Functional ugly: Styrofoam domes may be a solution for housing woes

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When I was a kid, my parents bought a tract of land near the West Virginia border. Nestled in the Appalachian mountains, in the middle of a huge forest, it was incredibly isolated and incredibly beautiful. Over the next several years, my family worked on building our ideal vacation home. We started with a big basement and a log cabin kit. by the time we sold it, several years later, we had a partially-finished log cabin standing over a completely unfinished basement.

The biggest problem was money. Even the do-it-yourself (with-the-help-of-several-contractors) kit that we bought was fairly expensive, and the construction, bricklaying, staining, chinking, roof-building, and assorted other tasks tacked on a huge amount of money. Beyond that, there was the difficulty of transporting materials to the site, troubles with building a septic field, and assorted other miseries. Over time, the construction became a constant drain on our family finances and we never really finished the cabin.

With that in mind, I was really interested in the International Dome House Company. Constructed from pre-molded industrial-strength Styrofoam pieces, the buildings are designed to be constructed by three people of reasonable strength. They are flame-retardant, typhoon-resistant, and completely unappetizing for termites. On the other hand, they look like igloos or mold cultures. Still, given some imagination, a little bit of time, and a decent paint palette, there really doesn't seem to be any limit to the creative possibilities.

I'm not sure that these buildings are my ideal habitat. However, their energy efficiency, artistic potential, and cheap price ($30,000) makes them very attractive. Now that I think about it, a house that looks like an ice cream sundae might just be perfect...

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He'd make his sundae home into a banana split if the Dome house people could figure out how to make a gargantuan Styrofoam banana.

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