Letter Re: Dome Homes as Survival Retreats

Mr. Rawles,
I really enjoy and appreciate the articles on your website which include information not otherwise available and which are very helpful in my efforts to develop a self sufficient rural life style that will survive the coming earth changes, and weather and financial disasters that may engulf the economy over the next few years.

I recently contracted for and occupied a 40 foot diameter geodesic dome home with an all concrete shell. My wife and I have lived in it for two years and we love it. These homes can be beautiful, strong and very functional. My home kit came on a flatbed semi trailer in the form of pre-cast concrete triangular panels with six inches of styrofoam insulation glued on each panel. The company offered a list of contractors who would erect the shell and do the interior framing with the idea that local contractors could provide the excavation, concrete basement, plumbing, electrical, carpeting, drywall and other services with numerous opportunities for do it yourself work to cut costs. We purchased conventional Kraftmaid kitchen components from Home Depot. We have a full basement with a two car garage and a family room with a wood stove, a living room, kitchen, dining room and two bedrooms on the main level, an office and master bedroom on the upper level and a cupola on the very top of the dome with sliding windows on all five sides. It could be a bedroom, office, playroom or whatever is needed.

I was looking at your January 6, 2006 comments on dome homes and later comments and am offering the following for your consideration.
You made the comment that there is a risk of low resale value of these homes. This risk may be valid on the “economy” dome homes with inadequate windows and dark interiors but this statement may not be valid on the nicer upper scale dome homes. Very few of the nicer dome homes have ever sold to establish the market value of these units. After a few more hurricanes and tornados destroy everything in the area except the concrete dome homes, perhaps more will be built and sold to better establish the market value of these units.
The comments about the difficulty of constructing the wooden roofs do not apply to the concrete shell domes of the type that I have. The most labor intensive part of the construction was the drywall work which involved cutting and fitting the drywall for the interior partitions to fit all of the angles where the walls attach to the styrofoam that is glued to the inside of the shell panels. This cost was more than offset by the no extra cost of the roof which was included in the cost of the shell. If it is sealed properly and painted, there will be never be any additional roofing expenses except for an occasional repainting of the entire exterior which will include the roof. You discussed four types of dome homes. There is another type which is the erection of pre-cast concrete panels made at the factory where the reinforced concrete is on the outside for added strength and rigidity. Steel mesh extends several inches beyond each side of the panels and after the panels are in place, concrete is placed in the voids between the panels and when this concrete hardens, the structure is as solid as a rock. Under this system, a continuous pour is not needed just like Hoover Dam. Interior wood framing supports the panels until the concrete is cured and then these supports are removed and used for the interior framing.

We were surprised and impressed by the relatively uniform temperatures between the main and upper levels. I formerly lived in a tri-level conventional home in Florida where the lower level was always several degrees colder than the upper levels to the extent that a comfortable temperature in the upper levels resulted in discomfort in the ground level under the bedrooms. This problem is nonexistent on a well insulated dome home. The wood stove in the basement could heat the whole house using the stairway as the heating duct or the door at the top of the basement stairs can be closed to keep the basement warm.

See:  http://www.donnadreamland.citymax.com/page/page/905874.htm for some pictures of the exterior and interior of our home in Northwest Arkansas. It is in a new rural community consisting of 3 acre home sites surrounded by 300 acres of pasture and woods. This land is owned by a person interested in selling off 3 acre home sites for self sufficient living in a rural environment off of the main roads but with access to U.S. 412 which goes to Springdale and Fayetteville, the nearest large cities. The pictures also show the beauty of the area. The water from the wells is excellent. The website also includes a link to the manufacturer of the dome kits. A remote area at the rear of the site does not have electricity yet and would be ideal for anyone interested in living off the grid. A survival group could even establish their own community in that area if they so desired with or without electricity. There is only one entrance to the entire 300 acres much of which is on rolling hills with the pasture in the valley and the woods and home sites on the slopes.  – Steve Fennel (e-mail: sfennel@direcway.com )