What Is A Geodesic Dome? 9 Things (2021) You Need To Know

This may surprise you, but geodesic domes could be a great tool in the fight against climate change.

This is because these structures are extremely efficient and inexpensive.

If you’re interested in sustainable housing, keep reading.

Here’s what you need to know about what a geodesic dome is and how it works.

1. What is a geodesic dome?

Before you can understand what a geodesic dome is, you must first understand the term geodesic.

A geodesic structure is a spherical structure that is constructed out of interconnecting lines rather than out of curved surfaces.

Thus, it uses short, interconnected straight lines to approximate a spherical or rounded surface.

One common example of a geodesic structure is a geodesic play dome found at children’s playgrounds.

It resembles a half-sphere constructed out of straight lines.

Another great example of this concept is a soccer ball.

While a soccer ball is a sphere in shape, it is composed of geometric panels (hexagons and pentagons).

The edges of the hexagons and pentagons are straight, and they interconnect to form the sphere of the soccer ball.

2. Who invented the geodesic dome?

Buckminster Fuller is the best-known inventor of the geodesic dome.

He built countless domes around the world, including a 250-foot diameter dome for the 1967 World Fair in Montreal, Canada.

3. What are geodesic domes used for?

Geodesic domes have a variety of uses outside of houses, which is primarily what we’ll focus on in this article.

Fuller had originally hoped that the dome would help address the postwar housing crisis.

That said, for most of the last several decades, geodesic domes have been used for other purposes.

Some of the other uses include…

bulletSports stadiums

bulletTheaters

bulletGreenhouses

bulletExhibition halls

bulletChildren’s playgrounds

bulletEmergency shelters

bulletMilitary shelters

bulletRadomes

4. How many geodesic domes are there in the world today?

It’s estimated that there are more than 300,000 geodesic domes around the world today.

They can be constructed in a variety of sizes.

As they get larger, they tend to get stronger and more structurally sound.

The largest geodesic dome (216 meters) is the Fukuoka Dome, which is a baseball stadium in Japan.

5. Why is the geodesic dome energy efficient?

You may be thinking, “Why reinvent the wheel? Why can’t we just stick with what we already have?”

And it’s a great question.

The main reason that a spherical structure like a dome is such an ideal concept is that it’s so efficient.

The sphere takes the “doing more with less” principle to the max.

It encloses the largest volume of interior space with the least amount of surface area.

This saves on materials and costs.

Fuller once stated that when the sphere’s diameter is doubled it will quadruple its square footage and produce eight times the volume.

This allows air and energy to circulate without obstruction.

As a result, heating and cooling can occur naturally.

Geodesic shelters have been constructed around the world and have been proven just how efficient these structures are.

For example:

bulletGeodesic domes have the least surface area per unit of volume. This means they require fewer building materials.

bulletGeodesic domes have less exposure to cold in the winter and heat in the summer because they have less surface area.

bulletGeodesic domes have a concave interior that creates a natural airflow. This allows the hot and cool air to flow smoothly around the dome.

bulletGeodesic domes act as a type of giant down-pointing headlight reflector. They reflect and concentrate interior heat, which prevents radiant heat loss.

bulletGeodesic domes help homeowners save an average of 30 percent on their energy costs.

6. What are the pros and cons of geodesic dome homes?

Due to their various advantages, some experts have speculated that geodesic domes are the homes of the future.

Although you’re unlikely to see entire neighborhoods filling up with these domed structures any time soon, builders and buyers must stay updated on trends.

Here’s what you should know about the pros and cons of geodesic dome homes.

Pros

bulletStructurally unique

If you’re someone who likes houses that appear structurally unique, this trend is likely to appeal to you.

These domes are far from the cookie-cutter, square homes that you’re accustomed to.

bulletWeather-resistant

Geodesic dome homes are highly efficient when it comes to shedding elements (wind, snow, etc.).

There is even some evidence that these structures can withstand hurricane winds.

Why is this?

It’s because these domes have very few flat surfaces, which allows the wind to move around them.

Not only are geodesic domes resistant to hurricane winds, but they can also endure strong earthquakes.

So, if you’re looking for a home you can feel safe, secure, and confident about, this is it.

bulletEnergy-efficient

The unique shape and structure of a geodesic dome promote efficient air circulation and even temperatures.

Light is also a factor that you should keep in mind.

The light refracts and stays inside the dome, which enhances your solar gains and reduces your need for artificial lighting.

bulletCost-effective

Due to their stability and energy-efficiency, geodesic domes are cost-efficient.

You may need to invest in building one, but once it’s built, it’ll continue to pay off over the years.

bulletStructurally sound

From an engineering perspective, geodesic homes are superior to typical homes.

They’re the only manufactured structure that gets proportionally stronger as they increase in size.

That said, they’re still light, require few materials, and are highly fire-resistant.

If you’re going to put your faith in any structure, this is the one.

Cons

bulletConstruction challenges

Builders often confront challenges when dome building.

For example, chimneys may be difficult to place, fire escapes are often difficult to install, and separate rooms are sometimes difficult to divide within a single space.

These are all elements that get easier with experience; unfortunately, not a lot of builders have extensive experience with constructing geodesic domes.

bulletDifficulty finding materials

Traditional homes are often square or rectangular.

Thus, appliances, fixtures, and utilities are manufactured for right angles.

As a result, it can be difficult to find off-the-shelf materials that fit your home and floor plan.

While these will become more available as geodesic homes become more popular, right now, they’re difficult to find.

7. What are examples of geodesic domes?

Above, we gave some very simple examples of geodesic domes, like a children’s playset and soccer ball.

Yet, there are some other actual domes that you may know off the top of your head.

In fact, you may have even visited these domes yourself.

The best-known geodesic dome is probably Spaceship Earth at the AT&T Pavilion at EPCOT in Disney World, Florida.

Here are some other ones you may be familiar with as well.

bulletThe American Exhibit at Expo 67 in Montreal, Canada

bulletThe largest geodesic dome in Fukuoka, Japan

bulletThe Aviary at Queen’s Zoo in the United States

bulletEcoCamp Patagonia Hotel – the first geodesic dome hotel in Chile

bulletThe biomes at the Eden Project in Cornwall, United Kingdom

8. What materials are used?

Geodesic domes can be constructed using a variety of materials.

Timber, PVC, or galvanized steel frames covered with a thin architectural membrane (i.e., PVC polyester or ETFE foil) can be used for simple structures.

For more permanent domes, aluminum and steel frames covered with materials like copper, aluminum, acrylic, and Plexiglas panels are preferred.

9. What about condensation?

Geodesic domes are considered airtight and structurally sound, which help to keep energy costs down.

Because the structure is airtight, condensation is sometimes a problem, but it can be remedied by the heating/cooling system.

When the house has been closed up for a few days, moisture may build up.

If this happens, all you have to do is turn on the air system or open a door or window.

Final Thoughts

Are you interested in investing in a geodesic dome?

If you’re located in an area regularly impacted by tornados and hurricanes, you’re not alone!

Numerous homeowners are wondering if geodesic domes are the way to go for preventing damage from storms.

Over the next several years, it’s likely that the industry will begin to see a shift in demand.

Interior design and utility options are becoming more available, and builders are beginning to learn how to construct these unique structures.

If you’re a builder, now is the time to familiarize yourself with this growing market.

If you’re a buyer, consider the advantages!

Additional Resources

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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.

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