The Inside Outside Guys: Housing of the Future?

DETROIT, May 5, 2022 ~ What do the names Climatrone, Eden Project, Biosphere and Green dome have in common?

They are names of facilities constructed to function as examples of “buildings of tomorrow.”

In the 1970s and ’80s, we knew two things; one that the world would run out of all fossil fuel reserves before the turn of the century and, two, that global cooling would create a need for more energy-efficient housing. Publications such as the Mother Earth News touted ways to build and sustain housing using everything from rammed earth to straw bales.

Indeed, the Canadian government sponsored the “R-2000” program as a challenge to the housing industry to implement new materials and methods in home building that would increase energy efficiency.

Out of that nationwide experiment came the R-2000 voluntary standards for constructing new homes in Canada, and the Energy Star program here in the United States.

During that time, the industry quickly learned a few things regarding “tight,” energy efficient homes.

We learned that interior air movement, filtration and conditioning was a potentially huge issue if not properly dealt with and we discovered the concept of “efficiency” as applied to the structure itself.

What if we could build energy efficient houses that used fewer materials while still providing us with our spatial needs?

As is often the case, we looked behind us to move ahead.

At the turn of the prior century, a German engineer had created a spherical structure out of equilateral triangles. A few decades later the concept was both patented and popularized by R. Buckminster Fuller who envisioned, not only individual buildings, but entire cities enclosed by these domes.

These large geodesic domes would allow for the polluted air of large cities to be exhausted from the surrounding dome such that inhabitants could always breathe clean, conditioned, air.

Even the great Walt Disney bought into the concept with his proposed Environmental Prototype City of Tomorrow, EPCOT, at Disney World. His vision was an enclosed and monitored city, with citizens screened according to his ideals, which would set the stage for how the world should move ahead.

Walt passed before he could bring this vision to life, but the iconic Spaceship Earth dome still represents the continued hope for a better tomorrow.

One of the big advantages of domes is what we call the “surface-to-volume ratio.” Energy efficiency demands we enclose maximum cubic footage with minimum exterior wall surface. Domes accomplish this.

Compare two conventional “cube” homes like those we build today of 1,600 square feet each and both with uniform 8-foot ceilings.

One home is a 40-foot square, while the other is a 20-by-80-foot rectangle. While both enclose the same footage, the square has 160 lineal feet of exterior wall compared to 200 lineal feet of exterior wall for the rectangle. The rectangle will cost more to build, use more materials, have more exterior wall penetrations from windows, and will use interior space less effectively than the square.

Spherical buildings take this advantage even further and geodesic dome proponents took this thinking to the next step by observing that air is more efficiently moved inside a sphere than it is inside a cube so conditioning the air could be accomplished with less effort.

These domes could help to alleviate the housing crisis in some nations since they can be designed as DIY enclosures or be constructed by large “3-D” printers, additive manufacturing machines, using air injected concrete.

It is said there are more than 300,000 domes throughout the world today, including the Jeddiah Super Dome in Saudi Arabia with a 690 foot base and a baseball stadium in Fukouka, Japan, at more than 700 feet in diameter.

Domes are inherently strong structures that resist high winds extremely well.

Disadvantages might include high cost of specialized labor, windows custom made to fit dome panels, lineal footage of seams on exterior surface, interior sound transmission issues and partitioning.

Additionally, as a real estate investment, one must realize the market is small for someone wanting a dome-shaped home here in the U.S. Regardless of the shape of your home, you should never leave major maintenance or modification decisions to anyone but the professionals. 

Make sure you use a professional like those found at InsideOutsideGuys.com.

For housing advice and more, listen to the Inside Outside Guys every Saturday and Sunday on 760 WJR, from 10 a.m. to noon or contact us at InsideOutsideGuys.com.

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