by Gloria Wright of
Geodesic dome homes are energy efficient, use fewer building
materials and don't need much dusting because of the even air flow.
Practical considerations aside, local dome residents say what they
love most about their homes are the soaring ceilings and feeling of open
"You have the feeling of almost being outdoors," said Louise Lutz, of
Tully, whose Wetmore Road home is situated to see the lights of Song
Mountain Resort ski center.
Lutz and Joe Zader had their 40-foot dome built in 1990-91 after
getting married. Each had a home -- he in Solvay and she in Village
Green Apartments in Baldwinsville -- and they wanted a home that was
theirs, they said.
"We went everywhere looking," Zader said, "but there was always
something wrong. So we decided to look for land and build our own home."
A friend suggested a dome, and the design spoke to the couple.
"I'm not a straight line kind of person," she said.
Steve George, of Otisco Valley Road in Marietta, saw his first
geodesic dome at the 1967 Montreal World's Fair, where the U.S. Pavilion
was a 200-foot-high geodesic dome that was 250 feet in diameter.
"I went into that big dome and it was so impressive," he said. "It's
one of those things that sits in the back of your head."
The Montreal dome was designed by architect R. Buckminster Fuller,
who patented the geodesic dome in 1954 and coined the phrase "spaceship
Fuller discovered that if a spherical structure was created from
triangles, it would have unparalleled strength.
According to The Buckminster Fuller Institute Brooklyn, a dome is
energy efficient, in part because:
SPENCER GEORGE,11 (left),
and his father, Steve, stand beneath a 15½-foot-wide skylight in their
geodesic dome home on Otisco Valley Road, Marietta."I wanted the
skylight. I wanted something where you walk in, look up and go, 'Wow,"'
Steve George said.
Dome kits can range in price from about $40,000 to $100,000 and more.
- Its decreased surface area requires less building materials.
- Exposure to cold in the winter and heat in the summer is decreased
because, being spherical, there is the least surface area per unity of
volume per structure.
- The concave interior creates a natural airflow that allows the hot
or cool air to flow evenly throughout the dome with the help of return
Steve George said he uses 120 watts of electricity to heat his
40-foot-diameter dome: the equivalent of three, 40-watt bulbs.
He and his wife, Shelby, built the three-bedroom, two-bath house from
a kit beginning in 2002. They hired a plumber and did the rest of the
The house is made up of 96 triangles, with 18-inch-thick walls filled
with insulation. The windows and skylights are triple-paned,
argon-filled, low-e glass. There is radiant floor heating, with the
water heated in an outdoor wood boiler.
Louise Lutz and Joe Zader live
in a geodesic dome on Wetmore Road in Tully. Their front window 20 feet
wide and about 10 feet high and made up of eight triangular windows.
"It costs me nothing to heat this house," he said.
The Georges decided to build a dome after attending a "dome-raising"
in Connecticut. About 10 people -- only one with building experience --
erected a geodesic dome in a day.
"These were ordinary people, who had never swung a hammer," he said.
Once the family had decided on a dome, George built a scale model,
2-feet across, and placed it on the building site to see which angle
would best take advantage of the sun for passive solar heating, and of
"I wanted the moon," he said, to shine through the 15 1/2-foot-wide
skylight. "I wanted the skylight. I wanted something where you walk in,
look up and go wow," he said.
On Christmas, the full moon shone into the George home, illuminating
their 18-foot-tall Christmas tree.
George, Lutz and Zader all described building a geodesic dome as
"like putting together Tinkertoys."
In a day, the frame of Lutz and Zader's dome was up. They added
extensions to the main dome, which house a plant room, a bathroom and a
work room. The front window is made up of eight triangular windows
stretching 20 feet wide and about 10 feet high.
The biggest problem George had building the dome was roofing.
"I called probably 30 roofers and they wouldn't touch it," he said.
He watched as roofers slowed down, looked at the house and then kept
going. Others pulled into the driveway, looked at the dome, and pulled
He and his wife ended up doing it themselves, Shelby cutting the
shingles with a large paper cutter like those in schools, he said. Once
they figured out the pattern -- points up first, points down, overlap --
the work went quickly, George said.
Dome living does have its drawbacks.
The shape tends to create odd-shaped corners, closets and dead space.
Figuring out where to put the refrigerator was a challenge.
Lutz and Zader built out a straight wall in the kitchen to hang the
cabinets. The Georges have lived with a basic kitchen with little
storage for the past five years, and now that they are familiar with how
the space works, they are getting ready for a redo. They will have
custom cabinets built.
Sound reverberates in a dome. Lutz said she can hear the television
better in their loft bedroom than she can when sitting in the living
"It's like the whispering dome at St. Paul's (Cathedral)," in London,
she said. "I don't think I would like it if I had kids," Lutz said.
George and his wife have a bedroom downstairs in the dome, while his
children, Spencer, 11, and Kallie, 13, have bedrooms in a loft area that
overlooks the living room. He can hear everything that happens in the
children's bedrooms, which can be a mixed blessing with teenagers.
On the other hand, he said, his inexpensive stereo sounds great, and
movie nights "sound outrageous."
Gloria Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or