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In spring 2010 I discussed with Dr Grant Jones, the CEO of Nelson Environment Centre, the idea of having a geodesic dome greenhouse at the NEC centre, to be built in time for the grand opening day of their new premises, late in February 2011. Ecotect would sponsor the project with Waimea Sawmillers co sponsoring the supply of the Douglas fir timber used in the domes construction.

It was decided that a 10 sq. m dome was appropriate as it came within the schedule 1 allowances for building work allowable without a consent, this provided for a 3.6m2 diameter dome. As a fan of Buckminster Fuller's work for decades, I had built dome models but never the real thing so I set to work with some experimental assemblies to determine which construction method would best suit my skills and available resources.

I decided to use timber struts with uPVC drain pipe sections for hubs, fixing them together with polypropylene packaging strapping which meant an investment in special tools. There are many different configurations in geodesics and my favourite (and the one we used) is the 5/8 sphere, 3 velocity, alternate breakdown icosahedron. The isoca being a 20 sided breakdown of a sphere, exactly like a soccer ball. Each main triangle is broken down into three rows of triangles forming 5 hexagon panels joined together with 4 pentagons and another pentagon at the crown. There are 3 different lengths of struts with 3 different end cut angles against the hubs (for those of you interested).

I had help from my friend Tim Mitchell and we finished the dome 15 minutes before the speeches began! The door and vents were made and added later and the garden bed has also now been added. The door has a counter weight system run through a pulley at the crown hub. The skin of the dome is 'Solar weave' woven plastic greenhouse covering with UV treatment, it costs about $5.50/m2.
The whole 'investment' including tools was around $1200 but labour would add at least another $1500 to that (if anyone was wanting me to make one for them). The timber struts are 45 x 35 on edge and would be strong enough for a dome of up to 5m diameter which would be a lot more impressive and useful. I will experiment with uPVC pipe struts next with flattened ends drilled for a common bolt at the hubs.



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