A More Graceful Dome

Image: Adobe Alliance.

Image: Adobe Alliance.

Kurt Gardella, the gifted adobe builder and instructor who built our backyard earth oven, left a comment on our geodesic dome post pointing out that earth is a better material for dome building.

The problem with wooden domes is that plywood and other sheet-based building materials, in the US, come in 4 by 8 foot sections. You end up wasting a lot of wood to make a dome. Building with earth solves this problem.

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It’s also beautiful. Earth building offers the opportunity to do more graceful forms than can be accomplished with sheets of plywood. The example Kurt linked to is a house built by Simone Swan. You can see more photos of Swan’s house at the Adobe Alliance.

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6 Comments

  1. The other problem with constructing a dome out of sheet goods is that every facet joint is a potential spot for leaks, in terms of both air infiltration and moisture. In an climate where the delta between temperatures is extreme enough to cause material expansion and contraction over a short course of time the integrity of the dome’s envelope is often compromised.

    Plus, sheet goods–especially OSB–are not the most desirable building materials in general.

    • Indeed. Leaking is one of the main reasons Lloyd Kahn abandoned dome building. And, yeah, OSB is not the best material.

      By the way, I recently read a review for a local restaurant that touted the establishment’s “eco” decor. The decor was . . . OSB coated in polyurethane!

  2. i dont know too much about earth building but many of the images i see are of home/structures outside of urban or suburban areas. how do the building codes view/treat earth building? why dont we see more of this in urban/suburban areas?

    • Indeed, this is an issue. Some earth buildings have been approved in California such as the ones by Cal Earth. A friend of mine who is an architect is working on a permitted earthen structure right now too. It’s possible but definitely difficult.

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