Geodesic Domes Gain Weight and Settle Down

How could we call ourselves treehuggers and not cover this- the rebirth of every hippie's dream, the geodesic dome. However Bucky himself might have trouble recognizing these- he thought of them as light, elegant structures that were built out of a minimum of materials, not bombproof concrete. Treehugger hero Jay Baldwin says that when he worked with Bucky, the domes were rarely more than a standard 24 feet in diameter and cost less than $1,000 to build. Not any more: "The domes have gotten bigger and more expensive as people's incomes expanded," said Dennis Johnson, who founded Natural Spaces Domes. "They want another bedroom," said Robert Singer, the president of Timberline Geodesics, a dome manufacturer in Berkeley, Calif. "They want the home office, they want the entertainment room, they want the extra space in the basement, they want the large custom kitchen." Jay thinks they are bastardizations of Fuller's concepts. "I call them elephant droppings," he said. "Fuller's idea was that of a machine-made object, a pure geometry." ::New York Times

Photographs by Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

Bruce Nelkin and his wife, Deana, an insurance underwriter, spent about half a million dollars building their double dome on a 1.64-acre lot in Westchester County.

Constructed by American Ingenuity of Rockledge, Fla., which specializes in energy-efficient domes, the house is covered with four-inch-thick concrete panels and has seven-inch-thick polystyrene wallboard on the inside for added insulation.

It has 2,300 square feet of living space, including three bedrooms, a library and two offices, and although Mr. Nelkin admitted that they have had some trouble with leaks, he said the heating bills are minuscule.

The Nelkins, left, who have a toddler and a baby on the way, designed the inside of the house for comfort. Both science fiction fans, they were taken by the futuristic look of domes, but they modeled the interior on a Vermont ski lodge.

"Purely futuristic would be cold and hard and too utilitarian," Mr. Nelkin said.