Monday, May 16, 2022

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At Home With

No place like dome


CUT-EXTERIOR-This-isn't-a-Geodesic-dome-(3)The sphere is nature’s most efficient shape. If you’ve spent much time in West Des Moines, at some point you’ve probably seen or heard of the “round house” or “the dome home.” The iconic home is a contemporary story-and-a-half, single-family home built in 1980. The house has nearly 2,100 square feet of living space, an additional 1,100 square feet in the basement, and, of course, it consists of the four orbs, or “bubbles,” of varying sizes. One spherical structure houses the home’s main area, another consists of the garage, and the master bedroom and master closet each are sheltered by domes of their own.

The owners of the house for the last decade or so, Clint and Mindy Dudley, live in the dome home with their son, Henry, and daughter, Molly.

The home was constructed on a quarter-acre lot within walking distance of Valley High School and Western Hills Elementary in what is an established neighborhood.

Many dome structures are geodesic domes — like the Capitol Building or the Botanical Garden — which are built with triangles. But according to a 1981 news report, the Dudley home was built by inflating a large balloon to make a firm rubber form. On top of the form, 4 inches of foam-polyurethane insulation was applied, and underneath the form, the structure was finished with eight to 10 inches of concrete poured into plywood forms that were braced on the dome’s interior.

Once both the layers of foam and cement hardened, the balloon and the forms were removed, and 2 inches of polyurethane were applied as a protector.

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“The inside of the home is like any other house,” notes Clint Dudley.

The interior walls are made of framed lumber, drywall, paint and carpet.

CUT-FAMILY-Clint-is-an-auto-shop-owner,-Mindy-is-a-full-time-mom,-but-despite-the-appearance-of-the-family-portrait-(2)Dudley knows of a handful of other dome homes that were built around the Des Moines area, and there are hundreds scattered across the country.

The construction materials for domes are generally more expensive than for a regular house, but much of the cost can be recouped due to it requiring less labor to assemble. So while the dome structure may have a higher up-front cost, the heating and cooling systems are less expensive. And because the energy bills are lower, it can be argued that the dome home is a more economical option.

Dudley says that the best part about living in a dome home is the energy efficiency. The home’s circular shape, lack of seams, southerly exposure and cement building materials allow for lower energy bills.

“These houses are ultra-efficient,” he says.

The family doesn’t know for sure if it is completely tornado proof, but Dudley points out that it weighs 10,000 pounds per square foot — the equivalent of three cars packed onto one 12-inch by 12-inch space — so when the tornado alarms sound, the Dudleys don’t worry too much.

“We just sleep through it,” he laughs.

Dudley says their time in the home has been fun. They love the schools, the bike trails, movie nights and decorating the round house as a jack-o-lantern for Halloween — but it’s time to move on. The family is moving soon but have some advice for the next owners.

“Have a good sense of humor,” Dudley says. “We’d totally do it over again if we had the chance.”


A Des Moines-based company — Precision Air Structures — is said to have manufactured the inflatable air forms used to build most Iowa dome homes between the years of 1979 and 1991. The company sold to a Texas firm, The Monolithic Dome Institute, which “promotes and educates” people on the building of monolithic domes.

  • A Monolithic Dome is a round, steel-reinforced concrete building known for its energy efficiency, low maintenance and ability to offer near absolute protection from natural disasters.
  • Hundreds of Monolithic Domes have been built in 48 U.S. states and more than 50 foreign countries.
  • Monolithic Domes are energy efficient. In fact, they are as much as 75 percent less expensive to heat and cool than traditional structures.
  • A Monolithic Dome is built using something known as an Airform, an inflatable balloon-like structure that creates the shape of the dome.
  • In many cases, Monolithic Domes cost less to build than conventional buildings.


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