Tue | Jan 26, 2021

Dome domiciles a new way of living

Published:Thursday | November 22, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams/ Gleaner Writer
A front view of a structure consisting of three domes.
A section of a spacious bedroom in one of the dome units.
A two-unit dome house at Johns Town in St Thomas.
An arched doorway leading into a living room.
Rainwater that runs from the dome is collected in a concrete tank that surrounds the base of the structure.

In most parts of the world concrete dwellings are basically square or rectangular, but right here in Jamaica, Dwight Shirley of the Source Farm at Johns Town in St Thomas, is building houses whose main compartments are neither square nor rectangular. They are 'semicircular' structures, domes, if you may.

So far, Shirley has built nine such domes on the property, and is hoping to spread the concept to the rest of the island. They are ideal for people who want something different from the norm.

These hurricane-proof structures are approved by the National Housing Trust (NHT), Shirley said, and are much cheaper and faster to build. If construction goes uninterrupted, he said a unit can take as short as two months or less to build. One of the factors that drive cost down is that there is no building of a separate roof.

And around the base of some of the structures, concrete tanks are built to store rainwater that cascades down the dome. The tanks are not obvious, as they are incorporated and connected to the structures. The storage capacity of these tanks, he said, is quite significant.

Some of the units are detached from one another, and are joined by covered walkways, thus allowing much fresh air to pass through. Others are part of a totally enclosed house. Prospective owners therefore have the latitude to decide how they want their house laid out.




Each dome is very spacious and can be used as a major bedroom or living/dining room. It is not made with internal dividing walls, which may be constructed from wood and other material. Thus, it may be compartmentalised into different rooms, such as three separate bedrooms. This lends itself to easy reconfiguration, should the need arise, without the hassle and cost of tearing down concrete walls.

But how does Shirley get to give these units their dome shape? He said a dome-shape bag is fully inflated by a fan. After that, steel is placed to take the shape of the dome, the bag is deflated and removed. The steel is then covered with mortar, which becomes a concrete dome, a domicile for those who dare to live in something different.