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Articles - monolithic domes (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

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."

Well, 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 everything."

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 Monolithic Domes.

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.


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