For starters, the rounded shape makes domed homes more energy efficient than traditionally shaped homes and lowers both heating and cooling costs, notes Dana. Dome houses can also be built faster and use fewer materials and resources than traditional houses. Although some form of concrete is still commonly used to create a home’s outer shell, Dana says there are more sustainable options, including natural earth materials like adobe, bamboo, straw or adobe, as well as modern concrete substitutes like hemp and mycelium.
Part of what makes dome homes so sustainable is in their design. “The dome shape evenly distributes stress without supporting columns or walls, making it surprisingly strong,” adds Dana. This means domes can withstand most meteorological and geological events, including extreme temperatures, wind, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and wildfires. Because the home doesn’t need frequent remodeling or repairs, the consumption (and cost) of building materials is reduced, as is the energy expended during rebuilding, she notes.
Yet despite these advantages, the dome has a secure place in pop culture and a 1971 New York Times Article declaring that “the dome as a home is catching on” this model of living never made it to the mainstream — at least not in the United States. After all, the houses that most Americans draw as children (and then dream of moving in as adults) tend to look straight forward. In a 2014 column for CBS News, real estate journalist Ilyce Glink wrote, “The dome house is an oddity, and despite the great strides the industry has made in mixing common architectural elements to smooth the dome’s unique look, there is there is no hiding the distinctive look of a curved building that the eye thinks should be square.”
Since starting her TikTok series on alternative living, Dana has become very clear that many people are genuinely interested in more sustainable homes (including those with domes) but have never been presented as a viable option. Additionally, she says that these homes — which were intended to be affordable and accessible housing solutions — become inaccessible to the average person when you factor in the necessary permits, zoning, and insurance.
“As a history teacher, I think it stems from a general lack of knowledge about these options that even exist, as well as the stigma attached to dome enclosures and earthen enclosures as ‘primitive,'” Dana continues. Without the opportunity to see and learn about dome houses on a regular basis, it’s easy for many of us to dismiss domes as either futuristic oddities or as so archaic that they belong in natural history museum dioramas rather than modern-day neighborhoods.
Similarly, the round design of dome homes also calls for a massive lifestyle change — something American homeowners haven’t really embraced until recently. “The open-space floorplan, while allowing room for creativity and customization, was unfamiliar in the US, although common elsewhere,” adds Dana. “When the dome is built of concrete, the walls are more difficult to decorate, furniture isn’t as easy to push against the walls, and resale value was an issue.”