Domesteading (Spa Dome)
Updated: Mar 9
In my previous post, I talked about some of the motivation and inspiration behind Domesteading. In this post, I will do my best to explain the process and components of the off-grid Spa Dome. I had convinced myself that a 3D rendering (like the one in the last post) is the best way to get the point across. And while that still may be true, my Blender skills and patience have kept me from moving forward with that approach. So for now, I am going to use lots of links, pictures, and words to get the point across.
As a refresher, this is where it starts. An EkoDome that has been secured to the earth with earth-screws. (See part 1 of the Domesteading series if it doesn't look familar)
My EkoDome Kit has Shipped!
I received my EkoDome kit in the mail a while ago, and am excited to make the space to put it together. Much like a lego kit, it came with more detailed specs and instructions that allowed me to get a good look at how the dome will anchor to earth-screws. Since I purchased my kit, they have also created special "anchor" plates that will make it a lot easier to use earth screws how I would like to. Once I get those and the earth screws, I can assemble the dome frame.
EDIT: I will go ahead and utilize what I have already purchased. Moving forward, I will be exploring cheaper DIY-able options like Trillium Domes. If you want the pre-made option and have the money available, EkoDome is still a great option. But since my goal is to move towards a fully OpenSource EcoVillage, they won't fit into my long-term goals.
Here is what we're working towards.
(I whipped this up for a brochure that I brought to OACC 43)
The following sections go into more details on various pieces of the puzzle. Everything you need to take a patch of earth and turn it into an off-grid spa.
Rocket Mass Heater (RMH)
After throwing a tarp over the dome shell, the next step is to build a Rocket Mass Heater (RMH). I won't go into too much detail about them here, as many who have come before have done a better job. I will be relying on their knowledge to build one myself. We put this in first, because I want to use the heat it is capable of producing to recycle plastics and create my own panels out of trash. Once it has served that purpose, and the dome is fully covered, it becomes the heating component for the entire space. It can burn firewood, or if my bamboo experiments go well, it will burn bamboo grown from the effluent coming off of the BioGas. Besides heating the entire interior dome's thermal mass, it heats the water for the hot tub, shower, earthen floor, and tea kettle.
The next step is recycling/acquiring the panels. The lowest tier will be sheet-metal sandwich panels. For those, will be experimenting with flattening and trimming the sheet metal from the crumbling farm buildings that litter the Ozark Countryside. The middle level will be recycled plastics translucent enough to let in filtered sunlight and warmth, but not so translucent that it will compromise privacy. By making our own panels from recycled plastics, we can also have fun with the coloring of the panels. I really like how Earthships don't hide the "trash" and turn glass bottles into an art piece. I want to do the same with the panels. I am hoping that the top row of domes will be a glass -- transparent enough for stargazing, cloud-watching, and less-filtered sunlight. Once I have created/acquired the panels, the application to the frame is a breeze due to EkoDome's engineering work.
The next component will be the rainwater collection. Domes are inherently fantastic at shedding water. So all we need to do is put a ring around the edge that guides the rainwater into a small pond on the south edge of the dome. Since the ring is not meant to hold water, I will be trying a process similar to earthen-flooring with levels of varying substrates being coated in an air-drying oil. This will come up around the bottom edge of the dome and make it look slightly buried. It reminds me of covering up a seedling after planting it in the earth.
The primary water heating mechanism will be sunlight. I've seen very successful solar water heater designs. I will be experimenting with a functional art piece that uses copper tubing secured right next to the plastic panels. Depending on how the recycling experiments go, it may also be baked into the panels. Regardless, you end up with copper pipe being heated by the sun that creates a temperature-pressure differential and pulls the water out of the rainwater collection pond and up into a gravity-fed filter and distribution system. In the winter, the sun's energy will be supplemented with the RMH that will run as a parallel heat source. The hot water will eventually be distributed to the heated earthen floor, a hot-tub, a shower, and a sink.
The toilet will be draining into a HomeBioGas Toilet kit. This provides a liquid effluent to feed reeds, bamboo, loofah, and cotton, as well as methane that is connected to a burner and can be used as another heat/fuel/flame source. Right now, we pay our municipality to take our waste, treat it, and dump it out into nature. I'd rather use it myself to grow plants and keep things warm.
Water from the shower and sink flow through an aquaponic bio-filter and back into the rainwater collection pond. This does require the use of all-natural ingredients and keeping harmful chemicals out of your water. But that's a good idea regardless -- it just becomes a requirement with this design.
The inner dome structure is made using SuperAdobe. It acts as thermal mass for the building, both from the sun and the rocket mass heater. I am also hoping to experiment with growing plants on the outer surface of this inner dome (think chia pet or tevaplanter). When you step inside, there is an entryway with shelving for your towels, robes, etc. that leads to three curtained privacy chambers for the toilet, shower, and sink. Here is a rendering where I've hidden the dome exteriors to get an idea of what I mean.
Along the southern edge of the SuperAdobe dome will be a moon-shaped masonry hot-tub. Any time the sun is shining or the fire is roaring, hot water is cycling through the hot tub. It acts as yet another thermal battery for the house. A nice bath should be more accessible to everyone. Imagine picking some fresh lavender and rose petals, and tossing them into the hot tub to make a you-tea.
Now that I've lined out the components, I'll leave you with a few things I'd like to do with these off-grid spas.
First, I want to build one for my own family -- to make sure all of the ideas fit together in reality as well as they do in my head, and continue refining the process with a POC. It will be the beginning of our own Domestead. I'd like to document a lot of that process on YouTube so anyone else can follow along and learn from my experiments. Once they are built, it is easy to attach tunnel modules and connect them to other domes. I will go into more details in a later post, but my full Domestead design has 5 connected domes for our family of 6.
Once I've proven that the ideas fit together, I see these units as the "seeds" of eco-villages. You can string up a hammock, or put a fold-up cot in these for a unique glamping experience. I have four types of eco-villages in mind. Which one I get to build first will depend on some market research.
EcoResort (Eco-Tourism and Education hub)
EcoRestore (Transitional Housing for the Homeless)
EcoRetire (Retirement Village for the Aging)
EcoResident (Your own Private Village for family/friends)
Thanks for reading!
If you like these ideas and want to come along for the ride, please subscribe to the blog for coming updates. If you have further ideas, or would like to connect to help make any part of this a reality in some way, please feel free to contact me.