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Geodesic Domes: A Better Structure?

by Brice Particelli

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Energy prices are high and going higher, and you don't want a home that drains your wallet during the most basic upkeep. Or, perhaps, you've decided that regardless of energy costs, you want a home that conserves rather than over-consumes. A geodesic dome is unmatched in energy efficiency and might be the right thing for you.

What is a Geodesic Dome?
A geodesic dome is a structure built in an almost spherical shape—a structure made from struts set on large circles. Because of its curved walls and ceiling, these domes use approximately a third less surface area to enclose the same volume as a traditional box home. In fact, the geodesic dome has the highest ratio of enclosed volume to weight of any manmade structure. This allows less heat to escape through he walls in the winter and less air-conditioned air to escape in the summer. Additionally, the aerodynamics of the rounded walls force air to travel efficiently around rather than bouncing off of walls, keeping energy consumption to a minimum.

The Pitfalls of a Geodesic Dome
Because the average home is square, basic fixtures, appliances and utilities are made for right angles. Off-the-shelf materials that fit your home will be harder to come by if you don't use a knowledgeable dome builder. Chimneys can be harder to place and, if it's a larger structure, fire escapes can be more costly to install. However, geodesic domes are becoming a far more popular home in recent years. Along with energy efficiency, homeowners in hurricane and tornado areas are increasingly turning to them because they better weather storms and high winds. Because of this shift in building needs, the interior design and utility options have increased significantly. And if you find the right builder, you will always be able to find anything you need.

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The Benefits of a Geodesic Dome Home
People turn to these structures because they are energy efficient and cost effective building practice. Their structures withstand hurricanes and other storms with far greater success than traditional homes. And they are unique, providing the homeowner something different than all the box homes around them. Unlike some perceptions, they also do not need to be one sphere. There are many options to fit design needs which you can discus with your homebuilder or contractor. Geodesic domes are simple and efficient, and some of the most basic models can even be built yourself (though it might require more legwork in finding appliances without the knowledge of a geodesic home builder.)

From a pure engineering standpoint, geodesic domes are superior to traditional square homes. Geodesic domes are the only manmade structure that gets proportionally stronger as size increases. They are lighter, require fewer materials, are more efficient, are structurally more sound, and are more cost effective. The real question, then, is aesthetics—do you like the way it looks—because all reason points to owning a geodesic domed home.

Brice Particelli, formerly a carpenter in Colorado and Kentucky, manages continuing education programs for Columbia University and is a freelance writer for both the home improvement and travel industries.