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Utah Students Build Disaster-Resistant Dome Homes

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In March, a group of students from Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, spent their spring break building disaster-resistant dome homes in Mexico. Groups of students from SUU have been traveling to Mexico for the past seven years, donating time and resources to build homes, but this was the first time they used the new technology to build dome houses.

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Last winter, SUU Construction Management Prof. Boyd Fife met with David South, Monolithic Dome Institute president, to discuss the possibility of transitioning from building conventional homes to the dome structures. The dome design makes the homes more resistant to disasters and uses fewer materials.

Domes are built using an inflatable air form, donated by Dome Technology. The form is covered with rebar and concrete and deflated and reused once the concrete is dry. This building method is much faster than conventional home construction. In the time the group is typically able to build half of a conventional home, they can build three of the dome homes, Fife says.

Once the SUU group decided to try the dome construction, they received training and enough donated materials to build three homes. “The group consisted of about seven to 10 construction management students joined by about 30 other alternative-spring break students from across campus,” Fife says. These students learned the skills they would need before going to Mexico. While there, they finished a conventional home that was already underway and built the shells of three dome homes.

The students built the homes in Guyamas, an area in northwestern Mexico that needs volunteer help. For construction management students, these trips provide an opportunity for hands-on experience.

Each year, groups go to Mexico in the spring and again in December. During the December trips, a group of students contributes their time one week and then a group of families goes the following week to donate time and labor. Fife says they hope to have other schools begin to participate in the project.


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