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Foam Dome
August 8, 2008 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Styrofoam dome homes
posted by vronsky (50 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Construction techniques progress, yes.
Living in a giant toadstool, no.
posted by Daddy-O at 3:54 PM on August 8, 2008


Sweet. They look great inside, too bad they look like crap outside.
posted by orthogonality at 3:59 PM on August 8, 2008


Too bad the only version is "Idyllic Countryside Hobbithole," because I could see a more urban/suburban version doing very well.
posted by lekvar at 4:04 PM on August 8, 2008


That steam room is pretty boss. One of these would make a pretty neat cottage. I wonder if it's dangerous to have a heat source inside - polystyrene is kinda meltable... but I guess the hot rocks in the steam room are OK. Well, once I get that tract of land up north, I'm building a foam dome. And I will start referring to myself as "Master Blaster".
posted by GuyZero at 4:06 PM on August 8, 2008


Terrific. Now... if someone in a major city like Toronto had a plot of land that such a structure would fit on, could they just go about erecting it? What type of laws/zoning crap would there need to be?
posted by dobbs at 4:09 PM on August 8, 2008


Yeah, I guess they remind me of a Yurt, in a good way. With a few design tweaks here and there I think they could be very livable. Seems like a no-brainer for disaster relief as well.
posted by vronsky at 4:09 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


We see these cool prefab housing concepts all the time, but they never seem to come to fruition. I would love one of these!
posted by LarryC at 4:12 PM on August 8, 2008


Here's another vid where they claim the price is about us$41k.
posted by dobbs at 4:13 PM on August 8, 2008


aww a white Teletubbyland.

The Foam Dome site. There are a number of different house styles/layouts. I like them and the idea is cool, they seem to have good attributes and the supposedly "ultra-low cost" would be a bonus.

Fun post vronsky.
posted by nickyskye at 4:14 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


awe. some. want. one.
posted by msconduct at 4:25 PM on August 8, 2008


Bill Bryson points out that, for hundreds of years, humans (in England) managed to build structures that integrated seamlessly and organically into the landscape--stone walls and bridges, thatched-roof cottages and the like. This period was succeeded by what he calls the "Fuck you" school of architecture: Howard Johnsons and Burger Kings plopped down with no respect for their surroundings.

The homes pictured here seem to represent a return to the more idyllic architectural forms, except that in their repeated sameness they look more like a blight than a natural part of the landscape. I wonder whether some subtle modifications that would give each different home one or more random or intentionally designed distinguishing features would turn up the harmony and turn down the suck. They do look nice on the inside.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 4:28 PM on August 8, 2008


I remember an old magazine spread a decade or so ago (A.D. maybe?) about Giorgio Armani's island getaway in Pantelleria, a small Mediterranean island midway between Sicily and Tunisia. It featured domes like these (well, not styrofoam) and inside they were tiled the most lovely chill aqua blue and the furniture was a mix Morracan/ Tangiers style antiques. The mix of the moorish with the med. was just breathtakingly beautiful.

I could see one of these made up like that looking pretty great.
posted by vronsky at 4:36 PM on August 8, 2008


Ooh, fun.

dobbs: If Toronto's laws are similar to rural Washington's (okay, that's a big if), then any structure over a certain size which will be inhabited by humans has to meet a bunch of requirements for things like sanitation (what's your toilet connected to?), clean water, and possibly even heat (efficiency) and air (not too much air exchange with the outdoors, and not too little) and electrical power and fire safety. It can make it hard to be creative with housing unless you want to be really creative.
posted by hattifattener at 4:38 PM on August 8, 2008


when these catch on, only terrorists will have nail polish remover.
posted by boo_radley at 4:48 PM on August 8, 2008


Dome House kits start at around 3 million yen (under $30,000), which does not include the cost of transport, assembly, interior construction, etc.

Do they ship a styrofoam house on a wood pallet? Do they apply a mailing label or do they just use the street address next to the door?
posted by hal9k at 4:50 PM on August 8, 2008


...for hundreds of years, humans (in England) managed to build structures that integrated seamlessly and organically into the landscape--stone walls and bridges, thatched-roof cottages and the like. This period was succeeded by what he calls the "Fuck you" school of architecture: Howard Johnsons and Burger Kings plopped down with no respect for their surroundings.

The homes pictured here seem to represent a return to the more idyllic architectural forms...


Yeah, there's nothing more organic and seamlessly natural than styrofoam.
posted by DU at 4:53 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


hal9k: do you know how hard it is to throw away a garbage can?
posted by boo_radley at 4:55 PM on August 8, 2008


Here's a 1980 Mother Earth News article about foam dome homes.
posted by 445supermag at 4:56 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


fiberglass domes. (full disclosure: I live in Dome 2.)
posted by kaibutsu at 4:57 PM on August 8, 2008


They remind me of the village in Riven, which makes me geekily happy but not necessarily about to buy one of my own :)
posted by rivenwanderer at 4:58 PM on August 8, 2008


The outside is finished with concrete mortar. A lot of fun could be had tinting the mortar or painting it afterward.
posted by shetterly at 4:58 PM on August 8, 2008


( this new eno-byrne is really growing on me :)
posted by vronsky at 4:59 PM on August 8, 2008


When global warming and/or divine wrath in the form of a deluge come, you can just flip your house over and row away.
posted by XMLicious at 4:59 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Kaibatsu - what is your take on living in a dome home if you don't mind me asking. Are curved walls hard to get used to? Do you save on heat/aircon?
posted by vronsky at 5:03 PM on August 8, 2008


They look Smurfy
(perhaps the most accurate use of that adjective, ever)
posted by blueberry at 5:04 PM on August 8, 2008


vronsky, Villa Armani Pantelleria Italy. The name for the Pantelleria type of dome home is dammuso. Here are some pics. Pretty.
posted by nickyskye at 5:21 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


These remind me of the Roger Dean gunnite houses.
posted by dbiedny at 5:22 PM on August 8, 2008


Oh wow Nicky! (you read my mind :)
posted by vronsky at 5:33 PM on August 8, 2008


Here's a purty yurt :)

*crawdad song*
posted by vronsky at 6:01 PM on August 8, 2008


when these catch on, only terrorists will have nail polish remover.

Yeah.. burgling one of these would be pretty easy, no?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:03 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Too bad the only version is "Idyllic Countryside Hobbithole," because I could see a more urban/suburban version doing very well.

You know, here's the sad thing: come to any number of the typical residential areas of Tokyo and you'll see lots of brand new houses with horribly garish fake stonework or brickwork stuck onto the exterior of prefab plastic homes. "Spanish", "English tudor", all sorts of ghastly decorative nightmares. They're wrecking the urban landscape, really. So, if these dome homes actually caught on in Tokyo, I reckon the Hobbithole look would be most people's first choice. Ugh.

Apart from that, though, I think these styrofoam houses are an intriguing idea, and the purported earthquake safety factor is a big, big point in their favor. Not to mention the price. Damn, these might be worth looking into. Haven't seen a single one in Tokyo, or anywhere else, but I want to see one and really check it out.

Thanks, vronsky.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:14 PM on August 8, 2008


It's certainly different, living in a Dome. My dome has about a 25-foot diameter, with a main floor and a loft. The main floor is divided up into a common space and kitchen area, a bedroom and a bathroom, and the loft (where I sleep) is one big space. I've gotten pretty good at going up and down a ladder with my hands full, lemme tell ya.

The insulation isn't fantastic, but then, California weather doesn't get so bad. The smallish space makes it effective to invite over a couple friends to keep the place warm. Or, if feeling anti-social, one can just cook some brownies. Which leads me to my favorite thing about the dome - it's really human-sized, and has led me to realize just how over-sized most houses are. How many houses can be fully heated with a dinky space heater and body heat? I'm forced to choose my large possessions, and keep only the stuff with which I have a daily relationship. I consider this a Feature, not a Bug. For the things I don't need there's the Free Pile. Which is also full of all kinds of treasures left by others...

We have pretty bad humidity problems in the winter, but I think this is because the fiberglass shell just traps in all the moisture. This and insulation are two areas where the styrofoam construction probably does better.

For our community, by far the most important aspects are not the domes themselves. We have a thriving permaculture garden, chickens, a Bike Church, and generally beautiful grounds. The community is filled with inspiring people, and we have a close relationship with three other coops down the way, also full of wonderful people. It's the best life a grad student could hope for.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:18 PM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


These start looking more attractive when you consider the variations in shapes that are available. Check out video clip #3 ("Models") from this page.

And dig that groovy background music...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:26 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just got a mal-ware/trojan attack from the villa pantelleria site
don't click the "view more of this type" link on the individual photo page!!!!
posted by supermedusa at 6:31 PM on August 8, 2008


Superadobe dome
posted by buggzzee23 at 6:48 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


hah "moon cocoon!" - love it. They look like Star Wars back-lot stuff.
posted by vronsky at 6:50 PM on August 8, 2008


That's not terribly cheap. Around North America you can get log home and cabin kits for around $25000 US. I'd expect cheaper for styofoam, or else considerably more from the product than they offer.
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:43 PM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


Nicky, Do Want :-)
posted by vronsky at 8:00 PM on August 8, 2008


Around North America you can get log home and cabin kits for around $25000 US. I'd expect cheaper for styofoam, or else considerably more from the product than they offer..

Well, to people who live in earthquake-prone parts of the world, not being crushed by a big pile of logs might be considered "considerably more". Also, while there may be an enormous supply of low-cost lumber (logs) "around North America", that's not the case in Japan, where these domes have been developed. Lowered cost of heating and cooling might also fall into the "considerably more" category you're talking about.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:05 PM on August 8, 2008


Cabins also have more assembly required and more potential problems: termites, log rot, substandard timber, and the like.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:32 PM on August 8, 2008


I always did love Bucky Fuller. For those wanting a less expensive and non-foam version, here you go. About the same size for several thousand USD less.
posted by notashroom at 8:58 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


vronsky, yes, ahh, such serene simplicity, in a warm climate, full of light and space, that is exactly the kind of living space I most enjoy.
posted by nickyskye at 10:13 PM on August 8, 2008


dobbs writes "if someone in a major city like Toronto had a plot of land that such a structure would fit on, could they just go about erecting it? What type of laws/zoning crap would there need to be?"

The Canadian building code is good for this kind of thing as it essentially lays out what your building has to do rather than how you have to build. So with the help of an engineer these kinds of homes would be doable. The hardest part would probably be snow load and water shedding. I'm not sure how one would provide the necessary water vapour control on the outside though I'm sure it could be done.

hattifattener writes "If Toronto's laws are similar to rural Washington's (okay, that's a big if), then any structure over a certain size which will be inhabited by humans has to meet a bunch of requirements for things like sanitation (what's your toilet connected to?), clean water, and possibly even heat (efficiency) and air (not too much air exchange with the outdoors, and not too little) and electrical power and fire safety. It can make it hard to be creative with housing unless you want to be really creative."

Water, sewer, HVAC, and electrical are all essentially unchanged in this form of building. Electrical is probably the only thing with extensive installation in the outside walls and ICFs have paved the way for installing electrical in foam.

dirtynumbangelboy writes "Yeah.. burgling one of these would be pretty easy, no?"

If you used a fibre reinforced mortar mix these structures are probably more resistant than conventional stick frame, gyproc, OSB, vinyl siding construction. The weakest point by far would be windows followed by doors. It's ridiculously easy to cut a man sized hole in a convential home with either a chain saw or a sawzall. A stressed skin panel, especially one with such a huge thickness, is crazy strong.
posted by Mitheral at 11:29 PM on August 8, 2008


What's wrong with wood that you have to replace it with plastic? Plastic doesn't breathe, so you get the moisture problems that kaibutsu mentioned. Cooling is only easier if you assume air conditioning, there won't be any natural cooling. Plastic also isn't ecological in the least so there's that. Wood might rot but if you take care it's not going to rot in your lifetime or your children's either. Also wood literally grows on trees (even if there aren't enough of them in Japan) while styrofoam grows nowhere at all.
posted by Authorized User at 9:25 AM on August 9, 2008


Authorized User writes "What's wrong with wood that you have to replace it with plastic? Plastic doesn't breathe, so you get the moisture problems that kaibutsu mentioned."

You get the exact same problem in low air exchange (say less than .25 air changes per hour) wood frame houses. The solution is the same, mechanical ventilation. Controlled ventilation allows you to recover heat. And compared to houses that "breathe" a tightly sealed house keeps the insides of walls drier and greatly reduces drafts.

"Cooling is only easier if you assume air conditioning, there won't be any natural cooling."

The foam domes still have windows.

"Plastic also isn't ecological in the least so there's that."

Most foam insulation products intelligently installed will make back the oil used in their production well within the lifetime of the building from reduced energy requirements. Especially in a heating climate. The worst part is often the transport of the prefab pieces. It would be ideal for a developer to be able to set up a casting facility on site of a sub division so that one would only be transporting dense foam components instead of mostly air in the prefab panels. This is the technique used by some of the ICF products. The assorted panels are cast on site allowing a small truck and trailer to bring the forms and insulation for even a massive building right to the site.
posted by Mitheral at 10:56 AM on August 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


"What's wrong with wood that you have to replace it with plastic? Plastic doesn't breathe, so you get the moisture problems that kaibutsu mentioned."

They use vapor/moisture barriers on the interior of new homes to prevent the warm air from condensing and soaking the insulation as it meets the cold air outside. I don't know the specifics of foam in this regard, but it is an excellent insulator, seemingly well worth its production negatives in net energy savings, and it might even last longer than wood.
posted by Brian B. at 12:45 PM on August 9, 2008


We keep getting these links to funky alternative homes that nobody can afford.
posted by mecran01 at 3:41 PM on August 9, 2008


Wouldn't these be pretty much impossible to build in tornado alley/any place that gets hurricanes on a regular basis?
posted by tehloki at 10:40 AM on August 10, 2008


They are ideal for that application actually. The shape of the dome reduces the uplift effect of the winds and the stress skin panels are very strong reducing the susceptibility to wind borne object damage. The only thing to watch would be that you got a good tie between your foundation and your skin; a ring of wire mesh around the base of the dome set into the foundation would be more than adequate I'd think. If not then a few chunks of re-bar.

One could also sink the domes a foot or two into the ground (or berm the earth up onto the dome) to provide both uplift protection and reduced wall area.
posted by Mitheral at 11:19 AM on August 10, 2008


These would be great in certain locations:

1. Earthquake prone
2. High winds
3. Heavy snow loads
4. Resort cottages

They have serious downsides:

1. Wall curvature cuts off usable living space. Like the second story of a Cape Cod house.
2. Furniture has to be specially molded to fit against walls.
3. Difficult to make changes once in place.

For a mountain resort it would be ideal.
posted by stbalbach at 9:30 PM on August 17, 2008


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