If you’re the type of person who fantasizes about building their own home, perhaps of the domed variety, you may want to consider using AirCrete. DomeGaia, a company which specializes in DIY domes, aims to make AirCrete, AKA aerated, foam or cellular concrete, accessible and manageable for anyone.
AirCrete uses a foaming agent to suspend tiny air bubbles in mixed cement. A continuous foam generator disperses the agent into the cement. The company sells a generator called the Little Dragon. Once mixed, the masonry material is non-toxic, lightweight, and resistant to rot, warping and corrosion. It can be shaped with wood-working tools and accepts nails and screws. According to the company, it can take virtually any shape through molding and forming, and:
It has good compressive strength to make excellent foundations, subfloors, building blocks, poured walls, domes or whatever … AirCrete can cut cost of conventional methods of construction by a factor of 10 for several reasons.
The tiny closed air cells make AirCrete a great insulator, which is one of the main ways it can save its users money. Making it requires less material than non-aerated methods and it does not require gravel, sand or aggregates. This saves the builder in terms of materials and labor.
The company also advertises AirCrete as being entirely fireproof, stating that you could even build a furnace out of it, and waterproof to the degree that it could be used in boat construction. The waterproof attribute might be especially appealing to home builders interested in green roofs, living walls or indoor agriculture.
Because AirCrete domes are created with a seamless integration of walls, floors and roof, pest infestations are far less likely. The dome-shape of these structures also adds to their affordability and efficiency; the creation of a dome shape uses fewer materials to enclose the same amount of space as a conventional structure would. Theses domes’ smooth, unbroken design and “tight” doors and windows also reduce the energy loss many structures undergo at joints and seams.
Domes are also very resilient to the forces of nature and are found in some of the world’s longest-standing buildings. DomeGaia explains, “A dome is strong because it distributes forces equally in all direction throughout its entire surface.”
How to Build an AirCrete Dome
If you are interested in building your own rounded structure out of this versatile and cheap material, here are some pointers:
Picking an eco-friendly option for a foaming agent is as simple as buying some all-natural dish soap at the grocery store. The AirCrete team tested Seventh Generation’s Natural Dish Liquid and found it produced a similar foam to other varieties such as Dawn Ultra and Safeway Home concentrate. They all produce similar useable foam in a dilution of 5 gallons water per 2 cups of foaming agent. They also found that commercial protein-based foaming agents work even better and highly recommend Drexel Foam Concentrate. The foam has to be of “good quality,” the AirCrete site explains – too light or too quick to dissolve and the AirCrete will collapse. It is suggested that you weigh your foam and make sure it meets the estimates offered online.
You can make the AirCrete with any type of portland cement (this is the basis of concrete and contains a combination of silicon, aluminum, calcium, iron and other materials). Or, you may use a mixture of portland cement and fly ash (fine particles that are a coal combustion product). Course aggregates such as gravel and crushed stone may not be included in AirCrete but sand is acceptable. A bag of cement can produce 45 gallons of AirCrete within a few minutes.
DomeGaia was founded in 2014 by Hajjar Gibran. He is the son of an inventor and Kahlil Gibran, the famed author of The Prophet, was his great uncle. He built hotrods and small structures during his youth and told Else Society how his father was one of his primary inspirations:
My father was a very creative inventor, and I went to the inventors’ conventions with him when I was a child. He invented the dome tent. Back in the 60’s, tents were boxy and had straight poles. Now dome tents are the norm. He was ahead of his time. He never marketed it.
Gibran studied engineering and won several early design awards for passive solar construction. He also spent a decade designing and overseeing the production of responsibly-harvested rainforest products. Sales from these products funded legal action that eventually ensured ownership of more than 25,000 acres of rainforest to indigenous peoples.
DomeGaia’s first dome designs were made from clay bricks and cinder blocks. Gibran developed the AirCrete dome method while building The Gibran Center in Thailand.
If AirCrete has peaked your interest and pulled on your DIY-home heart strings, explore their background and specs in more depth online. DomeGaia offers directions, instructional videos, a question and answer forum, and an extensive FAQ section on their site. They also sell the foam generator along with other instruments and building plans and offer building workshops in the Philippines and Mexico.