Can a dome be built in 2 days, from foundation to closure?

Saturday, November 26, 2022 6:12 PM

I certainly had confidence a dome could be built in 2 days, from foundation to closure.  But I was 14 years removed from actual earth building work and my optimism clouded my judgment. 

2 days goal turned into 9.  The goal was to focus a large team on a single dome, this one an R=75" (inches) dome, or 12.5’ feet diameter dome using 14” bags to build a 3’ springline lancet arch from the floor.  Thus, we need to build about 35 rows of bags, from foundation to closure.  To achieve this, I used what I thought was the 2nd most efficient way to making domes: a large group of builders, only one frame (a door, in order to have a clear diameter, fixed line 150 inches long) from which to measure the compass for all rows. The hope was that a series of long bags, with no breaks, would make this feasible in two days.

I was wrong.  Had I not used a 3’ springline (ie, straight wall vertically from the ground to ‘open up’ the dome to better livability) we may have been able to do this. But due to the springline, an additional 10 rows of bags were used before we started the ‘arching’. This added 20 bags - 10 for main dome and 10 for buttressing (though we poured ‘fortified earth’ buttress to 2 ‘ above floor to accomodate the 3’ foot high springline).  There was no way to do this in 2 days using manual teams. If it had been just a dome, rising from the ground with no springline (ie, from the floor) it may have been doable with a 12.5 ft dome with 2 teams working from the outside in to meet bags in the middle in 2 days.  But I didn’t want to live in a dome that had a floor height springline, so this wasn’t an option when considered fully.  Maybe for ‘emergency shelter’, but not for a beachfront lot meant to inspire.

So we broke the teams (the Hootenanny provided between 15- 20 workers per day, some part timers, most full timers from Nov 15 - 19, thus 5 working days) into 2 teams: one worked the "teen dome” and the other the “bedroom dome”. This allowed us to move quickly to get to ~ 8’ height on the Teen dome and ~ 6’ height on the Bedrom dome by Saturday Nov 20 at 4 pm, with niches carved and all windows ‘cut out’.  

The only way this ‘2 domes in 4 days’ vision could have been realized would have been for a team of 10 qualified workers to work with a cement mixer who could have poured directly into bags while a coordinated team laid barbed wire and readied the new bags. It would thus require a highly orchestrated endeavor using a mixer truck if one wants a 'liveable’ springline (2.5 to 3’ feet) with buttressing a complete dome, with cut out windows and niches, in 2 days.