Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thickness of the Concrete Dome

We have come to an interesting point in the construction of the dome. Monolithic should be through (I have not checked this afternoon, but they estimate they should be through) spraying the concrete on the inside of the house. Now how do the inspectors determine if the dome is built within specification? Measuring the thickness of the concrete is a non-trivial exercise. Not only that, but the plans Monolithic submitted to us do not exactly call out the required thickness of concrete at all points on the shell.

I have no answer to this issue at the moment, but as we figure more out I'll post again and let everyone know what the outcome is. One thing which could have been done before any concrete was sprayed to help at least measure the thickness of the shell would be to add a few of the rebar hangers to the dome at semi-random points and simply allow them to stay there unbend and use them to measure the buildup of the concrete. Doesn't help at the moment, but in teh future this method could be used.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Removing the Airlock on the Main House

Airlock_Removed, Main Dome Airlock Removed
This evening I went out and was surprised to find the main house's airlock cut away from the airform. The inside of the domes had about another 1/2-3/4" of shotcrete sprayed on it. The rebar is almost entirely covered now, only showing at the very top of the domes. Many of the electrical boxes around the walls are completely embedded, or very close now. It is starting to look like a real dome home on the inside. My guess is they will finish covering the rebar tomorrow, need to put one more coat on Thursday and do touch ups on Friday.

The garage also had another 3/4" or so of shotcrete sprayed on it and the fan was turned off there as well. At this rate they will finish spraying it on friday as well, then all that is remaining is the auxiliary dome. Progress really is being made. My estimate is they sprayed 12-15 yards of concrete today.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Concrete work has resumed

It looks like they sprayed maybe 8 yards of concrete on the inside of one lobe of the main house and on the garage. That last part I did not expect. There is about an inch of concrete sprayed on the inside of the garage now (on top of the 1/2" they put down prior to tying on the rebar). The rest of the concrete was sprayed on the inside of the master bedroom lobe of the main dome.

It looks like they are praying about 8 yards of concrete a day. Which is fine, but it will take about 11 yards of concrete to put half an inch on all surfaces of the main dome. It seems like it would be more efficient to spray the entire dome with a little bit of concrete rather than spraying about 1/3 of it with some and then moving to the garage. I'm sure there is a reason for doing it this way, but it perplexes me. Using this current methodology I have no idea when to predict that the domes will be ready.

One other thing is that the auxiliary dome airform is back, and presumably fixed. Since the fan is not currently running for the main house, I expect them to set up the other airform soon and get it inflated and start on the insulation for that one. Maybe the goal is to have all three of them completed at about the same time? We'll see.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Progress has slowed once again

Monolithic was apparently not onsite Thursday nor Friday, probably they went back to their office to get the auxiliary dome airform, but I am speculating on that. The main dome fan is still off and I bet the temperature inside the dome is close to 110°F and the humidity has got to be 100% (literally, there is condensation dripping from some of the window forms). Hopefully Monday we will get back into production mode.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Garage has electrical

I went out this morning to look at the progress and was a bit surprised to find the fan/blower for the main dome not running, but the one for the garage was running. When I stepped in the main dome it felt like a sauna in there, but almost all the rebar was covered and it looked like the lower sections might even be completely finished. I think they are still a bit shy of complete, but it is close. My guess is that today they will finish the lower section 100% and get the upper section to the point the lower one is now, and then Friday morning they will complete the main dome.

The garage now has electrical conduit in place for a light switch, overhead lights, a garage door opener, and plugs around the walls. It is interesting looking at the path the conduit takes to get to all the boxes. I'd hate to have to remember that path when I was stringing wires after the concrete work in done.

We have not yet seen the repaired/modified auxiliary dome airform yet, I guess they dropped it off last weekend and will pick it up this weekend. We'll see.

We also got the plans (and the approval of the city for the plans) for the fire suppression system to be installed. Coupled with that we got out first water bill from the city and there is a $24 charge for the fire suppression system water meter every month, even though we do not use it (other than a brief test every few months) hopefully ever. We're going to have a discussion with the city about that one of these days soon. I doubt it will help, but you never know.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Main Dome Shell Almost Complete

We went out to look at the progress today and Monolithic has sprayed at least an inch of shotcrete everywhere on the main dome and in some places they seem to have all 4-5 inches sprayed. The higher up you go the less has been sprayed. I asked them about finishing tomorrow and they told me they would certainly have the rebar all covered tomorrow, but might need more time to get it 100% finished.

I hate this hurry up and wait feeling I have about it. It always seems like it will be "tomorrow" when things wrap up.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wall Rebar covered, First layer of Shotcrete in main dome
Friday afternoon the electrical contractor finished placing all the conduit and boxes and the inspector signed off on it early enough to allow Monolithic to spray part of a first coat of shotcrete on the walls of the main dome. They will be back on Monday to finished the main dome while the electrical contractor works on the garage. At this rate our general contractor should be able to get inside the main dome not next week, but the one after that (June 25ish) and start work on the actual interior of the home!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rebar passed inspection

Well, the is good news and bad news. The good news is that the rebar on both the main house and the garage passed inspection yesterday. The bad news is that the electrical contractor is WAY behind based on his estimates. That work was supposed to be finished on Wednesday evening, it is now Friday morning and the work is still not done (again unless they worked into the wee hours).

I think that the problem with the electrical contractor is the unfamiliarity with domes in general and Monolithic domes in particular. Things just don't line up and not everything is so cookie cutter as it is in a traditional house. Properly locating a junction box, 20 feet off the slab, on a smooth spherical surface is a more difficult proposition than they expected. At least that is my opinion. If you're doing the work yourself be prepared for it to maybe be a bit more labor intensive than you expected and if someone is doing it for you realize they may well underestimate the time required. Hopefully they will get it done today and we can have the electrical inspection this afternoon and be ready on Monday to spray concrete.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Final Inspection for Rebar and Electrical today...I hope

The main dome should be (as of 4:00 yesterday they were working wildly) ready for the city to come perform the inspection of the rebar and electrical work. If it all passes, then tomorrow (Friday) they will start spraying the final coat of concrete. The plan is to put 2 inches on on Friday and finish the remaining 2 inches on Monday.

They had also completed spraying the initial coat of concrete on the garage dome and were hoping to get the rebar up in it and have it inspected at the same time. I really doubt that will happen, but you never know. If they worked late into the night to finish it could happen.

We did get some sort of bad news about the auxiliary dome though. The airform is about 10 inches to big for the slab. I don't know if the slab it too small or if the airform is to big, but they did not fit and it is much easier to reduce the size of the airform than it is to increase the size of the foundation. So they are taking the airform back to the factory and will reduce it and bring it back next week. It sets the dome work back a few days, but the project should not be behind since the workers can still work on the main dome and garage.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Electrical is going in

Electrical-Box, Electrical Box in the Utiltiy Room
Yesterday afternoon we had a big thunderstorm come through and I went out to the land to see how much water was flowing in the drainage ditch/creek along the front of our property. I was actually a bit disappointed. Driving out there I went across several places on the roads where the water was curb to curb and I splashed through 4-6 inches of water, especially in the low lying areas. When I got to our land, the ditch was only about half way up the 36" culvert under our driveway and was flowing a bit, but not quickly. I don't know if that area just did not get as much rain, or if it drains really well, but I was somewhat disappointed by what I saw.

I did, however, go and wade through the mud up to the house and took the above picture of one of the electrical boxes now mounted. They are screwing them into the concrete wall behind them to keep them in place. The concrete is about 1 inch thick at the moment and the boxes themselves are only about 2 inches thick, maybe 3. My concern is that I do not see how this will be flush with the front of the wall if the total wall thickness of concrete should be 8" thick. I would think that they would need about a 4 inch offset from the existing concrete surface, not a flush mount. I plan on asking the general contractor about that today.

I did have one surprise as I walked the grounds to the main house. The garage dome was inflated! I did not go into it, because the ground in front was really soggy, but I looked at it and it looks small, but so did the house from the outside. I'm hoping to go out and see the inside later today.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rebar Finished, Electrical started

Wall, Wall with rebar installed
The rebar is almost all done. Maybe it is all done, but there is one window that looks to me like they forgot to apply the rebar under the window. A general suggestion to any of you planning on dong a monolithic dome is to go out to the site and look at what is happening frequently. If something looks amiss, ask questions. Maybe all is as it should be and you simply don't understand, or maybe someone just forgot something. Our house had rebar support embedded in the slab across the locations of the back door. This was an oversight caused by reading a door as if it were a window, and it was easy to fix.

When I was out there Saturday, it looks as if the general contractor or maybe the electrical sub had walked around and placed a few junction boxes by just setting them on the rebar in a few location to figure out how they were going to mount them. I'm glad they are dealing with that, because I really don't know how I'd attached them to the structure. In a normal house they just screw to the studs, but we have no studs, and so they must be mounted and held in place with the conduit and it has to be attached to either the rebar of the slab at some point. It looks like it will be a tricky job to get the all placed right and at the right thickness from the back of the concrete wall. They have to basically sit out in space so that the front face of the box is exactly 7" away from the current location of the back of the wall, so that when they spray the remaining 7" of concrete it will match up with the new surface of the wall. The picture above shows a closeup of the wall section with the rebar. The rebar is currently about 1" from the back wall, so how do you add a box hanging out in space 6" in front of the rebar?

Local building codes specify that a section of wall may not be longer than 6' without an outlet, so we will have plenty of outlets around the outer walls, both upper and lower floor. If the first floor seemed to be tricky, think about what the second floor will be like, wiring these boxes to hang in space abut 12 feet off the slab. I bet it will take at least 3 days to set it all up next week, maybe 4. (btw, they're estimate is 2 days).

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Main Dome Rebar Finished

Inside_Rebar, View of the rebar on the inside of the mian domes
Most of the day yesterday saw little to no activity onsite, so I am assuming the crews finished the rebar on the main dome. Later today I will be going out and checking the progress. The puts us about 3 days behind where I expected us to be now. I supposed that's not really too bad, but it still grates on the nerves a bit. I can tell I'm going to be a basket case by the time this is all done.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rebar Progress Slowly Being Made

I went out to the house yesterday and used my phone to take a few pictures I hoped to post with this, but apparently it was too dark and the phone could not find an autofocus, so unless you want to see a blurry mess, I'll wait and try again this afternoon to take the real camera out and get a few good pictures of the inside with rebar. Basically each dome looks sort of like a world globe with the latitude and longitude line on it, plus a lot of reinforcement around the doors and windows.

The sad part is that it is taking a LOT longer to get the rebar up than expected. I was there at 2:30 yesterday afternoon and they looked like they might have been barely half way through the applying of the rebar. That does not sound too bad until you realize that on Monday I guessed they were close to one third of the way through. Doing the Math, that means that in the course of about 6 or 7 hours of work they only gained about one sixth of the total work. At that rate they still need about 18 hours to finish the rebar. Maybe my estimates are off, and maybe something else came up that they had to deal with, but it seems extremely slow right now. Part of that is anticipation of it being done, but part of it is pure math.

We also posted our third payment (out of 5) yesterday, so we are 70% paid for the domes so far. The rest will follow in a few weeks I would guess.

Monday, June 4, 2012

We made it in the newspaper

Eagle article, June 3, 2012 article
If I find a link to the online story I'll share it here but in the mean time this is a low quality scan of the page. The general website for the paper is It's exciting to make it in the paper, I just wish they had done some type of interview or had more of a writeup.

The inside rebar on our main dome is continuing to be installed. Hopefully that will finish up tomorrow (Tuesday) and the electricians and plumbers will get in there after that. I know I have said the same thing in my last few posts, maybe it is wishful thinking. However, the new news is that the airforms for the garage and auxiliary dome were delivered this morning, and while the electricians and plumbers are working inside the main dome, the Monolithic crew will be working on the other buildings. The plan is for them to get back in the main dome late this week and start working on the final coat of concrete probably Monday of next week. They hope to be completely finished with the main dome on Wednesday of next week!!!!

Last Friday the general contractor and I sat down for about 2 hours and discussed the locations and type of the various light fixtures, plugs, switches, and such for the house. I had never really considered how permanent a decision it was to properly locate the electrical that will be in the outer walls. The normal interior walls are more flexible and if we decide to move a switch from this wall to that wall, it is only a pain, while in the outer wall, it is all but impossible after the dome is completed. So if you are designing a dome home, think about electrical (and plumbing) early on and be ready to answer exactly (to the nearest inch) you want those things on the inside of the dome (and the outside for that matter).

Friday, June 1, 2012


Yesterday I did not make it out to the site, so I don't have anything to report about the progress they made there. Instead my wife and I (and the kids) spent several hours looking at the plans and cutting out little pieces of furniture from card stock. The goal was to figure out about where we wanted to put the various electrical outlets, cable connections, internet connections, etc. It got late so we did not quite finish, but today we need to decide which of these will be on the backup system and which will just go dead in the event of a power failure. We need to finish today, since on Monday the electrical contractor needs to start putting the conduit in for the stuff in the outer walls. The interior walls we still have a lot of time, but the outside walls we need to decide now.