From Geodesic to Monolithic Domes

by David B. South

While attending high school in Idaho back in the 1950's I attended a lecture given by Buckminster Fuller. He was promoting the geodesic dome. I was instantly fascinated with the concept of a building which, because of it's shape, would cover more area with less materials than any other structure. For many years I worked on the geodesic domes but I found they wasted too much material and could not be built big enough for what I wanted. I didn't foresee just building domes; I envisioned building huge domes.

The Geodesic dome was the basis of inspiration for the Monolithic Dome. By utilizing the dome concept, incorporating my knowledge of polyurethane foam and concrete and doing a lot of research on the subject, the details of what is now the Monolithic Dome slowly came to me. This method proved much more efficient and less wasteful and I knew they could be built BIG.

The Monolithic Dome is a permanent structure which is energy efficient, cost effective, disaster resistant and attractive. They have real strength. They can withstand the force of a tornado, hurricane or earthquake. They cannot burn, rot or be eaten by bugs. They are energy efficient -- saving up to fifty percent or more on heating and cooling costs compared to a comparable conventional building.

The term "Monolithic" means "one piece" which is indicative of Monolithic buildings, specifically the Monolithic Dome. The completed structure is literally one piece. The structural materials such as the foam and concrete are applied in such a manner that it acts as a single component. In general, the Monolithic structure is built using an Airform. Monolithic Domes and structures built using the Monolithic method generally take the shape of a figure that can be inflated. For instance, we can inflate a pipe, we can inflate a dome, but we have a terrible time trying to inflate a flat wall.

A Monolithic dome is a thin shell concrete structure. "Thin shell" is defined as a structure that is made using single or compound curves from a variety of materials, including but not limited to metal, wood, concrete, brick, etc. These structures form a curve and from that shape derive most of their strength. The old World War "Quonsets" is a type of thin shell. The hyperbolic roof, elliptical roofs and barrel vault roofs are varied types of thin shells.