Beyond Thunderdome

Posted on 06. Jan, 2009 by in Lifestyle

words by Jen Kay

With the recent ring of fire surrounding Southern California, it just may be the end of the world as we know it. Now is the time to call on Mad Max and his survival crew to provide safety and comfort for those left behind. Sci-Fi inspired Hildebrand Construction seems equally equipped for doomsday, surviving the fire storm – and building earthquake, flame, and hurricane resistant monolithic domes. Their unique design aesthetic and ingenious structural creations jet us into the space age, and all we need now are hovercrafts to complete our futuristic fantasies.
Until recently monolithic domes were built for utilitarian purposes, and as such the design choices were limited; however, the structural strength of a reinforced concrete shell allows for some spectacular design concepts. For starters, up to 40% of the dome can be glass (or other materials) without compromising its integrity. Imagine living in a post-modern snow globe! The diversity of the design is actually afforded these structures by the inherent strength of the dome shape.
The domes can be built into a hill or mountain, on or in terrain where conventional housing might be more difficult to implement. The ideal locale for these structures is within natural and secluded landscapes to take advantage of the monolithic dome’s strongest aesthetic and functional feature – the panoramic views. Current custom plans include free hanging mezzanine floors, see-through vacuum elevators, and self-heating pools built into the dome top, which most certainly will have all the cool kids nudging at their parent’s credit card. “I want a dome home with a
Jacuzzi on top! Now Daddy!”

Company founder Dan Hildebrand comments on his inspiration: “Art Deco styling has inspired my work and some of the early concrete work in the 40’s and 50’s. Concrete is this fantastic material that allows you to turn fluid forms into permanent fixtures and structures - and the cathedral sized caves of Indonesia certainly gave me a few ideas.”
As part of his world dome-i-nation plan, Hildebrand (an alumni of the Monolithic Dome Institute, est. 1998 by the field’s leading monolithic engineers) has launched a non-profit, whose mission is to build smaller versions of the domes, called “EcoShells”, in developing countries. Using a special balloon-like airform mold and reinforced concrete, the shell of a two story family house can be built in a single day. For warmer climates, the added feature of self-insulation is a notable advantage (dome interior temperatures can be up to 20 degrees lower than outside).
After the Java earthquake (May, 2006) in the Indian Ocean 15 miles south of the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, Hildebrand received funding from WANGO and working with the non-profit arm of the Monolitchic Dome Institute headed out to Indonesia to build a community of dome homes for under $5,000 each. In just six months they completed 71 Eco-Shell family houses, six communal washrooms, an education center, a place of worship, and a clinic. Indonesian craftspeople were hired and trained to use the construction equipment, which was left behind so that construction could continue after the crew had trekked onto their next mission.
What would be Hildebrand’s dream dome backdrop? “A section of the Hollywood Dell has a plot with a view of the city that is crying out for a Dome,” says Hildebrand. “I already have plans for a dome with a glass pool in the roof, a huge media room/recording studio, and a whole floor dedicated to entertaining.”
The construction of a Hildebrand-built community dome is the latest project under the hammer in New Orleans - where most residences are positioned below sea level. That fact alone hosts a whole new set of challenges for the dome crew. Domes For Homes will continue philanthropic efforts in India, Fiji, Australia, Haiti and Java, while Hildebrand Construction introduces the US and UK consumer markets to homes fit for The Jetsons – making Round the new Black. Don’t be square.

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