DIY Dome Homes Built From Aircrete Are an Affordable & Ecofriendly Option

AirCrete dome home by Steve Areen
©.

Steve Areen

First there was foamcrete, then there was papercrete and hempcrete, and now we've got aircrete, a foamy mixture of air bubbles and cement that is cheap to make, water-resistant, fireproof, and DIY-friendly.

At one point, I fell under the spell of domes as a building form, and as I had plans to someday build my own home on some vacant land, I spent quite a bit of time and energy exploring the idea. Geodesic domes look cool, but there are a lot of angles and joints on a geodesic dome house that not only have to be cut and assembled, but would also serve as constant reminders of structural weak points, where water could leak through. Additionally, all of the materials would have to come from off-site, so that design was out for me.

The Search for the Perfect Dome

A rammed earth home, however, could be built with mostly on-site materials (plus a metric boatload of labor), but that technique would work best with walls that were vertical, not curved. Adobe blocks could be made on-site and built into a dome, and would be an appropriate choice for living comfortably in the southwest, but I wasn't convinced that adobe was the best choice of material for forming the roof of a dome, even if plastered and sealed.

I then really fell in love with Nader Khalili's Fired Ceramic Houses, which lead me down the path to learning about his SuperAdobe creations and then on to earthbag construction in general, which seemed the most accessible style of all. In the end, I ended up buying an old adobe home, so I never got any further into building a dome than doing the research. Still, I keep my eye out for interesting and low-cost methods of DIY building, and recently I came across this new (to me) construction material that seems worthy of consideration.

Aircrete Homes

DomeGaia's "AirCrete" homes, which are the brainchild of Hajjar Gibran (who happens to be the great-nephew of the poet Kahlil Gibran), are made with a foamy mixture of cement and air bubbles. The mixture creates a lightweight and low-cost building block that is fireproof, water-resistant, insect-proof, and serves to insulate the building. According to its creator, AirCrete offers a number of desirable attributes for use as a building material for single-story residences, especially for the owner-builder, among them the ability to cut construction costs "by a factor of 10" when compared with conventional construction.

DomeGaia AirCrete home

© Steve Areen

Beyond its affordability, DomeGaia says their AirCrete is easy to work with, drying in just one night and flexible enough to be shaped into almost any form. You can use your standard wood-working tools to carve or drill into the material, inserting screws and nails where necessary. Since the material continues to harden as time passes, you can be more confident about the shape you settle on instead of increasingly worried about future vulnerabilities.

The key to DomeGaia'sAirCrete is in the foaming agent, which works to suspend tiny air bubbles in the cement mixture, and a small piece of equipment, a continuous foam generator, which disperses a mix of the foaming agent (something as simple as an all-natural "high foaming" dish detergent) into the cement mixture to be mixed together. DomeGaia sells a readymade foam generator unit, the Little Dragon, and has plans and parts for building your own. They also sell a Foam-Injection AirCrete Mixer.

DomeGaia also sells building plans for AirCrete domes and offers 5- and 10-day building workshops in Hawaii, Mexico, and Chile for anyone wanting a little bit of practice before constructing an AirCrete dome by themselves. While DomeGaia promotes their own AirCrete material and dome, I did come across a number of other videos about building with aircrete, as well as a UK organization called the Aircrete Products Association. Though I no longer have an immediate need for a new home project, it's nice to know aircrete material is readily accessible when I do find that perfect plot of vacant land.

View Article Sources
  1. Markin, Viacheslav, et al. "Material Design and Performance Evaluation of Foam Concrete for Digital Fabrication." Materials (Basel), vol. 12, 15, 2019, p. 2433., doi:10.3390/ma12152433