| Finished Dome Tour |
|In the summer of 1979 John N. Hait, the inventor of Passive Annual Heat Storage, had been organizing a series of his inventions for the production of gasohol. While his alcohol distillation equipment seemed capable of producing 6.23 times as much alcohol fuel per BTU as the conventional equipment then in use, the government grant he was pursuing required that the entire production facility to be as energy efficient as possible. So he undertook the study of thermodynamics and structural engineering. The most energy efficient candidate turned out to be an earth sheltered geodesic dome, shown here in completed form.
The comment was made that this would make a “really neat house.” So he moved out all of the equipment, moved in the furniture, and went seeking the funds to build it. A fellow Montanan, Kent Harris, stepped up to the plate. The goal was to build, not just one home, but to design and build a concrete precasting facility capable of mass producing these incredible structures. Thus began one of the most unusual construction stories of the 20th century. One that became one of the most exciting scientific endeavors.
|Bucky Fuller’s above ground domes were beginning to dot the landscape in various places around the country. While being known for their great strength, there is a very great difference between a 60 lb. roof load of an above ground home and the 660 lb. load of four feet of earth added to that. Concrete was the logical choice of building materials. Four inch thick steel fibrous reinforced concrete with greater than seven bag mix. This was some of the toughest concoctions ever devised. The Geodome has 1.5 million pounds of fill on it and it is engineered to hold another one million.|
Structural engineer Tom Bodette solidified Hait’s geodesic design into a strong working structure. In 1979 very few engineers had ever heard of a “finite element analysis” such as the one Tom required. We found such a program at Boeing, one they used to engineer spacecraft. To program it, we found Prof. Supernaut from Montana State University, in Bozeman, Montana USA.
While paging through the 6 inch thick computer printout, Tom said, “This is a right stout building!” “Why do you say that?” asked Hait. His reply: “The typical reinforced concrete beam, spanning 20 feet is allowed to sag ¾ of an inch before it is out of tolerance. In this 39 foot dome, the largest deflection I can find is 4 one hundreds of an inch!” Subsequent measurements of the actual stress in the concrete during back filling proved the computer program to be correct.