Methods of Dome Construction
by Raunekk (28,884 pts ), Edited by Lamar Stonecypher
Published on Dec 29, 2009

Dome construction, an integral part of ancient and religious buildings, is now used even in constructing home residences. So how are these domes built? Find out about the various techniques that are used for constructing this amazing and beneficial design.

Domes have been popular in the construction of buildings since ancient times. This particular design has the important characteristic of withstanding adverse climatic conditions such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, or even tropical storms. Earlier domes were used only in religious buildings, however its usage has now been seen in constructing residence buildings as well. Houses with dome construction are usually found in regions which experience heavy winds and extreme climatic conditions. The trend is speedily catching up in constructing residential buildings and public structures such as schools and colleges.

Basic Construction
The dome is a structurally sound design. These days they often made of concrete and reinforced by steel. The main advantage of this style of design is that as it’s heavier in weight, it is difficult to lift it off its base. Moreover, besides the weight of steel and concrete, the shape of the dome itself makes it a very solid structure. According to architects, the arches of the dome are naturally strong and are hardly influenced by extreme external forces like tornadoes. Also with no flat walls, these kinds of structures have very few seams, leading to less penetration of water in the construction especially during tropical storms. Moreover, using archways as gates on either side of the building can also help water to run straight off without causing any lasting damage.

Techniques for Constructing Domes
There are various techniques involved in constructing domes.
The flattened conduit method is one such type. It involves the molding and flattening of metal tubes. After slightly bending the tubes, a hole is drilled on both the ends of the structure using frames and various other tools. This method is simple and less time consuming, but the structure that is formed must be with other materials as the joints don’t have fine finishing.

Another method for constructing dome is the tube and hub style. This is a very simple, cheap, and professional method which requires the joining of the struts with a larger diameter pipe at the hub holes. However, the method involves no option for rectifying a damaged hard cover material.

Though a dome structure lasts for longer durations, it doesn’t need any specialist tools. However, zero ventilation can lead to problems such as damp and dry rot. To avoid these problems wooden beams are used in the construction process. The style which makes use of wooden beams while joining the metal hubs at the edges with the outside plywood is called the panelized timber frame. This is a simple strategy which only requires the panels to be nailed together in the correct order. However, as the panels used in the process are not custom made, the options available for the design are few. It is to note that wooden beams cannot be used for constructing domes for regions having extreme climatic conditions.

Modern Techniques for Constructing Domes
The stressed skin technique is one of the modern methods used in the constructing of domes. This uses metal or fiberglass panels riveted together. The method saves costs and doesn’t require any beams or support structure. However, to prevent any kind of condensation, it becomes necessary to install insulators in the structure.
The monolithic, yet modern type of dome construction is made of three phases. This involves using a special type of membrane that is inflated and placed on the dome, giving it a finish that serves like a weather-proof skin, but that can also be damaged very easily. Unlike the previous method, this style involves the spraying of polyurethane foam to insulate the structure. However, the materials used in the process are not environmentally friendly as they have oil-based chemicals.

The space frame type of dome construction, generally observed at airports and exhibition halls, heavily relies on connecting the struts to spherical structures that have slots machined into them. Apart from these, one of the oldest techniques of earth architecture is the brick strategy, which was highly used to construct bridges and arches in earlier times. In this technique, concrete, brick or stone are put on top of a wooden frame, which is molded according to the desired shape. The mold helps in holding the stone or brick in place until it settles and supports the whole structure.

One of the latest techniques for constructing domes is the foam and render method using polystyrene foam. The dome shape is made by cutting and sticking the foam together. The chicken wire in this method serves the purpose of reinforcing mesh. Lastly, in order to ensure that the structure is weatherproof, a thin layer of cement is spread over the entire building. However these conditions favor construction of only small domes.

Of all the methods, the geodesic type of dome has been the most famous and extensively used in the last century. The main advantage of this dome structure is that it provides a massive enclosed space without any types of hindrance or support system. Moreover, geodesic dome construction can be erected easily and quickly using light weight materials and a very small crew. There have also been several advancements made in geodesic dome construction methods in the past few years. Nowadays, several companies sell plans and dome materials along with instruction so that the owners can make the dome themselves.

Dome structures though advantageous, don’t match the urban planningstyles and are also devoid of flat walls and angled rooftops. However, unlike other construction designs, domes are strong and resistant enough to bear bad weather conditions such as electrical storms, lightning, and earthquakes.

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