May 29, 2018

Building a 5V 5/8 Mega Dome

Roberto Quintana, WFA

Los Angeles Muralist and Artist

Art and Soul Productions

Roberto Quintana is a well-known and much-appreciated artist in the Los Angeles, California, area. He and his wife, Susan, have a nice home with his art studio and a garden. They also have two kitties, Emma and Paolo, who wanted a safe space in the backyard. Researching various solutions on the Internet, Roberto came upon Sonostar domes; he and Susan agreed that a dome would make a perfect "kitty-ary" and would be welcoming to human friends as well. This is their shelter dome building story.
We traveled to Orange County to visit the Sonostar workshop in Santa Ana. We checked out all the Sonostar domes…so many that there were geodomes within domes!...
…and a generous 26′ 4V dome with a parachute dome cover, which Sonostar folks use as a cozy and comfortable “break room.”
Inside the workshop, we met Nathan, the staff associate who fabricates the dome kits together. The Sonostar shop has a lot of precision equipment designed to make each kit fit together perfectly.
Nathan guides the saw to cut the PVC struts in various lengths. He then uses the two drill presses to drill bolt holes and to ensure that the holes in the struts and the holes in the dome connector hubs are precisely aligned at the same angle.
We decided on a 25′ diameter 5V Megadome that uses 1′′ furniture-grade UV-protected PVC struts and hubs.
Nathan packaged the dome kits so efficiently that all the materials necessary to build a 25′ structure could easily fit in Roberto's artist van with room to spare.
The first order of business when we got home was to put together an A-Team of Seasoned Geodesic Dome Builders. We settled on well-intentioned friends and neighbors, including engineers, a planetary spectroscopy scientist, an astrophysicist and his precocious young son, a Caltech geologist grad student, an astronaut, and a former Mars Rover driver. No seasoned geodesic dome builder in sight, but we think we're ready to go.
As aging hippies, we had long admired R. Buckminster Fuller and The Whole Earth Catalog. Roberto dug out an old dome book for inspiration and started to prep for the dome assembly.
We organized all the pieces and preassembled what we could before we got started on the dome raising.
We had decided on the 5V 5/8 Mega Dome because we wanted to build the dome over a bi-level site with a 2′ retaining wall. The 5V 5/8 configuration allowed us to span the 2′ step down and take the dome up to the door. The plan was for kitties and humans both to be able to walk from the house right out into the dome.
Roberto set up scaffolding and laid out the base according to Sonostar's easy-to-understand, color-coded building instructions.
Roberto extended the dome below the retaining wall using the struts and hubs he did not need in the door opening. We were now ready to invite in the dome-raising team.
The hubs and struts for the first four rows went together easily with the stainless steel nuts and bolts. The clean finished Sonostar geodome connector design is very efficient and handsome.
The team worked together beautifully, following the Sonostar instruction map and double checking each other's work. By the fifth row, everyone was up on ladders and scaffolding.
Because we (“we” being Roberto) had preassembled struts and hubs, installation was easier as the dome took shape.
Installation was also made easier with a variety of ladder sizes and Roberto's mural-painting scaffolding.
When we reached the apex of the dome structure we realized that by eliminating the final pentagon, we were left with an enchanting five-star "oculus"…
… for our SonoSTAR dome.
We had explored various options for keeping the dome "open air" and creating a safe space for the kitties. We decided on a 1.75′′ sports barrier netting to keep our cats in and large critters out while allowing small birds and bees and butterflies to enjoy the fresh-air space with us.
The Now-Seasoned Geodesic Dome Building Team made short work of installing the square netting over the oval dome. Creating three "doors" into the space from the yard was simply a matter of strategically removing struts and hubs.
Emma was the first to venture out, cautious but curious, to explore her new DOMEicile.
And now we can enjoy our fully netted garden dome accessible from the house, ready for landscaping, planting, kitty romping, morning coffee, and afternoon garden parties. Bucky would be so proud! We are very impressed with Sonostar’s design, materials, and service; we highly recommend them for your dome project. Thank you, Jon Dietz and the Sonostar Team.