I have completed the second demonstration of airform construction, the first was for Palm Springs Modernism Week in February of this year, and the second was for AltBuild Expo in Santa Monica, on May 11 and 12. I performed the demonstrations to ‘put the word out’ that I am interested in, and ready to design homes to be built in this method, because it has many benefits for today’s conditions. Those conditions being the need for a sustainable way to build, a cost efficient way to build, and to produce structures which provide protection from natural disasters. Additionally, the homes can have great architectural variation. This is very exciting to me. A problem I have as an architect, and which most all architects currently have, is that residential construction has all but ceased due to the global economic crisis. At a time when the weather is extremely violent, and the degradation of the planet has reached the tipping point, very little construction is happening. In actuality, ceasing to build is possibly the greenest thing which could be done for the planet, so that is the silver lining. However, when we do begin building again, we will need to build smarter, and I believe that the concrete dome homes will be widely implemented in the future as a perfect solution to the dilemma of housing in many parts of the world. Just yesterday, the cabana I built for AltBuild was placed in its proper location in the community garden being created at Warren Lane Elementary in Inglewood. The Social Justice Learning Institute is behind this project, and it will be ‘in the works’ for some time. In addition to growing vegetables, there will be greenhouses, citrus trees, an aquaponic system, and a hen house. It is gratifying for me to know that the cabana has gone to a place where people will learn to be more self sufficient, and they will learn firsthand about the magic and mystery of life and nature….something which can be lost in the aisles of the supermarket. In this time of environmental crisis, the garden will teach about the need for balance and connection to the earth. As I go forward with my intention to build monolithic dome structures, I have greater clarity that I will focus on three areas: disaster relief rebuilding, building communities for impoverished populations, and housing for the homeless. I am faced with the need to seek out individuals and/or institutions able to fund such efforts. I still believe that the dome homes are the most logical solution for building residences all over the US, especially where the devastation from fires and extreme weather continues. For people who are considering adding a storm shelter to their homes, I have designed a series of above ground concrete dome additions. These shelter additions can be enjoyed every day, because they can be a bedroom suite, a recreation or family room, a home office, a pool house, etc. The designs have sleeping accommodations for 6-8 people, small kitchens, a full bath, and ample storage. In the event of a disaster, the residents would go to the shelter addition for safety. In the unfortunate event that the main home is damaged or destroyed, the addition functions as a comfortable home until the main house is repaired or replaced. < > < > < > < > -Doug Stanton
After garnering much attention at the 2012 AltBuild Expo, the whimsical and sustainable concrete cabana, built on-site as a demonstration of the ‘airform’ construction method, has been moved to its permanent home. The colorful cabana was donated to the Warren Lane Learning Garden, which is directly adjacent to the Warren Lane Elementary School in Inglewood.
The Warren Lane community garden is managed by the Social Justice Learning Institute and will serve as a learning space for school kids and the surrounding community; together they will plant seasonal vegetables and a citrus orchard, establishing an urban garden that will ultimately become a neighborhood farmer’s market. I am extremely pleased with the cabana’s permanent home and look forward to a long and ‘fruitful’ relationship with the Warren Lane Learning Garden and The Social Justice Learning Institute.
The AltBuild Bubble Cabana design was conceived for children using multi- color segments representing sections of a globe. Once the painting is completed on site, the design will reflect images inspired from the different countries and cultures, fitting together as a global puzzle.Acrylatex Coatings & Recycling, Inc. a local manufacturing company, generously donated all of the paint used on the cabana. Their products are made up of 90% recycled paint, adding to the eco-friendly nature of this structure.
Many have been helpful in making the Concrete Bubble Cabana demonstration at the AltBuild Expo possible: Gary Erb with Acrylatex Coatings & Recycling, donated the paint for the cabana; Dan Hildebrand, Hildebrand Construction provided expertise and hard work in the building of the cabana; David South, Monolithic Inc., supplied the airform and blower for the cabana; and the permanent home for the cabana was made possible by the Executive Director of the Social Justice Learning Institute, D’Artagnan Scorza.
Santa Monica Civic Center Auditorium
May 11 and 12
For AltBuild Expo 2012, I will build a concrete bubble cabana, as a demonstration of the concrete dome construction process developed by Los Angeles architect Wallace Neff in the 1940’s. Neff called the technique ‘airform’ construction. His innovative process involved spraying concrete onto an inflated balloon to create a structure, with the idea that this is a quick and economical method of creating very substantial structures. Wallace Neff built many airform domes throughout world.
Being from Texas, and with parents living in Oklahoma, I have seen firsthand the destruction caused by extreme weather; and it was after the Joplin, Missouri tornado in May 2011 that I recalled Neff’s airform domes, and wondered if they would be tornado resistant. Since then I discovered that they are not only tornado resistant, but that they are also fire and earthquake resistant. They can be built at a reasonable cost, and they are a very sustainable construction option, requiring approximately 50% of the energy needed for heating and cooling of a conventional wood frame home. The concrete dome type of home seems to be an obvious solution to many of our current construction and housing issues, given the current extremes in weather, the need to reduce construction costs and waste, and the need to increase energy efficiency.
Many have been helpful in making the Concrete Bubble Cabana demonstration at AltBuild possible: Dan Hildebrand, Hildebrand Construction has provided expertise and hard work in the building of the cabana; David South, Monolithic, will supply the airform and blower for the cabana; Gary Erb with Acrylatex Coatings & Recycling, is providing the paint for the cabana; and Associated Ready Mix Concrete is supplying the concrete contributed by Skip Danielson, Bayside Construction.
Also during AltBuild, I will participate on the AIA/LA COTE panel ‘Rethinking the Home,’ an exploration of alternative homes. I will be presenting the history of concrete airform construction, and discussing its relevance today as an economical, energy efficient, substantial, and still innovative construction system that offers a solution to many of our current construction and housing problems.
The cabana I will build for AltBuild will be a fun and sculptural structure, a garden folly, which will be donated to a charity after the AltBuild Expo. It would have been nice to build a full home for the show, but with the time and space constraints, this cabana will have to suffice! I hope it will be a fun and informative process for those who attend AltBuild.
Douglas Stanton, AIA
I have been interested in the Airform houses designed by Wallace Neff since I first heard about them in 1983 at Harvard University, in Professor Eduard Sekler’s class: The History of Modern Architecture. Many years later, after moving to Los Angeles, I attended a tour of Wallace Neff homes, all Spanish style and built in the 1920′s, with the exception of the dome house he designed for his brother, Andrew Neff, built in 1946. Since that tour, I have had the idea that I would like to revive this construction type and method. More recently, I was moved by the devastation of tornadoes and fires in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas and inspired to look into this type of construction for its safety and energy efficiency. For the past year, I have been designing dome homes and multifamily dome structures. My research led me to one of the most prolific promoters of the airform construction method today, David South, of Italy, Texas (www.monolithic.com). Monolithic Inc. has greatly advanced the airform technology begun by Neff.
This past February, I participated in the Palm Springs Modernism Week demonstrating Wallace Neff’s construction method as revived by David South, by constructing an open air concrete bubble cabana. I also presented my own vision for dome constructions as aesthetically pleasing and architecturally exciting, in addition to being affordable fire, tornado, and earthquake resistant homes. On hand at my Modernism Week booth were copies of the new book on the airform buildings of Neff, No Nails, No Lumber, by Jeffrey Head, which documents Neff’s airform dome designs built throughout the world.
Located in Los Angeles is a man who has built many concrete domes in other parts of the world, Dan Hildebrand of Hildebrand Construction (www.hildebrandinc.com) I would like to thank Dan for his enormous contribution to the Concrete Bubble Cabana we built during Modernism Week. I hope we will build many more dome structures together. The cabana was donated to the Demuth Community Center in Palm Springs where we hope it will be enjoyed by many!
Continue to follow us here on our blog for future projects and announcements. If you would like to hear more on sustainable design concepts, we will be speaking on an AIA panel discussion at the AltBuild Expo in Santa Monica on Friday, May 11th : http://www.altbuildexpo.com/speakers_schedule_3.html