We’re passionate about concrete domes. And we talk a lot about their energy-saving design, incredible versatility, and cost-effective building process. These qualities make them a great choice for residential and commercial purposes. But just how strong are concrete dome structures?
Incredibly strong, it turns out! With their unique look, environmentally friendly materials, and incredible insulation, it’s easy to forget these same structures are also FEMA-approved safe houses. But what makes them this strong isn’t what you might see at first glance.
How Strong Are Concrete Dome Structures?
If you want to stay safe during both natural and manmade disasters, concrete domes may be your most dependable option. Wind, storms, wildfires, and even earthquakes do little to compromise the structural integrity of these domes. Modern domes can withstand winds exceeding 100 miles per hour while simultaneously surviving raging wildfires with almost no damage. During laboratory shake tests for seismic resilience, concrete dome structures show almost no effect from high-magnitude simulations, even when extra weight is applied to the structure’s exterior.
Basically, concrete domes are nearly indestructible. Their lifespan is measured in decades, not years. And their construction competes with buildings ten times the expense of a typical dome structure. They are, quite simply, the strongest manmade structures on earth today.
What Makes Concrete Dome Structures So Strong?
Most buildings require more robust materials, careful engineering considerations, and complex architectural designs to withstand natural disasters. But concrete dome structures rely on the simple construction that makes them as affordable as conventional housing and storage solutions in the first place. And that’s because the dome itself is inherently strong.
And it wasn’t the modern age that discovered this benefit. From the Dome on the Rock in Jerusalem to the Pantheon in Rome, historical architecture showcased the lasting power of domes. Even further into the past, prehistoric dome homes served an important part in cultural growth and development, including ancient American Indian homes throughout what would become the United States.
Today, this long history of strength and durability continues in modern concrete dome structures. And both its timeless shape and some modern innovations make these buildings some of the strongest structures on earth.
1: Single-Piece Design
From an engineering perspective, the simplicity of dome construction is part of its strength. The system we use at KingDome Builders uses a single-piece dome rather than using precast sections that make up a whole. This makes every inch of the concrete dome just as strong as the areas surrounding it. There are no weak points, no joints, and no gaps, making its compressive strength almost impervious to outside forces.
2: The Aerodynamics of Domes
Strong winds can rip through conventional structures, but domes are completely unaffected in the same conditions. In fact, even 100+ mile-per-hour sustained winds have no real effect on concrete dome structures.
We saw this first hand in the summer of 2022, as two Derechos tore through our South Dakota property. The winds in both storms peaked at well over 100 miles per hour, tearing apart one of our large steel-framed buildings. But our dome home right next to it saw no damage at all.
And it’s because of the inherent aerodynamic properties of these domes. Instead of catching wind and creating turbulence against sharp corners and flat walls, the concave structures of these domes simply redirect winds right over them. Whether it’s severe storms, tornadoes, or hurricanes, concrete dome structures are safer than almost any other structure imaginable.
3: Self-Strengthening Pressure Distribution
This same dome-shaped design plays a major role in how strong a concrete dome structure is. And it’s because of the physics of this unique shape. As pressure is added to an arch or curve, the rigidity of the shape causes it to become even more strong than without that added pressure. This is how the Hoover Dam works: as the water presses against the concave dam face, it becomes even more robust under this added weight.
Concrete dome structures work much the same. As weight is added to any point of the dome’s outer surface, the entire structure actually becomes stronger rather than losing its integrity. The pressure itself is distributed throughout the structure, rather than overstressing a single point on the dome.
4: Steel Reinforcement
One of the modern innovations adding to the strength of concrete dome structures is the use of steel rebar within the domes. The steel reinforcement helps with tensile strength, allowing the building to flex under the most extreme situations without losing its integrity.
Our concrete domes are built with steel-reinforced concrete from foundation to peak. The interior latticework of steel rebar is embedded witihin the shotcrete. And that reinforcement adds a degree of strength that multiplies the strength of the dome itself.
5: Thick Concrete and Foam Structure
The steel-reinforced concrete in these domes rests on the interior of the overal structure. On top of this is a thick layer of spray foam coating the interior of the airform that provides the form for the structure. And that combination, often exceeding six inches in thickness, provides protection against debris and severe weather. But even more, it protects against military-strength attacks.
During Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, several concrete storage domes were built to help keep American supplies safe. In 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, these same structures, now long abandoned, became helicopter gunning ranges. One pilot during this time stated that it took months to break through its outer shell with bombs and gunfire.
Not only do these structures defend against gunfire, but they were also known to cause direct rocket fire to glance off the surface. This is the kind of strength that concrete dome structures are known to have.
Building Your Own Concrete Dome Structure
The strength and durability of concrete domes are legendary, but they offer much more than just strength. Concrete domes are some of the most recognizable homes in the world, and each one is a completely custom design. The unrivaled strength pairs well with unimaginable beauty, and they are within reach for most homeowners.
At KingDome Builders, we are in the business of building concrete domes to provide solutions that range from agricultural to commercial and even to residential buildings. Your dome home is a single call from getting started. Or if you’re looking for a storage building that eliminates contamination and maximizes land use, we can help you find the perfect dome for your needs.
And if you’re still on the fence, call us today for a free tour of our on-site dome home. Reading about dome homes is impressive, but experiencing one firsthand is a truly unique experience. Contact us to see what we can do for you.