Pensacola, Florida Monolithic Dome Home Airform Inflation

Crew Attaches Airform.

The dome is inflated! We inflate these at a lower pressure at first. This allows us to look for any problems that may have popped up, and install the airlock. If everything looks good, we kick up the air pressure. In this image, you can see our crew attaching the airlock.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Airform inflation for Ida and Doug Ward of Pensacola, Florida, went off without a hitch. The Ward home is a 47-foot-diameter dome attached to a 35-foot-diameter garage dome. The two domes are connected via a tunnel. The house has about 1700 square feet of living space and a 960-square-foot garage.

This Airform inflated quickly. We turned the fan on at 11:30 a.m., and it was done inflating by 11:38 a.m.

Mike South visits the site of a new Monolithic Dome home near Pensacola, Florida and captures the inflation of the Airform.

Monolithic / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Time Index for Video

  • 00:00 Introduction and description of the home
  • 00:27 Time lapse of inflation
  • 00:46 Description of extended augment
  • 01:31 More about the inflation
  • 02:15 Discussion of tunnel connector
  • 02:32 Description of our inflation hardware and methods
  • 03:42 Manometers
  • 04:52 Scaffolding
  • 05:01 Paxis rotating scaffold base
  • 05:15 Airlock
  • 05:44 Wrap up and conclusion

You may see on the video that we have two inflator fans on this dome, but we only used one to do the initial inflation. The second inflator fan will be hooked up to a backup generator so that during the critical portions of dome construction, we can have two power sources and two sources of air.

Airform Ready to Inflate.

An aerial view of the job site with the Airform in place and ready to be inflated. To the upper left of the connection between the two domes, one inflator fan is connected and ready to start. The second inflator fan is on standby at the bottom right of the Airform. Before applying the foam, we will hook up the second fan to a backup generator to ensure the dome never loses air pressure.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

We used our SC3 inflator fan. We use this little fan for many types of smaller projects like this one. The fan itself is a simple grain dryer fan hooked up to a three-horsepower motor. We customize these fans for dome building by adding a front box with two essential components. One component is a door with weights called a wastegate. This helps keep the air pressure inside the dome from rising too much during foaming and when leaks are sealed. Another key to the success of this fan is the set of louvers that close if the fan shuts off. If a fan dies or loses power, those louvers will shut and block air from escaping the dome.

A manometer measures the air pressure inside the dome. It does this by measuring water displacement in a tube attached to the Airform. We calibrate the water level so that the level is at zero with no added air pressure. When you feed the tube into the Airform where the air pressure is higher, the water will move to show the difference in inches of water column pressure. The video goes over this in more depth.

We’ll be assembling our Paxis rotating scaffold next and installing window and door frames. After that, we’ll cover the floor with plastic and begin spraying polyurethane foam.

Turning on the Fan!

Ida and Doug Ward stand ready to flip the switch and blow up inflate the Airform for their new home.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Waiting for the Ward Family.

The Airform is fully attached, and we’re waiting for the whole family to arrive so they can witness the inflation. You can see us milling around by the bobcat. At the bottom of the photo, you can see the gray tube laying on top of the Airform where the second fan will be attached. At the upper right, the green airlock stands ready and one fan is attached.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Second Story Extended Augments.

Top floor extended augments? No problem. Monolithic’s ability to inflate complex shapes in one single inflation is one of the ways we can keep costs down while building incredible structures.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Augments Before Interior Framing Flattens Them Out.

Once the preliminary groundwork is done, the dome will be inflated to full pressure, and these augments will receive their framing. The pillowed end of this augment will be removed once the dome shell is finished. This will be a smooth, arched window opening.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Preparing to Frame Augments.

Interior shot of the main dome from the connection tunnel. Airform fabric is translucent, so even before we turn on construction lights, you can actually see pretty well when you’re inside. On the floor, the parts to our Paxis Polar Scaffold are ready to be assembled. Soon we’ll start framing out the augments, and then we’ll be ready to foam.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Starburst.

Seam patterns in the dome are very cool looking. It took 135 individually cut panels to create this Airform, each cut and marked with our automated CNC machine. The panels are cut and welded together with our RF welder in our manufacturing facility in Italy, Texas.

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Accidentally Artsy.

The drone captured this image of me hanging around the airlock before the inflation started. My sister thinks the image looks like a construction crew’s version of the obelisk from the beginning of the movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Mike South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0