Project File: Dome buildings compose campus

The School of Communication Arts, Raleigh, N.C., will be moving from its one-story office building to three monolithic dome buildings in Wakefield, N.C., that are scheduled for completion by the end of this month.

The three domes will stand equidistant from each other on an 11-acre site. Two of the domes will house pie-shaped classrooms, and the third will feature a 200-foot, high-definition theater, a soundstage, a mixing stage, and an editing and audio suite for the school's digital filmmaking program. A flat-roof traditional building, which will serve as the library and administrative offices, will connect the three domes.

Monolithic dome construction begins by pouring a circular concrete footing. An airform, which is a circular piece of single-ply roofing material that is attached to special hooks around the footing, is inflated. Giant fans lift the airform, creating a dome shape. After the airform is in place, about 3 inches of polyurethane foam is applied. Hooks are embedded in the foam around the dome's interior surface and are used to hang steel rebar. The rebar grid then is covered with a 2- to 3-inch layer of shotcrete.

The insulating foam and the concrete's thermal mass make the domes less expensive to heat and cool than traditional buildings. The dome buildings are strong enough to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency's criteria for “near-absolute protection” from natural disasters.

The architect for this project is Rick Crandall (Mesa, Ariz.).

For more information on these projects and others, visit

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