoes of any state, although its very large land mass accounts for that status. Kansas and Oklahoma are second and third respectively when it comes to the number of tornadoes reported, but those states report more tornadoes per land area than Texas.

Convergence of conditions:
Tornado Alley has all of the weather conditions needed for a tornado to take shape. Tornadoes form when three different types of air converge in a specific manner: a layer of warm and humid air near the ground along with strong southerly winds; colder air along with strong west or southwest winds line the upper atmosphere; and a third layer of very warm dry air that hovers between the warm and moist air at low levels and the cool dry air above.

While not as familiar as Tornado Alley, the designation Dixie Alley generally refers to another part of the country that is likely to experience tornadoes — generally the upper Tennessee Valley and Lower Mississippi Valley.

Florida’s almost daily thunderstorms spawn a large number of tornadoes, designating it as the state with the with the highest number of tornadoes per square mile. However, a relatively small percentage of Florida’s tornadoes are considered high intensity.

Globally, latitudes between about 30 degrees and 50 degrees North or South provide the most favorable environment for tornadoes. The United States records about 1,000 tornadoes a year, by far the most prolific of any region in the world, with Canada ranking second at only 100 per year.


The following info is about Oklahoma Concrete Domes in tornado alley. Due to their home site being located in  tornado alley, the Marshalls’ chose to build  American Ingenuity domes because their steel reinforced concrete exterior resists F4 tornado winds.  Bruce Marshall was owner builder of their two domes and did a fantastic job based on the finished photos below.

The 48′ home dome on the left is linked to 40′ garage dome on the right.  The 48′ dome has 2,649 sq.ft. (1,646 sq.ft. on first floor with 1,003 sq.ft on the second floor.) Link is 150 sq.ft.  The 40′ dome has 1,823 sq.ft. (1,151 sq.ft. on the first floor and 672 sq.ft. on the second floor). Dome home is five bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths.  664 sq.ft. recreation room above garage.  Please see floor plan layouts below and two photo galleries of interior photos.  Coming soon will be construction photo gallery of their domes.  To view info about Ai dome and tornadoes, please click on F4 Tornado.

(Click on arrows left and right side of picture to view the next picture)

(Click on arrows left and right side of picture to view the next picture)


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Following is a thesis on geodesic domes written in 2010 by Taralyn Fender who teaches math at a University.  The title of her thesis: Are Geodesic Dome Homes More Energy Efficient and Wind Resistant Because They Resemble a Hemisphere?

The Conclusion of her thesis: Simulations and observations from hurricane disaster scenes do suggest that the geodesic dome structures suffer far less destruction than rectilinear structures. The hypothesis is that geodesic domes are more energy efficient and more wind resistant because they more closely resemble a hemisphere.


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