Dome Homes

dome house with shingles and windows

A long time ago, ancient Roman architects created a design so utterly perfect, so beautifully made, and so practical, builders all over the globe are still copying it nearly two thousand years later.

The domed roof of the Parthenon was the first large-scale, monumental domed roof ever built. People have been marveling over it ever since the Parthenon first opened to the public in the year 125.

The Perfect Design

The dome has been considered to be an absolutely perfect architectural design since its inception, which pre-dates the Roman era by far. Domed designs were already tens of thousands of years old when Rome topped its fabulous temple to the gods and goddesses with an enormous dome. But, as is the case with many buildings from antiquity, Rome simply did it better than anyone else.

The enormous building and its perfect roof have captured the attention and imagination of the entire world throughout history, with many designers and builders studying the intricacies of how it was built.

And pretty much ever since that building was first built, others have been studying the design to learn how to capture the perfection achieved by Rome. But is the dome truly so perfect? What sets this design apart from the more standard and far more common squares and rectangles that are so prevalent in construction?

dome homes on mountain hillside

Why the Dome Matters

Domed roofs can cover a huge interior space without columns or support beams, which truly makes it a marvel of engineering. It’s such an efficient and practical design, it’s no wonder that people have been studying it for thousands of years.

In fact, domed buildings are even older than the architectural marvel that was the Pantheon. It has appeared in design for tens of thousands of years. History is full of examples of domed huts and buildings of all sizes.

Ancient hunter-gatherers lived in dome-shaped huts made out of animal hide, bone, and various plant materials. It turns out, those ancient designers knew what they were doing. The domed shape is more energy-efficient than more standard square, boxy home designs.

Dome houses are easier to build. They can be built faster, using fewer materials, than homes built in a more traditional design of the same size.

How energy efficient are dome designs? In about 20 years, the savings in energy costs will pay for the cost of the building. So the answer is...pretty freaking energy efficient! Very few investments pay off so well and so swiftly, which is exactly why dome buildings stand out as such a marvel of design.

Dome buildings also have another huge advantage: they are virtually disaster-proof. They will stand strong against earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and even fires.

Convinced yet? You may still be swayed toward domed home living when you find out how to build a dome home and learn how surprisingly simple it actually is.

How to Build a Dome Home

The process for building a dome home is relatively simple and takes relatively few materials. Once the Romans cracked the design, architects have been building upon the domed roof and domed building construction ever since, pun intended.

One of the most straightforward designs is to build a geodesic dome building on top of a slab. Once the concrete is poured and foam and steel rebar are placed, after the piping and wiring have been installed and the slab has been covered with concrete and plaster, you can quickly assemble a dome on top.

If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. Pouring a slab and installing all the important features does not take much time at all. The entire process can be completed in a matter of days in many cases.

Geodesic dome designs are actually available in kits that can be assembled using a framework. Anyone, even those with no building experience, can put this design together.

Some kits require little more than a wrench, a hammer, and ladders to build the entire dome. That’s astounding when you think about the steps and the materials that go into building more traditional homes.

The cost of building a dome home is comparable to building a standard home of roughly the same square footage. In order words, price or construction time are not really deciding factors. These things shouldn't hold you back from building a dome home.

A Legacy of Domes

dome home on landscape

Architect Buckminster Fuller is credited with creating the geodesic dome designs, which he dubbed "wooden spaceships." The unique look drew a lot of attention and captured the eyes of the world for good reason.

The geodesic dome has such a distinct and interesting shape that it’s impossible not to take a deeper look at it. Fuller's legacy continues to inspire modern dome designers, who have experimented with different materials and different embellishments on Fuller's original design.

Fuller said that he believed the design was a path toward the future of the building but that building materials still needed to catch up to it. Now, there are many newer building materials available that have made geodesic dome designs more efficient and more beautiful than ever.

More designers have been inspired by Fuller’s work and continue to update the geodesic building style for the future.

Two Types of Domes

curved dome homes

There are two types of dome homes: monolithic and geodesic. There are some differences between them, though both have the same advantages and features as dome homes. Geodesic homes are made of polygons that are joined together in a framework.

These designs are still made with slate roofs and standard walls like brick and stone and sliding, but everything is still dome-shaped. The one drawback is that the joints can leak. However, standard roof designs can also leak due to time and wear.

Monolithic dome homes are more structurally sound than geodesic domes because they are made in a single piece rather than designed with walls and a roof. The futuristic, Space Age look of monolithic dome homes deters some from buying or building this design.

However, this is one of the safest and most long-lasting home designs you could ever possibly have. In fact, a monolithic dome can stand strong even against a category five hurricane, according to FEMA. So…that’s a pretty sturdy design, no?

Why It Works

dome home in natural landscape

Why is the dome design so energy efficient? How does it all work? There’s a simple answer for why this simple design works so well. Air circulation. The dome shape creates better air circulation throughout the building that keeps temperatures more even everywhere.

This reduces heating and cooling costs because the systems simply do less work to maintain a constant temperature. The way dome buildings are constructed also makes them extremely well-insulated, which prevents heat loss to maintain the interior temperature.

Because the air and heat systems do less work and the building loses very little heat or cool air, dome buildings are far more energy efficient than standard homes of the same size. Utility bills cost far less, and who doesn’t like spending less money?

Meanwhile, there’s the sunlight. Sunlight reflects better and lights up the interior space better inside a dome-shaped building. There are no dark corners, after all. Better light from the sun reduces the need to keep interior lights on during the daytime, which is a nice extra feature of dome living.

Is There Anything Bad about a Dome Home?

Sounds almost too good to be true, right? If the dome home is so energy efficient, so easy to build, and such an amazing design… then why doesn't everyone have one already? As with any design, there are drawbacks even to the dome. Even the perfect design might have some imperfections.

The same design that makes the dome energy-efficient also turns it into an echo chamber. Sound carries and bounces off the walls, the dome at the top, the whole design.

This makes privacy challenging, to say the least. Voices and other sounds end up carrying and echoing around the dome, an odd extra feature that people who spend time in dome homes always seem to notice.

Interior design is also a huge challenge for dome homeowners. Curving walls and the lack of corners renders a lot of space inside the structure totally unusable. The same tricks and standards you use you decorate your rooms, such as placing couches and beds against the wall, may not work at all inside a dome.

You're going to have to re-think how you display art and how you arrange furniture, to say nothing of organizing cabinets and closets. It takes a lot of getting used to. Adjusting to the interior spaces can take a while, and visitors may feel ill at ease at first.

Little things, such as placing square rugs, can create visual clashes because a square rug in a round space can look jarring. Designing the inside of a dome can be difficult, but for some, this can also be a fun task.

After all, it’s something different, and there are not a lot of opportunities for experimenting with something different and unique when it comes to interior design.

Living in Dome Homes

dome home from inside with windows

Dome homes are different than more traditional designs that are based on square and rectangular rooms. They certainly stand out, and there are many differences inside and out. However, there are a lot of advantages to owning a dome home.

Those looking to be more energy efficient and pay the lowest utility bills possible can hardly afford to live in any other design. Dome homes end up paying for themselves in time, and they require about 50 percent less energy to heat and cool than standard homes of a similar interior square footage.

They have an unusual look, but some people actually prefer that to more traditional designs. Consider the advantages and weigh the disadvantages of living in a dome home. You might learn that this may be the perfect decision for you.

Dome Home FAQ

Are Dome Homes Popular?

Dome homes are still not seen as often as more traditional home designs, but they are increasing in popularity thanks to the recent surge of more energy-efficient home designs on the market. More people are thinking about saving energy and building homes that use less energy.

Dome homes are becoming more popular, and one day, it's possible they will even be the norm. But for now, they're still rare enough that most people will take a second look before they pass a dome home up completely.

Are You Allowed to Build a Dome Home?

dome house in Maine

Before you decide to take the plunge and have a dome home built, do the proper legwork. Check with your local homeowner's association, if present, along with your city or county building permit office.

Strange as it may seem, some places may not even allow you to build a dome home because the design sticks out from more standard houses. In places where design must follow a certain standard or in places of historical significance, there may be restrictions about the kinds of buildings you are allowed to erect.

Check with your local offices and make sure you’re allowed to build a dome or find another place where you are allowed to do so.

What’s the Resale Value of a Dome Home?

Dome homes have approximately the same value as any more standard homes of the same size. However, selling a dome home poses some challenges. Because of the unusual design, dome homes just aren't for everyone. Even though the energy efficiency is a huge selling point, the odd shape is off-putting to some.

You will have to find the right buyer for a dome home. People who are concerned about saving money or saving the planet through environmentalism will be much more drawn to a dome home than other homebuyers with different concerns. Seek out these buyers, and you should get a fair price on a dome home.

If you find the right buyer, you may even be able to get a little more for your dome home because of the energy efficiency.

Further Reading

6 Popular Interior Design Styles

How To Build A Slab Foundation

How To Install A Molding Chair Rail Around A Curved Wall