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Solar Dome Home

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Note: This house is on the 2012 Solar & Green Building Tour. See Tour Details...


Why a dome ?

The unique relationship between a dome's surface area and its interior volume benefits both manufacturing economy and the solar heating equation.

Richard Buckminster Fuller

Bucky and I exhibited our domes at the University of Massachusetts in 1978 (polaroid photo). Mine was the detailed wood frame, Bucky's "Fly's Eye" is off to the right.
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I am still inspired by his speeches and books, and by his boundless enthusiasm. I wish he were alive now for the internet interconnectivity he predicted.

In 1954 Bucky was granted a US Patent for his "Geodesic Dome", which was identical to the one built by Walter Bauersfeld in Jena, Germany in 1922.

To Bucky goes credit for teaching the world a new way to build.

Sadly, though, there is a fatal flaw with geodesic math itself which ruins much of the economy it sought to begin with.

"Geodesic" math is a spherical sub-division of Plato's 2,400 year old 20-sided solid, the icosahedron. Although subdividing major triangles yields a minimum number of different sizes which benefits manufacturing economy, the icosahedron-based grid restriction results in undulating strut rows, clumsy riser walls, box-outs for sliding doors, and impossible windows.

Geodesic domes do not work.

Image 3Yes, you read it right: Geodesic domes don't work, at least not as well as they should in residential sizes.

To build my house, the solar heating equation required the use of a dome shape. Since I had learned first-hand of the flaws of geodesic math, I created my own dome math.

I abandoned icosahedral-based math altogether and simply placed points where I wanted them. Then, using spherical trig which Steve turned into spreadsheet equations, calculated all the required lengths and angles.

In addition to the obvious improvement of making strut rows horizontal, Allard domes have their characteristic bulge.Image 4

I pushed out the second strut row so it returns to the second floor at the same floor diameter as the first floor. Nothing is lost and there's a wonderful feeling of roominess as the walls bulge away from you.

Next, I incorporated door frames into the strut math.

My openable triangular windows are hinged at the top and have been a huge success for us through fifteen years of thunderstorms and deep snow. The windows are so leak-proof, they protect more when they are wide open.

The continuous weatherproof skin is a chopped fiberglass and silicone sub-mat, with a granulated glass and silicone weather surface.

Pick up a tube of silicone at a hardware store. Notice "Guaranteed for Life". I don't expect to have to repair the outside of my house.

Image 6Read more about the advantages of a solar dome home on my website. Come visit our home during the Solar Tour, Saturday, October 13th between 10 and 4pm and see for yourself.

David Allard.

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