Research paper geodesic domes

UWA Design School. Abstract Antarctica is considered as an analogue for extra-terrestrial environments. Fingerprint outer space. Polar Journal , 7 2 , In: Polar Journal. In: Polar Journal , Vol. Polar Journal. Access to Document Link to publication in Scopus. Geodesic domes are efficient structures in several ways. The triangle is a very stable shape; for example, a force applied to the corner of a rectangle can deform it into a parallelogram, but the same force will not deform a triangle. This makes geodesic dome buildings highly resistant to such forces as snow coverings, earthquakes, wind, and even tornadoes.

There is less surface exposed to outdoor temperature fluctuations, making the building cheaper to heat and cool than a rectilinear structure. Geodesic domes can be constructed quickly without heavy equipment. Using prefabricated components, it takes just a few people to erect the dome for a 2,sq ft sq m home in 10 hours or less. A geometric dome supports itself without needing internal columns or interior load-bearing walls.

This property makes such structures appealing for use as churches, sports arenas, and exhibition halls. The aesthetic appeal of lofty ceilings makes them attractive as homes, and full or partial second-story floors are easily suspended halfway up the enclosure without any support other than attachment to the dome itself.


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In , seeking a way to build a larger planetarium, German engineer Walter Bauersfeld decided to mount movable projectors within a stationary dome. Until that time, planetarium domes rotated while external light entered through holes on the dome shell to simulate stars and planets. This limited the practical size of the dome and the number of people it could hold.

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Bauersfeld's concept of interior projection would work in a much larger dome. The first model constructed was more than half of a sphere; 52 ft 16 m in diameter. Bauersfeld solved the problem of how to construct such a large sphere by approximating it with an icosahedron sided solid with equal triangular faces and subdividing each face into smaller triangles.

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He framed the triangles from nearly 3, thin iron rods. To construct a spherical shell over this framework, he erected a sphefical wooden form inside the frame and sprayed on a pasty concrete mixture. The shell was designed to be the same proportional thickness as that of an eggshell compared to its diameter, a ratio later considered appropriate for geodesic domes.

Thirty years later, R. Buckminster Fuller, an American architect, engineer, poet, and philosopher, independently invented a similar structural system.

Geodesic Domes: Natural and Man-Made - Tibor Tarnai,

Following World War II , Fuller wanted to design affordable, efficient housing that could be built quickly from mass-produced components. Willing to look outside of conventional approaches, Fuller began to work with spherical shapes because they enclose a given space with a minimum of surface area. He first framed spheres with a network of strips approximating great circles circles on a sphere with centers that coincide with the sphere's center ; the strips formed triangles as they crossed one another.

He called the product a geodesic dome because great circles are known as geodesics from a Greek word meaning earth dividing. Eventually, Fuller began forming spheres from hexagons and pentagons like the panels on a soccer ball and dividing them into triangles for strength and ease of construction. In , Fuller used his new system to cover the ft m diameter courtyard surrounded by Ford Motor Company 's headquarters building. He completed the design and construction in only three months. A temporary mast erected in the center of the courtyard supported the dome during construction, and the structure was incrementally raised and rotated following completion of each new section.


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  • The frame consisted of 12, aluminum struts weighing a total of 3, lb 1, kg that were connected to form triangles and then lifted into position and riveted to the growing frame. When the dome was completed, it was gently lowered onto mounts that had been installed on the existing building. A clear fiberglass panel was installed in each triangle to complete the dome. In , Fuller received a patent on geodesic domes. During the s and s, an era in which unconventionality was prized, geometric domes became popular as an inexpensive way for environmentally conscious people to build their own homes.

    Instructions were widely available, but the quality of materials including such strange choices as paper mache and discarded tin cans and the skill of do-it-yourself builders were inconsistent. Amateur-built domes tended to leak when it rained, insufficient use of insulation limited their energy efficiency, and inadequate numbers of skylights left interiors dreary.

    Fuller predicted that a million geodesic domes would be built by the mids, but by the early s, estimates placed the worldwide number somewhere between 50, and , A small but persistent contingent of unconventional homebuilders continue to build geodesic dome homes, primarily from kits. However, Newsday reported in that the majority of geodesic dome structures have been built for green-houses, storage sheds, defense shelters, and tourist attractions. One of the most recognizable of these is the ft m diameter sphere at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center.

    Built of composite panels of ethylene plastic and aluminum in , the structure houses a ride called Spaceship Earth, a termed coined by Fuller himself. Geodesic domes range in size from the ft m Poliedro de Caracas sports arena in Venezuela to temporary shelters that are 15 ft 5 m or less in diameter. Consequently, construction materials vary widely. Simple, movable structures may be built of polyvinyl chloride PVC pipe or galvanized steel conduit frames covered with plastic sheeting or parachute canopies.

    Large, permanent structures like arenas and factories have been built from materials like aluminum and steel frame struts covered with aluminum, copper, structural gypsum, acrylic, or Plexiglas panels. Most residential dome kit manufacturers use wood components, primarily kiln-dried Douglas fir struts covered with 0.

    Such kits include various designs of connectors to securely fasten the wood struts together in the proper configuration; high-strength aluminum, or steel coated with zinc, epoxy, or industrial primer are commonly used for connectors. Zinc-plated steel bolts secure the connectors and paneling is nailed on. A few kit manufacturers use altemative materials to make prefabricated panels that combine the frame and exterior covering.

    One, for example, makes molded fiberglass panels. Another supplies reinforced concrete panels; steel mesh extending from the panel edges is overlapped with mesh from the adjoining panel, and the joint is sealed with concrete. Most dome kits are built atop concrete foundation slabs.

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    Often, these slabs are recessed into the ground to provide a basement level. Foundation walls and riser walls vertical walls below the dome that may be used to raise its overall height are usually made of concrete or wood. Interior insulation generally consists of fiberglass batting or sprayed-on urethane, cellulose, or Icynene plastic foam. Although dome homes are built from manufactured kits, designs are flexible. As many as half of the triangles in the dome's lowest row can be removed without weakening the structure, so door and window openings can be plentiful.

    Vertical-walled extensions can be built out from such openings to increase the floor space. The dome can sit directly on ground-level footings short walls recessed into the ground to bear the building's weight , or it can be erected atop a riser wall up to 8 ft 2. Space must be provided between the interior and exterior walls to accommodate insulation. Some manufacturers create this space by making the struts from wood that is in cm thick. Others make this space The following is a composite of techniques used by several individuals using kits from various manufacturers.

    The superstructure typically consists of 60 triangular panels. Depending on the desired size of the dome, the panels are usually ft 1. They may be prefabricated with the exterior panels installed, or they may constructed on site from precut lumber and metal connectors. If dome panels were supplied with the kit, they are set atop the foundation or riser walls and connected to one another in a sequence prescribed by the manufacturer.

    Until enough panels are connected to support themselves, they must be braced with poles radiating out from a block in the center of the floor. The following steps describe the more common case of frame erection followed by exterior panel installation:. A quality geodesic dome structure is airtight and structurally sound. These are the factors that lower energy costs, the main consideration when building a geodesic home.

    geodesic dome

    Because the structure is basically airtight, condensation can sometimes be a problem. Normally it is controlled by the heating and cooling system but when the house has been closed up for a few days, moisture can build up. This is easily solved by turning the air system on or opening a door or window. He entered Harvard University in but was expelled two years later. In , he married Anne Hewlett and formed a construction company. In , Fuller invented the stockade brick-laying method—bricks with vertical holes reinforced with concrete.

    In he designed a factory-assembled Dymaxion house, a self-contained unit suspended from a central mast with a complete recycling system.