Dreamdomes

Dreamdomes

A new fiberglass housing system is launching.

Domeshells Australia has begun taking orders for the first of its Dreamdomes series. The first Dreamdome will be a 3.5-meter (11.5-foot) diameter shell, firmly in the tradition of the Futuro house, the Igloo, and several others that have been profiled in these pages. But there is a difference between the Dreamdomes and all those others: Dreamdomes are not designed to fulfill the niche for tiny cabins that can be installed in remote places. Dreamdomes are the beginning of a concept for general housing.

Chris Brown, Domeshells’ founder and CEO, spoke with Composites and Architecture last week about the new system he is debuting, and where he thinks it will lead.

“I’ve been wanting to introduce composites into residential homes and shelter, because I saw the potential for it to be extremely strong and safe, and to meet the housing needs of people. I’ve been in the dome-building space for many years, involved in projects with Queenstown University, government funded projects developing technology for building domes using a glass fiber-reinforced concrete sandwich panel. Since then, we had the opportunity to evolve into using glass fiber and resin composite systems. I could see that by applying more technology to this system, we could achieve greater efficiency.”

(Indeed, Domeshells Australia already offers several other types of dome structures, such as concrete reinforced with split bamboo.)

His first Dreamdome, the 3.5, is the smallest of the planned series. At 9.6m2 floorspace, it is about the size of a small bedroom, and can fit a bed, with a desk and chair. The next size will be 5m in diameter, and could be partitioned to include a small bathroom and a kitchenette. Larger domes will follow.

The system is a modular construction scheme. A Dreamdome is comprised of six segments. There are three segment-types: plain, window, and door.   A standard 3.5m would include two louver windows, a ventilated door, a skylight, a lightswitch, and point to bring in electricity.  The segments bolt together, and Brown believes two people could assemble the dome in a day (provided they had the floor slab or platform prepared in advance).

A prospective house builder need not stick with the standard dome, however. Modularity means the six panels can be custom selected, any way you want. It could be all door panels, for example, to make a kind of summerhouse.

The grand scheme is that there will be “a series of sizes that will eventually link together, all modular,” Brown explains. “You’ll be eventually be able to go on the website and design your own home.” Domes of different sizes will be linkable through their commonly-sized doorways, much the way rooms in any other house give access to one another. Theoretically, a house of almost any size – on one story – could be constructed with a dome for each room.

The dome segments are sandwich panels, consisting of fiberglass composite skins with a foam core. At present, the foam is 25mm (1 inch) thick. Brown believes he’ll end up with a thicker panel in later models. 75mm (3 inches) of foam would yield an insulating value of Australian R2.5 or 3 (equivalent to a US R value of 14-17) which will meet energy codes for Australia.  As for durability, the standard design is Category 1 cyclone rated, but a Category 5 version is also available.

“The 3.5m dome is intended for Australian market,” explains Brown, “to get the ball rolling. It will give us the opportunity to get further testing done, to start setting standards to use it in construction. I would like to lead the way here in Australia. I would like to lead the way in the world. Automotive and aerospace use it [FRP] in the most stressed situations, so why not use it for construction? It’s a no-brainer.”

And he adds, “I’ve got 15 years of research and testing that’s just busting at the seams to come out.”

Domeshells Australia is now taking orders for the 3.5m dome.  There’s a special introductory price for the first 22 domes, at AUD 15,997 (about US $12,270).  After the first 22, the price goes to AUD 17,997.  Get ’em while they’re hot!

Images courtesy of Domeshells Australia.