From Toothpicks to Trailblazing-- The
Birth of The Monolithic Dome
David South built his
first dome out of toothpicks. But then, he was just a rural Idaho high
school kid, burning with youthful enthusiasm, sparked by a Buckminster
Fuller speech. David didn't foresee just building domes; he envisioned
building huge domes. "I knew there had to be a way to construct really
big domes," David says. "I saw them as super-size, igloo-like structures
for commercial use."
toothpicks just didn't work, so David tried drinking straws, an Erector
set, two by fours : until one day, some years and experience later, he
hit on the right combination. David says, "By then, I knew concrete and
I knew polyurethane foam. More importantly, my preoccupation with domes
got my brothers Barry and Randy interested. So now the three of us began
thinking about domes made of concrete, reinforced with steel, and
insulated with foam.
"But you can't attach
concrete to air. We needed a framework or skeleton," David adds,
recalling more investigation, research and experimenting. That led to
the invention of the Airform. David describes it as "a huge balloon,
molded into various shapes and sizes of a tough fabric, that's attached
to a dome's concrete foundation and inflated."
Once the Airform is
inflated, construction moves out of the weather and into its interior.
Three inches of polyurethane foam are sprayed on the inside of the
Airform; steel rebar is attached to the foam, then embedded with two to
four inches of concrete.
In 1975, in Shelley,
Idaho, the South brothers proved the practicality and workability of
this process. They built a Monolithic Dome as: what else:-- a
potato-storage facility, 105' in diameter and 35' high. It's no longer
storing potatoes, but it's still very much in use today as a waterbed
factory. That project earned the Souths a patent for the process, and
the construction of more Monolithic Domes began.
"But we weren't just
constructing," David recalls. "The research continued. We kept
looking: and continue looking--for better ways to do just about
Eventually that led to
the design of Monolithic Dome homes, schools, and churches, and David's
conviction that more builders were needed. And that conviction led to
another: to get more builders, the public needed to know about
The Souths decided
that a second Monolithic Dome building site, through its sheer newness,
would stimulate public awareness and interest. David established that
new site in Italy, Texas, a semi-rural community of 1700 that's just 45
miles south of Dallas. That facility houses two major activities:
Monolithic Constructors, Inc. : This company designs and constructs
Monolithic Domes, EcoShells and Crenospheres. At its 7-dome,
strung-together-as-a-caterpillar factory, named Bruco (Italian for
caterpillar), they also manufacture Airforms for their projects and
those of other Monolithic Dome builders.