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Dome Home Kits Win Kudos

With their futuristic, geometric design on the outside, geodesic kit homes differ radically from the typical frame house--too radically, for some people. But that design brings out the best in energy efficiency and ease of construction. From the inside, there's lots more to like, according to James Dulley of The Journal Newspapers, including up to 5,000 square feet of available space in three to four levels, 20-foot high ceilings, triangular skylights, lofts and other unique architectural features.

Geodesic domes are the most energy efficient of all home designs. What makes them so miserly is the shape--they have a smaller exterior surface area for transferring heat. Air flow circulation is more efficient in the interior, too. The result? Your dome home's annual utility bills will typically be 50 percent lower than a conventional frame house of similar size. Some dome owners don't even need air conditioning in the summer.

Domes are not only easy on your utility bills, they're relatively cheap and easy to build. One common design, called hub and strut, involves color-coded steel hubs and lumber struts on the framing. If the adventurous do-it-yourselfer recruits several people for a dome-raising, the framing can actually be completed over a weekend. Another design employs pre-cut foam panels with deep grooves at the joints. To create the framing, you lay steel reinforcement into the grooves then pour concrete over them. The resulting structure is practically as strong as a bomb shelter and good for hurricane and tornado-prone areas. The streamlined dome shape allows high winds to flow over it. Yet another design comes in rigid foam insulation panels that are bonded together and coated with a cement-like cover.

Geodesic dome homes are not necessarily eccentric in design or exclusive in their appeal. In fact, a more traditional or conventional appearance can easily be obtained by using vertical wall risers and room extensions. Add 20 foot-high rooms with multiple skylights, fireplaces, and multi-angled ceilings, and you'll be the envy of your neighbors.