Family hopes dome house helps move them off grid

FREEDOM, Ind. - Brandy Simon hopes her family will live almost completely off the grid in the next 10 years.

She plans to take a xeriscaping approach to gardening and landscaping on her 37-acre property off U.S. 231. Her family will tailor the existing environmental design of the grounds to grow fruit trees and vegetable gardens that require little to no watering. They will retain the old plant growth and will cut down only trees that are diseased or that pose a danger.

There's plenty of room to keep their menagerie occupied, fed and happy -- dogs, horses, goats, pheasants, llamas and even the emu the Simons rescued from being put down by the Parke County sheriff after the bird got loose and almost caused a car crash.

At the center of it all, behind an electric fence and a 1,000-foot walk up a steep hill, the Simon family is building their eco-friendly and storm-resistant new home.

It's a 2,980-square-foot monolithic dome.

When it's done, the dome home will have many of the features a traditional house might. A master bedroom and bath. A spiral staircase to the two bedrooms, a bathroom and loft area for Corbin, 9, and Evan, 7. The dining room will have south-facing windows. There's space for a pantry and laundry room, a storage room and a half-bath.

But the dome is designed to be longer-lasting, more energy efficient and capable of withstanding the strongest of tornadoes and other disasters, The Herald-Times reported (http://bit.ly/1lMsKYs ).

The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program that offers some financial assistance for concrete dome-shaped safe rooms for communities and schools.

Simon cites security and sustainability as key factors in the motivation to build a dome house.

The immediate exterior of the dome is an Airform moisture barrier that took 20 minutes to inflate into shape. Last October, the Simons hosted an "inflation party" and invited their Amish builders, handy friends and Owen County Building Inspector Bob Bandy to the gathering.

"It looked like you were inside a basketball," she said.

The dome has a 3-inch layer of foam, is framed with metal rebar and has a 3-inch thick concrete shell.

The concrete acts like a barrier. "Passive solar heating is very efficient," she said.

Should they lose power, the structure will only change two degrees in a 24- to 48-hour period.

A Bloomington native, Brandy Simon and her husband, John, moved to rural Owen County from Florida about six years ago. They've always been interested in nontraditional homes.

John Simon, his wife explained, initially wanted an underground home or a berm, and the two explored the possibility of burying shipping containers. Once they realized underground homes are cost-prohibitive, they started to consider domes.

They started their dome build last summer and hope to be finished in the spring.

The couple work at Boston Scientific as medical product builders. Simon said she and her husband take on all sorts of odd jobs, from building projects to artisan work. She recently started making stained glass; her pieces will eventually fill the arches above the windows and the doors of the house.

The Simons plan to use repurposed items to furnish their new home. They search websites like Craigslist and Freecycle.

Simon found the front door of the dome home leaning against the garage and negotiated a deal with its owner.

A south-facing glass door is etched with an image of a dragon. It used to belong to a now-closed Chinese restaurant on Bloomington's east side.

"We're trying to be environmentally friendly, and it's really hard to do in this day and age," she said.

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This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Herald-Times.

Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com
 

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