I’ve been corresponding with Richard Laurens who is developing a geodesic dome design that rests on earthbags and is covered in earthbags. His original plan was to use rammed tires to support the domes, but now he’s convinced earthbags are more practical. I’m encouraging him to use scoria-filled bags since he plans to build his designs out west near a source of scoria.
I’ll let Richard describe his project in his own words.
The Dometown project is a name I gave to my plan for a small cluster of dome shaped homes. I would start with one, and keep on building them. The center clear parts are greenhouses.
Buckminster Fuller’s original idea was a home that could be built anywhere for cheap; why not expand that idea into a “life pod” that can recycle water and grow its own food? The basic premise is this: We have a water source, an “eternal” power source (wind, water, or solar), and very contemporary and comfortable self-sustaining dome home. It’s just a very simple solution, and expandable.
The geodesic, or monolithic dome structure is not only appealing to the eye, it is efficient and cheap to build. The dome numbers and designs are nearly limitless, and four simple domes with a fifth dome in the center would make an excellent home with about 2500 square feet of space. That is a good sized home! I estimate working by hand with minimal tools. I can make this house in about a year for around $20,000.
The dome is a 4th degree electrical conduit pipe dome, bolted at the vertexes and welded. I then cover the dome with wire mesh and stack the bags on the outside. The windows are standard ones, placed into a ‘work horse’ type of sconce.
11 thoughts on “The Dometown Project”
A town of domes, eh?
. I have a lot of thin birch trees I am cutting down and I want to build a 3v dome with an 8ft radius. I am not looking to use 2x4s as I live in the woods and there is wood all around me. I am looking for good connectors to use for these birch tree poles I will be making. When I made a small dome with Popsicle sticks I used silly putty as connectors. Is there some kind of heavy duty putty that will dry hard and be durable that I could use on a larger scale? It would make using the natural birch trees a lot easier. This technique could be a low cost way could be for others to use to make geodesic roofs on earthbag structures.
Steel connectors are available. Do a search for ‘dome connectors’.
Update: You could make your own connectors with strapping or even scrap metal.
http://www.johnzerning.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/universal_joint.jpg (insert metal in slot)
Hi, have been trying to come up with a way to build a fully underground earthbag sructure. As we live in earth quake country im not so sure i feel comfortable with a open wall structure without additional bracing and I would prefer it to be as discreat as possible so I came up with the idea of using the geodesic dome frame as well. Do you guys think thats something that has the potential to hold up to a pretty heavy load of soil? say eighteen inches over the top of it.
Most geodesic frames are not meant to hold that much weight. Be very careful. A correctly built earthbag dome is far stronger and can be built below grade.
Awesome! Thanks so much
I know just where you are talking about- it’s actually just a bit north of a town I almost lived in called Tres Piedras. Now I know who to call :)
You mention that out west is near a source for Scoria. I am in Coloardo and have asked several loacl “rock yards” and they look at me like i am crazy. I even tried describing it as volcanic aggregate. still nothing.
I did remember reading an article a long time back that some county here in Colorado was using volcanic rock as a winter road material (to spread and help melt the ice) and I am thinking that is what we are talking about here.
I know that Kelly was/is in Colorado, can you guys point me toward some Scoria source? I would like to give it a try as it does seem ideal in so many ways as bag fill.
Thanks in advance
Ask for lava rock. That’s the layman’s term. It’s primarily used for landscaping, so check with landscape suppliers in larger cities.
But it’s far less expensive to buy direct from the mine by the truckload. Go south out of Alamosa on highway 285. Shortly after crossing into New Mexico you’ll see two large mines. Not sure if it’s one or two companies. There’s no real town there, but this should give you enough information to find their phone number and place an order.
There may be mines/pits closer to you.
Those earthbag buildings look safe and durable. It is really a bright idea especially for the earthquake areas in the world. And also, if it is so economically efficient as you have mentioned… there is no point to turn it down…
As I know so far, Fuller is a pioneer of alternative design of architecture and one of the first environmental activists. Fuller geodetic domes were the base for military objects (civic buildings, radar stations, etc.). Also a water and environment museum in Montreal has the shape that is explained like a fullerene molecules (some scientific term for a soccer ball…)
I agree to make more workshops and give more information to the public to understand this excellent idea better…
Richard is planning to offer free workshops to learn how to build these domes. Email him for details.