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.


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.

Leave a comment


  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.

Comments are closed.