What Are Geodesic Domes Used for?

By Michael Wolfe ; Updated September 15, 2017
Buckminister Fuller popularized the geodesic dome.

A geodesic dome is an object constructed from triangular wedges combined to form spherical or semi-spherical shapes. Lightweight and sturdy, geodesic domes were invented in 1922 by German architect Walther Bauersfeld, but were popularized by American inventor R. Buckminister Fuller after World War II. One of the advantages of the dome is its versatility, as it can effectively function in many different contexts.

Residences

One of the chief advantages of geodesic domes is that their spherical shape offers a more efficient use of material than cubical shapes. For this reason, when geodesic domes are subdivided into different rooms, they can function as homes that are both energy and space efficient. According to Timberline Domes, makers of geodesic dome residences, Timberline geodesic homes are present in 50 states and in all types of climates, offering 30 percent more space for the materials used than rectilinear homes.

Theaters

Another advantage of the dome shape is the exceptionally large space it creates, volume that is perfect for venues that demand exceptional quantities of unbroken space, such as movie theaters. The Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California, is a single-screen movie house constructed in the 1960s as a hemispheric dome. Built in less than half a year, the dome, located on Sunset Boulevard, is made of 316 concrete sections.

Greenhouses

Although the sections used in the construction of geodesic domes are typically solid, the dome is strong enough to allow the panels to be made of glass as well. In several locations, domes have been transformed into greenhouses and solariums. The Growing Spaces company, listed in the Resources section, in fact sells prefabricated geodesic dome greenhouses. Each unit comes outfitted with temperature-activated vents, solar panels, water tanks and solar ventilation fans.

Arenas

As with movie theaters, the geodesic dome's efficient use of space makes it an excellent shape for venues that require the containment of large groups of people, such as arenas. Geodesic domes are used as arenas in several places in the world, including as the Nagoya Dome in Nagoya, Japan, which is 614 feet in diameter and can hold 40,500 people; the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington, which is 530 feet in diameter; and the Superior Dome in Marquette, Michigan, which is 536 feet in diameter.

Storage

Domes can also contain substances instead of people. Many domes, such as the Formosa Plastics Storage Facility in Taiwan or the Lehigh Portland Cement Storage Facility in Maryland, house industrial products. Geodesic domes are also commonly used as silos to store grain.

About the Author

Michael Wolfe has been writing and editing since 2005, with a background including both business and creative writing. He has worked as a reporter for a community newspaper in New York City and a federal policy newsletter in Washington, D.C. Wolfe holds a B.A. in art history and is a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.