Message - Re: ArchWeek - Air-Formed Concrete Domes

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Posted by  Jonathan Zimmerman, NCARB on January 25, 2003 at 16:03:42:

In Reply to:  Re: ArchWeek - Air-Formed Concrete Domes posted by Ma. Nora Soriano on January 24, 2003 at 17:41:08:

FROM: Ma. Nora Soriano on January 24, 2003 at 17:41:08:

"The forms and design process created by the air-formed concrete domes seem exciting. I am concern about working with other disciplines (e.g. balloon manufacturer, structural engineers, building officials and contractors)."

Dear Ma. Nora Soriano,

Thank you for your comments and questions. Your question was forwarded to me by ARCHITECTURE WEEK.

There are several balloon makers and structural engineers qualified to work with this technology. If you look on my website, click on any of the images of the Kaselle Residence, in the "On the drawing boards" section, and it will bring up the rest of the information about this project. This information includes direct links to the balloon maker and to the shell engineer.

Building officials have never been a problem in over 25 years of working with this. Now that I can show them a website with completed projects and a bibliography listing publications by extremely reputable agencies, they are convinced that this is a viable construction system. When building officials realize that we are dealing with steel reinforced concrete structures, and the fact that I have six professional licenses and grey hair, their fears rapidly give way to enthusiasm. Sometimes, they look at the structural drawings, relax and immediately grant a building permit. Other times, a building department will surrender in confusion and hire an independent structural engineering firm to review the drawing. They often ask questions indicating that they do not understand the construction process. Once their questions are answered, everything is fine.

The real problem can be with planning departments, which are concerned with enforceing design resirictions pertaining to covenants and dedd restrictions pertaining to individual properties. This is why I always advise prospective clients to review their paperwork and show my website to their local planning department, before hiring me to do any preliminary design work. If an architect is a good steward of the interests of a client, the place to start is by not accepting a fee for a design that the client will not be allowed to build. This problem most often occurs with residential construction on city lots or in housing subdivisions where an architectural style has already been established. This problem usually does not occur with larger tracts of county land.

"How do you go about with this non-traditional design and convince these disciplines it will work?"

My shell engineers need no convincing...they already know it will and does work.

It is another story with dome builders. You have to work with qualified people who know what they are doing.

"In terms of costing, does it have an edge against the conventional way?"

Shell costs in the USA, including foundation system, shel and openings in the shell are coming in around $45 per square foot of base area, or building footprint, for a container that can hold more than one floor. Interior walls and finish costs vary according to what part of the USA you are building in.

For housing, the finished project costs are the same as that for conventional custom housing. This is really a good price when you consider that this technology produces much stronger, safer and more energy conserving buildings compared to conventional construction as well as many forms of alternative construction systems.

If you prefer to correspond with me directly, you may use my email address:

Where are you? Are you in Europe? Italy, perhaps?

I have no way of knowing. I have not yet had a project in Europe, but there may be balloon makers and engineers qualified to do this work there.

Thank you for your interest,


Jonathan Zimmerman, NCARB

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