Gimmee Shelter

Off the Keyboard of RE

Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner

Travelling back in time in Mr. Peabody’s WAYBAC Machine, back in the early 80s I got interested in building cheap and affordable shelters for Hunting, which you could use for a whole season or two. Something a bit more sturdy and comfy than a Tent, but not something so Permanent in location as a Log Cabin.

I wanted something I could put up quickly with just the help of a couple of others, and which at the end of the season I could take down and store, and the following year put up again somewhere else. I did a bit of research then (no internet, magazines mostly) and discovered Geodesic Domes.

Geodesic Domes were originally promoted by Buckminster Fuller, and he actually got his name pegged to the Geometry of these structures in the “Fullerene” class of Organic compounds and “Buckyballs”, which assemble up Carbon Atoms in a geodesic type structure.

Buckminster Fuller though was not the first guy to examine this type of solid geometry, it goes at least as far back in time as Plato and Aristotle. There are 5, ond ONLY 5 “perfect” Platonic Solids. They are the Tetrahedron, Four Faces of Equilateral Triangles; the Cube, 6 Faces of Squares; the Octahedron, 8 Faces of Equilateral Triangles; the Dodecahedron, 12 Faces of Regular Pentagons and the Icosahedron, 20 Faces of Equilateral Traingles. No other Regular Polyhedra are Geometrically possible.

It is however possibe to produce virtually infinite other polyhedra by combining various different planar surfaces like Hexagons and Pentagons, and Aristotle came up with a bunch of them. The more of them you put together, the closer to Spherical you can get in your structure, and the Geodesics of Buckminster Fuller can get very close to that.

Why is being close to Spherical important in creating a Shelter? Well, you see the closer you get to spherical, the better the structure will Self-Support without need for interior Walls and supporting columns. In fact MOST of what goes into building a typical McMansion is in these walls, the “Roof” of the structure is just a small part f the total materials involved. In a perfect Geodesic, you need NOTHING besides the “Roof” itself! Perfect enough construction, such a roof can be remarkably thin as well, like an Eggshell and still have structural integrity under great loads. The whole reason an Igloo self supports is because of this.

So again going back to the 80s, I investigated into how to build Geodesics though they never gained much popularity. There were quite a few problems involved in such construction.

First off, working with typical 2X4 construction materials, making the Joints is Miter Box complexity in extremis. So a few companies like Monterey Domes started producing “connectors you could use to bolt together the 2x4s and then once the framework was up slap the rest of the Roof up over it. Overall a good idea, but this stye of building never took hold, and Monterey Domes is long since Outta Biz.

There were numerous problems with such domes, mainly that they Leaked Plenty because there were so many Angles involved and the construction often was not done well by carpenters used to only cutting 90 degree and 45 degree joints.. Also generally speaking the Roundish shape and sloping walls didn’t fit too well with the typical Furniture being produced for housing. Besides all that were various Construction Codes for housing which Geodesics did not fit well under.

Besides those issues though, the Monterey Domes system did not fulfill my objective, which was to have a structure you could not only erect, but ALSO take down and MOVE somewhere else. Once UP, one of these domes was as Fixed in location as any typically built McMansion. You could no mre take it apart and move it than you could a typical McMansion.

At this point, I started experimenting with Models, and I built a Hunting Cabin in Balsa Wood by making a few adaptations, though the big problem always remained of the complex angle connections between main struts. I never got past the Model Stage with this, and I eventually stopped obsessing about Geodesics for a couple of Decades. LOL.

Fast Forward in Mr Peabody’s WAYBAC Machine to a couple of years ago, and I got into discussions of how to build Greenhosuses on the cheap, BIG with limited materials. Geodesics obviously the way to go with this, but all those Angle and Connection problems are still there…or ARE they?

I started working on my own system for connecting PVC Tubing, but then recently I ran across the Sonostar website. Somebody out there actually IS producing Connectors for PVC Tubing now that will enable you to erect the scaffold for a Geodesic in virtually NO TIME at all! Sonostar supplies the connectors for pvc tubing in the 1/2″ diameter size.

Once you have means to erect the Scaffolding, surfacing such a dome is not that hard. You cut the plywood sheeting to size, then bolt together over the scaffold. Several means of doing this. You make your Joints TIGHT between the plywood sheets so the load gets evenly distributed. Then you butress the whole thing afterward so you can take down the original scaffolding, and POOF you can USE IT AGAIN to do precisely the same thing!

Similarly up here where it Snows a LOT. you erect the Geo Scaffold and build your BIG IGLOO around it.. Once the first one is finished, it self supports and you can take down the scaffolding and do it again. You can do it in multiple sizes also, long as you have different size lenghs of rod in the right proportions, and those don’t just need to be made from PVC tubing, you could use sapling trees for that easily. so all you REALLY need are the CONNECTORS!

For the incipient Doomsteader who currently lives in a Big Shity and has a piece of uimproved on hunting land avaialble at around $2000/acre in the Ozarks for instance, you could have a complete set of connectors and tubing ready in Boxes to throw on your Trailer the day TSHTF, head for your property and erect a solid shelter inside a few days really. Initial Surfacing can be done quickly simply draping Parachute Material over the Geodesic Scaffolding. then you can begin the process of cutting out Triangles out of whatever materials you can get hold of. In fact, you could even use Cardboard! The ones pictured here were put up at the Burning Man Project inside a couple of days and are made of Cardboard.

If you want to try a nice little Geodesic Project at home with close to ZERO investment, you could do one of the Newspaper Tube Geo Projects, and with some cardboard surfacing and aluminum flashing, probably built one with a 15′ diameter that would stand up quite well. Of course, if you do that you better fix it to the ground pretty well, since a decent windstorm will pick it up and blow it away on you. LOL.

The structure can of course also use Roll Clear Plastic to cut Triangles out of to make a quick and easy Greenhouse of quite substantial size. It also can have fair insulation value by gluing the Triangles both to the Inside and Outside of the tubing, trapping a layer of air between the two sheets of plastic. In colder climates, even without a heating system inside, this probably extends your Growgin Season a good month to two months on either side of winter. A small Wood Stove or Fireplace inside this structure, and you probably are good for all but 2 or 3 of the coldest months.

Far as deciding whether to go 3 Up, 4UP or 6 UP on the Geo, the more nodes you have the closer it gets to spherical, and the Bigger you can get with typical 4×8 materials for surfacing. Personally though, I don’t think it is worth the time for a 6UP, 4Up is plenty. Connectors for that run around $500 or so.

Once you have the Connectors, you determine the overall Size of the Geo by simply scaling the size of the connecting struts. You can find the formulas for this online, or just use the online Calculators which tell you how long to cut each strut. The Sonostar Calculator automatically deducts the size of the Connectors from the struts

Note: To actually make this calculator work, you have to go to the Sonostar Dome Calculator Web Page.

All the lengths of pipe for the triangles that make up a geodesic dome are not the same. There are trigonometric equations used to calculate the different lengths, but to make it easy, we’ve incorporated all that into the simple calculator on this page. First, on this page, choose the complexity of the dome you want to build. If you don’t know what ‘frequency’ means, or the difference between a ‘3V’ and a ‘6V’, go to the FAQ’s page and that will explain it. Once you get to the next page, all you do is put the radius of the dome you want to build into the open square, and then hit the orange ‘calculate’ button next to it. Below it, you’ll see all the lengths for any frequency 3, 4, 5, or 6 dome you want to build.

* Please note that in calculating the lengths of the struts, 2.28 inches has ALREADY been deducted to account for the width of the hardcore geohubs.

Radius: ft.

Length Color #
A Yellow 30
B Blue 55
C Red 80
4 Star base hardcore geohub 15
5 Star hardcore geohub 6
6 Star hardcore geohub 40

Dome Calculator for 3V

The obvious reason to choose building a 3V dome is the simplicity of it: there’s only 3 different lengths of pipe, and 3 kinds of hubs. It creates a dome that has good lines, and if you want that angular/polyhedron look, then this is the right way to go. The cost is low, and the time to assemble is the shortest of all. It’s a good first dome to build if you’ve never built one before. A lot of people build these out of steel for climbing, but don’t even think of climbing on a 3V dome made of PVC.

3-D Computer Model for my projected Hydroponic Grow House

Besides the Hydroponics Growing House pictured at right I lam looking at building this spring,, the quickly erected Geodesic Structure also provides a myriad of possibilitiesfor the Bugout/Doomsteading paradigms, essentially marrying the two together. You can keep your supply of Geodesic connectors in your Bugout Machine, and upon arrival at your Doomstead location have good solid Shelter built quickly.

Assuming Home Depot is still open, you’ll be able to pick up plywood sheeting, pvc tubing etc wherever you go to finish out the structure. My estimates for cost on this for a 25′ diameter Dome are around $5000.

In the future, most of the materials would be acquired by Scavenging from decaying McMansions, Malls and Office Buildings. Wall board, Glass, plywood etc can all be recycled this way, and brought to the new location in manageable sizes, with the triangles around 3-4 ft across. To get larger domes from this size traingle, you will need to go 4-up to 6-up, requiring more connectors than pictured here in the computer model.

Far as the Hydroponics Application goes, as you see inside the dome you can work several tiers, each with their own A-Frames on them Visit the Hydroponics threads inside the Diner for more information on how to set up this type of Food Production facility.

Based on the Square footage Peter has dedicated to his indoor setup and his production results, my estimate for a dome of this size is it could provide most of the Food for 2-3 people.

You don’t even necessarily need to head for the Doomstead just yet if you live in a McMansion with a decent size Backyard. You can erect the Geo in the yard and get started NOW! When TSHTF, you dissassemble everything, pack it up in a Trailer behind the Bugout Machine and Head for the Hills.

If you don’t have property on which to set up something like this, perhaps a friend does. I am intending on doing this cooperatively with a friend up here who does have property, which I won’t own for philosophical reasons. If you don’t have a friend and live in a small apartment, your possibilities are more limited for mass production, but you still can get started learning the basics of Hydroponic Food Production in your Living Room, with just a small starter set up. It won’t produce tons of food, but you’ll learn how to do it and then can scale up later when the time comes, or teach others to do it. Valuable skill to have when we reach TEOTWAWKI.



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