RE: Domes for common houses -- or individuals
From: Carl Chatfield (
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 1997 13:39:09 -0500
At Sharingwood we had a brief encounter with some folks who proposed
building a dome as their residence. For various reasons the proposal
fell through and the proposers backed out of Sharingwood altogether. The
dome proposers did make a good argument that a dome is a good design for
enclosing the maximum space with the minimum of materials, and not
presenting an ugly "back of the house" to any of its neighbors (we have
a few houses at Sharingwood with fairly unfriendly north walls facing
their neighbors). The primary problem we found with the dome was that it
would have had a very hard time getting through our community's
architectural review process. Our process puts a lot of weight on
consistency and harmony with existing residences, and the dome ran into
trouble there. 

The review process that the dome went through caused me and other
Sharingwood members to reconsider some of our architectural guidelines.
We didn't actually change any specific guidelines, but we did clarify
the formal review process so that the builders have a reasonably safe
way of making their proposals to the community. Our guidelines are on
the Web at:

The guidelines actually say more about the review process than design
specifics such as roof pitch, etc. Such design specifics that are of
legitimate concern to the community go through all sorts of negotiations
between builder and community residents. The job of the architectural
review committee is to keep everyone focused on those issues that are of
legitimate concern to the community.

One specific issue about domes that I mention in relation to common
houses is something Stewart Brand wrote in his excellent book "How
Buildings Learn." I don't have the book handy but to paraphrase, he said
something about domes being very hard if not impossible to add on to
later. At Sharingwood we may very well expand our common house some day,
which will be a relatively easy task (engineering-wise, anyway) because
it's a traditional hip roof structure.


Carl Chatfield
Sharingwood cohousing community
Snohomish County, Washington 

> -----Original Message-----
> Sent: Thursday, April 17, 1997 3:40 PM
> Subject:      Domes for common houses -- or individuals
> Maybe domes were discussed sometime on the list when I wasn't paying 
> attention, but I don't remember seeing them discussed as alternatives
> to 
> strawbale, earthships, etc.
> I love rounded shapes of all kinds - underground kivas, sculpted
> adobe, 
> eartships, the large dome at Sunrise Ranch community (near Loveland,
> CO). 
> If you built a big dome as a common house, it could have a relatively 
> open structure for the ground floor for the dining, dancing, kitchen, 
> etc., then on the upper floor(s) it could have more private, enclosed 
> rooms for the various purposes of your community.
> My understanding is there are many advantages to domes and most of the
> disadvantages have been overcome (such as the original ones in the 60s
> used to leak).
> I hear geodesic domes can be relatively energy efficient, and are 
> earthquake resistant and high wind resistent.  They're not too
> expensive 
> to build and can be built out of more sustainable materials (e.g.,
> they 
> don't have to be made out of wood/plywood.)
> Any dome fans out there?  Any cohousing sites using them or
> considering 
> them?  If not, why not?  Please, let's not get cohousing-L into
> another 
> flame war about the merits of various building technologies -- if you 
> want to proselytize, just refer us to your web site and be done with
> it, 
> ok?
> Michael
> Coming Soon:  Communities of the Future website 

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.