Dome Home or Rammed Earth?

August 15, 2008

Traditional homes have a lot of problems. They are usually only built to last 20 to 30 years at most. They are hard to heat and cool, even with a high R rated insulation. They are expensive to insure and they are susceptible to damage from termites, fire, flood, and decay.

Traditional homes have been the norm in this country for far too long. The time has come to look at new options and very old options.

Monolith Domes are not truly new, since dome structures have been around for almost as long as people. However, dome houses have reached a new zenith in design, ease of construction and durability. These domes are an airform, which is filled with foam then then covered in concrete. They will not burn, rot, or decay. They are built to withstand nature, and time. A monolith dome home can last 100 years. They have survived wildfires, and hurricanes.

These homes are also extremely energy efficient. Their design, material, and wall thickness all contribute to saving the home owner money on energy bills. Usually, the energy bills to heat and cool are one third the price of a traditional home of similar size.

As for ancient design, rammed earth is one option. Rammed earth homes are what they sound like, homes built by ramming earth into forms to make walls. Rammed earth homes are energy efficient, quiet, and durable. The walls are usually one foot thick. They operate on the principal of thermal mass, which means the walls absorb heat during the day and give it off at night. This keeps the interior at a stable temperature. Combined with a southern exposure, stone or concrete floors, and good design, a rammed earth home’s energy bill is half what a traditional home of the same size would be.

These homes can be built by using manual labor or by modern pneumatic machines. The can be simple one or two room structures or much larger homes. The roof can be made of any number of things, thatch, shingle, metal, slate tiles. Such a home can be designed to fit into any area. Because the walls are so thick, the interior is cool and quiet. If you lived in a noisy neighborhood or town, a home with foot thick walls would shield you from noise. Such a home would be a quiet oasis.

I like both of these options because they will work in my climate which is hot and humid. The thickness of the walls will keep out the stifling heat and a design which makes use of open doors or windows for cross ventilation will allow even the most sweltering day to be bearable. When I get ready to build my house, these are two of the options I am considering.

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