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A geodesic dome is a spherical or partial-spherical shell structure or lattice shell based on a network of great circles (geodesics) on the surface of a sphere. The geodesics intersect to form triangular elements that have local triangular rigidity and also distribute the stress across the structure. When completed to form a complete sphere, it is a geodesic sphere. A dome is enclosed, unlike open geodesic structures such as playground climbers.
Typically a geodesic dome design begins with an icosahedron inscribed in a hypothetical sphere, tiling each triangular face with smaller triangles, then projecting the vertices of each tile to the sphere. The endpoints of the links of the completed sphere are the projected endpoints on the sphere's surface. If this is done exactly, each sub-triangle edge is a slightly different length, requiring links of many sizes. To minimize this, simplifications are made. The result is a compromise of triangles with their vertices lying approximately on the sphere. The edges of the triangles form approximate geodesic paths over the surface of the dome.
Geodesic designs can be used to form any curved, enclosed space. Unusual configurations may require custom design of each strut, vertex and panel—resulting in potentially expensive, complex construction; so standard designs tend to be used.
Residential geodesic domes have been less successful than those used for working and/or entertainment, largely because of their complexity and consequent greater construction costs. Fuller himself lived in a geodesic dome in Carbondale, Illinois, at the corner of Forest and Cherry. Fuller thought of residential domes as air-deliverable products manufactured by an aerospace-like industry. Fuller's own dome home still exists, the R. Buckminster Fuller and Anne Hewlett Dome Home, and a group called RBF Dome NFP is attempting to restore the dome and have it registered as a National Historic Landmark.
In 1986 a patent for a dome construction technique involving EPS triangles laminated to reinforced concrete on the outside, and wallboard on the inside was awarded to American Ingenuity of Rockledge Florida. The construction technique allows the domes to be prefabricated in kit form and erected by a homeowner. This method makes the seams into the strongest part of the structure, where the seams and especially the hubs in most wooden-framed domes are the weakest point in the structure. It also has the advantage of being watertight.