Life in a Domespace
By Linda Fletcher
A movement is taking place all over the world in natural, alternative, sustainable building techniques and architecture. There is an incredible array of building techniques using various materials and concepts, from earthships, earth bag construction, rammed earth, straw and mud, strawbales, adobe, cordwood, papercrete/fibrous cement earth blocks, cob structures, geodesic domes, yurts, subterranean, and combinations of techniques and materials. Some structures use recycled cans and automobile tires or have built in gardens or greenhouses. There is an abundance of information on the many possibilities for building sustainable natural homes/structures that promote sustainable living.
What makes all the techniques interesting is that they are all working towards energy efficiency in building. Most of the work being done in the U.S. in this growing natural building renaissance is taking place in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and California. As the interest in ecologically sound building techniques grows, owner/builder groups are springing up taking the initiative and challenge. People are grouping together to build their own homes.
Domespace is a dome building company that is based in Brittany, France and building their first U.S. dome structure in New Paltz, NY, about 90 miles from NYC in the midst of a 28-acre cedar forest. Patrick Marsilli is the designer and founder of Domespace—the result of a dream that he had when he was 14. He has been shaping this dream ever since—a circular house that rotates like the earth. Domespace design can be a home or even a church. Domespace’s structural design is aware of nature and is constructed to be a part of it, in that the structure embraces the outside environment, with tall windows that let in the surrounding sunlight as the structure rotates making use of available energy.
Domespace is an environmental concept in living which utilizes the energy of the sun. The fact that Domespace rotates is what makes it different from other domes. Its basic structure rotates on a cement plate which allows the structure to hold heat in the winter and lessen retention of heat in the summer. The dome rotates at 300 degrees—similar to the rotation of the earth—less 60 degrees to compensate for the fact that systems that maintain the structure need to be held in place. The structure is in sync with nature, and because of this unique design Domespace received “The Prize of the Environment” in Germany in 1994. The company has been in existence since 1978 and has built domes in France, Taiwan, Switzerland, Germany, Tahiti and Spain.
Recently, I visited the Domespace construction site in New Paltz, NY, and met Shiva Vencat. He is an incredible teacher, in teaching the concepts of Domespace’s structures. He says that the principles of design that they employ at Domespace are similar to a pyramid. He even had a pyramid kit handy and demonstrated to me how the concept works—and the golden proportions. Golden proportions “Nombres D’ or ” are the proportions that exist everywhere in nature, including the human body. These proportions have been used throughout the ages in sacred architecture such as churches and temples. These proportions can also be found in the pyramids. Also, he said that once one is inside the dome, there is a feeling of calmness, like being in a sacred space or temple. What is most striking about Domespace’s design is the sense of openness in a living space. As I was looking up at the high windows that run along the walls vertically (numbering seven), I felt like I was inside and at the same time part of the outside surroundings and the structure combines the two.
Some basic building aspects associated with the Domespace:
- Cedar panels are used on the outside of the structure.
- Automatic rotation lets Domespace absorb the necessary energy int eh winter months and less int he summer.
- Passive solar energy is used by turning towards or away from the sun.
- A house can be built in two to three months with a crew of six to eight.
- Contains passive solar energy using the sun and solar panels can be installed.
- The structure is above the ground and anchored on a cement foundation.
- The interior has exceptional lighting due tot he orientation of the windows toward the sky.
- The floor plan flows gently from the center and provides more space per square foot than traditional structures.
- The structures are earthquake- and hurricane-proof.
- Woods such as spruce, larch, cedar and oak are used on the interior.
- A large chimney in the center provides warmth.
- Domespace has construction guides that can help in the construction if you are interested in self-construction and can be shipped to you in cargo containers.
- Self/group construction can reduce the cost by up to 40% to about $60 per square foot.
To learn more go to www.domespace.com.
Originally published in the July/August 2002 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal.