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Built a dome.

23.5' diameter, 14' at the peak. 3/4" EMT as the frame, bolted together. It's sitting on weed barrier, but I didn't do a very good job leveling the site and now I'm thinking I need to move the damn thing and put in some base material. But maybe not.


And I have to cover it. I was going to use a surplus parachute, but maybe not. And then I'll anchor it make sure it doesn't blow away. I always wanted to build one and we needed a storage space that could become a greenhouse. That it was a dome was just because.

Even without the cover, it's a lovely space, which I didn't expect. That 3V pattern is pretty cool to look at.

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Kathryn's picture
Submitted by Kathryn on

ohio, can you advise your costs, and time, and ok... level of expertise to get that up?

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

keep us posted.

Submitted by lambert on

... for occupiers? Any reason a dome would be better as shelter than tents?

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Submitted by ohio on

Structures need to do a lot of thing: they need to do is go up fast, resist the elements, not be crazy expensive, and if they do fail, fail gracefully so nobody gets killed.

With a lot of cheap unskilled labor, you could bolt one of these domes together fast. But without the skill and minimal tooling, you couldn't get the pieces cut properly, which means it won't go together at all.

But say you get the thing bolted together. You then need to cover it fast. At this time of year, you can't cover it halfway because a dome that is half covered is just a parachute waiting for take-off. You could try to get a custom cover made, but that takes time and money. So you go to Home Depot and get a crapload of tarps. Which are all square.

But you could do the tarpage and then throw a cool-looking parachute over it to make it prettier. And then strap it all down. It just might keep the rain and snow off you in the winter. But that doesn't solve several really big problems: heat, use of space, and ventialtion.

Now, you could use approximate lengths and then strap the framing member together loosely with say, the zipties used to hang ventilation piping. Once everything was in place, you then tighten all of the zipties. The big trick is spreading the load across all of the memebers so no one or group of memebrs takes the load, which will cause failure. So perhaps hanging a truckers tarp use Grip Clips from the inside of the framing would allow you to keep them memebers in tension and spread the load.

But the framing members would still have to stiff enough, or strong enough to be bend in the opposite direction of the hanging tarp and stay in tension. Like a bow with a string on it. The bow is in tension and is stiffer than it would be out of tension.

Anyway, hanging tarp from inside is a way to make a dome tent but you can't add anything to the outside, which brings up another big issue: how do you keep it warm?

You can add heat, of course, but a single layer of plastic without air space or some kind of insulation will allow that supplemental heat to escape.

With the dome tent idea---you can't hang anything on the members in tension on the outside because your adding weight from rain and snow, and other forces from wind. Those members may not be able to take it and will fail. Can you say, "ow ow my head"?

With the original cover-it-on-the-outside dome, you could add a second layer on the inside to create an air space.

But how much would that cost?

So say you use straw on the ground and around the exterior and cardoard on the interior of the dome. The materials are cheap and cardboard is amazing stuff. And then some knocks over the heater. Can you say, "ow ow my leg's on fire"?

And remember, this dome is 14' high, which means a lot of unused space unless I build to fill, which I will, and look, that all rhymes. But if a group of people have enough material to do all of that, why not build a rectangular structure that makes better use of inexpensive and easily scrounged material that's already rectangular?

Domes are neat and they provide cool spaces. But they are hard to build quickly because everything is custom and custom is the antithesis of fast and cheap. Custom is also the antithesis of unskilled.

With a kit of parts, a group of unskilled folk could get it done fast, but the kit will cost a lot of money.

And how do you build a door or windows? How do you light the interior? If it's clear plastic, the dome will overheat without appropriate planning. If it's truckers tarps, how do you light the interior? How do you deal with condensation?

Do you face these problems with tents? Some of them, yes. But a set of small tents may very well be easier to heat and ventilate because everything is easily reached and the space is small enough. Even those hunter's tents, which are set up with different rooms and come with a small woodstove for heat---would be a better option because they are faster to set up, designed for people to live in so address heat, light, ventilation, and structural issues.

But as I said, unlikely, not impossible.

Submitted by ohio on

More than you want to know. The conduit is steel---reuseable and recyclable. The connectors are stainless, also reusable and recyclable. I know a local guy who cuts all the pieces, which is the hardest part of the job. I was going to do that all myself but I have very very little time to do anything but work.

And then work some more.

Anyway, figuring out the lengths of the pieces requires a lot of thinking and planning. Domes are very simple but simple things rarely have simply machinery. So if you want to cut the pieces yourself out of wood you've scrounged, you can do it, but the tolerances are tight and the compound angles can be tough. And you have to figure out how to hook them altogether. The nailing schedule suggests finding a light steel connector you bolt metal too, and those connectors are not cheap (if you can find them).

But once the steel conduit pieces were cut and color-coded, the process of bolting it together wasn't too hard. I could only work on it in bits and pieces, but all told, with two people, figure 10 hours, maybe less.

My next steps: metal is jagged, so I need to wrap the members and joints in something to protect the cover. Probably with duct tape because duct tape is the flying spaghetti monster's little miracle. And I have to strap the structure to the ground thoroughly because if wind gets underneath, the thing will go flying. But I won't strap it with duct tape---while duct tape is miraculous and has healing power, it doesn't stick so much to, you know, the ground.

Ah, duct tape. I once duct taped a paper towel to carpenter's bleeding finger so he could go to the emergency clinic. We called it the mandaid.

Anyway, assume getting the cover on will take at least ten hours unless I hire somebody to shrink-wrap it with 9-mil shrink wrap. If we do that, the dome will 1) look like an igloo and 2) pretty much last forever.

Submitted by hipparchia on

you do know that they're hurricane attractors, don't you? :)

also, duct tape rules. that's what we sealed up our protective suits with, back when i used to clean up toxic waste for a living.

Submitted by ohio on

Heh heh.

We get high winds every winter, so I'm concerned about lift. Not so much hurricanes as we are 40 miles inland at at 362' above sea level. So if we suddenly are on beachfront, well, we got troubles way beyond whether the dome holds up.

Did you notice the specs on that dome house? That is a lot of steel and concrete.

See, I'd like to know if they could build a dome house out of branches and llama hair that could survive a hurricane. I reckon if it's made out of that stuff, you could just pick it up and run away with it.

Earthquakes---that's a concern. We had a little one a couple months ago. I have two itty bitty cracks in the corners of the kitchen windows that I need to limewash over. It makes sense the crackes would be there, too, as that's close by where we go from rubble trench to stem wall foundation, plus the kitchen window bucks have more wood in them because they have flat bottoms, unlike the rest of the windows, which are all rounded along all four sides.

Tiny little cracks that follow the seams between vertical and horizontal, appear to only be involving the color coat.

I'm going to be limewashing the interior of the little living room this weekend. Finally got the floor in---sandset reclaimed stone pavers.

I should put up a picture---it's really beautiful. And completely not level because I couldn't screed the sand as I was laying the stone. It works, though---seems like an old stone floor. Nice to walk on barefoot.

Submitted by hipparchia on

yeah, they're not kidding when they call them monolithic. the one at the beach is ~70ft across - lots of rebar in that thar dome!

uneven floors rock! well, the stuff you set on them does anyway. yes, please do give us pictures!

Submitted by Alcuin on

Yurts are really cool spaces, too. But they're not as cheap as some folks think. A fully built-out 24' yurt (electricity, plumbing, heat, furnishings) will run north of $40K. But you have to admit that they are pretty nifty looking.

The important thing is to never stop questioning. - Albert Einstein