Page B1.1 . 22 January 2003                     
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    Air-Formed Concrete Domes

    by Jonathan Zimmerman, NCARB

    Throughout history, structurally efficient domes have been built from masonry, wood, concrete, and even ice. But there's still plenty of room left in dome technology for invention and construction efficiency. New ways to form, reinforce, and insulate "air-formed" concrete domes have been a primary focus of my architectural practice for about 25 years.

    In the 1930s, air-formed-dome pioneers tried spraying various materials over inflated rubber bladders, but they had no effective way to reinforce or insulate the structure. In the early 1960s, California architect Lloyd Turner came up with the idea of spraying concrete on the inside of inflated forms. He also developed the use of urethane foam as an insulator and as a framework for applying the reinforcing steel and concrete.

    Through years of experimentation, Turner and others have devised an effective method that that satisfies a variety of environmental and cultural needs with an economy of materials. This is the method that I use in my own residential and commercial architectural work. I continue to be fascinated by this technology as an efficient method of space enclosure and excited by the opportunity to play a part in the development of a new architectural art form.

    From Idea to Form

    I begin very traditionally, by sketching a design on paper. When a client approves the basic concept, I move to my computer. The shell forms I envision have no straight lines and flat planes; this makes them reproducible by hot-air balloon manufacturers.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    The Garlock House was built with air-formed concrete dome technology.
    Photo: Tom Travis, Denver, Colorado

    ArchWeek Image

    Domed interior of the Garlock House.
    Photo: Tom Travis, Denver, Colorado

     

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