Illinois Dome Homes: A Solution to Climate Threats?

As the effects of climate change become more evident and severe, some people are looking for alternative ways to build their homes that are more resilient, energy-efficient, and environmentally friendly. One of these options is the dome home, a spherical structure that can withstand extreme weather conditions and reduce heating and cooling costs. In Illinois, dome homes have a special connection to the state’s history and culture, as well as a growing demand in the market.


What is a dome home?

A dome home is a type of building that uses a geodesic dome as its main structure. A geodesic dome is a polyhedron composed of triangular facets that form a spherical shape. The dome has many advantages over conventional buildings, such as:

  • It is stronger and more stable, as it distributes the weight evenly across the surface and can resist high winds, earthquakes, and heavy snow loads.
  • It is more energy-efficient, as it has less surface area and volume than a rectangular building of the same size, and can maintain a constant temperature with minimal heating and cooling systems.
  • It is more environmentally friendly, as it requires less material and labor to construct, and can be made with renewable or recycled materials.

How did dome homes become popular in Illinois?

The geodesic dome was popularized by R. Buckminster Fuller, a renowned 20th-century inventor, architect, and visionary. Fuller was born in Massachusetts, but he lived in a Carbondale dome while working as a professor at Southern Illinois University from 1959 to 1971. He also designed several other domes in the state, such as the Union Tank Car Dome in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which was the largest clear-span structure in the world at the time.

Fuller’s influence can still be seen in Illinois today, where some dome home owners and builders are inspired by his legacy and philosophy. For example, Bill McVay, who recently listed his 4,000-square-foot dome in Somonauk for $475,000, said he and his partner wanted to “stay off the grid as much as possible” and found the home’s energy efficiency and then-secluded location especially appealing1. McVay’s home was built by Domespace, a Canadian company that once viewed its fleet of spinning domes as “the homes of the future”1.

What is the current market for dome homes in Illinois?

According to Dennis Odin Johnson, the owner of Natural Spaces Domes, a Minnesota-based company that sells dome kits and shells across the country, there is a growing demand for dome homes in Illinois and other states. Johnson said he has doubled his staff and expects to sell around 40 domes this year, up from 20 last year1. He said his clients are looking for something different and are attuned to climate change.

Johnson also said that dome homes are relatively cheap to build compared to conventional houses. He estimated that a completed dome costs 5-to-15% less to build, requiring 60% less lumber than a standard house of the same size. For an average-size dome, completed building costs range from $350,000 to $450,000 in rural areas, with costs up to 50% higher in cities and suburbs1.

However, there are also some challenges and drawbacks to owning a dome home. Some of them include:

  • Obtaining permits and financing from local authorities and lenders who may not be familiar with or supportive of dome structures.
  • Finding contractors and subcontractors who have the skills and experience to work on dome projects.
  • Dealing with zoning and building codes that may not accommodate the unique features of dome homes.
  • Maintaining the exterior and interior of the dome, which may require special materials and equipment.
  • Selling the dome home in the future, which may be difficult due to its niche appeal and unconventional appearance.


Dome homes are an innovative and alternative way of living that offer many benefits in terms of strength, efficiency, and sustainability. They also have a strong connection to Illinois’ history and culture through the legacy of R. Buckminster Fuller. However, they also face some challenges and limitations in terms of cost, regulation, maintenance, and marketability. As climate change continues to pose threats to conventional buildings and lifestyles, dome homes may become more appealing and accessible to those who seek a different and resilient way of living.

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