Building A Geodesic Dome…Twice

How The Fun Of Building A Geodesic Dome Began

Building a geodesic dome journey. After living in the smack-middle of NYC for 25 years (loved every minute), we decided to close up shops and move to Hawaii. And so we did; on August 4, 2014, we moved to the Big Island of Hawaii. Five years prior, we purchased a one-acre lot in one of the prettiest subdivisions called Leilani Estates.

Goodbye NYC – Aloha Hawaii!

Moving to Hawaii

We have extensively researched the perfect place for us to retire eventually. Although far from retirement age, we want to play and enjoy all the fun things we love before retiring. One thing was sure: we would like to live on an island near the ocean where we could snorkel, scuba dive, and play in the water whenever we wanted. All year round, sunshine is a must, and it has to be part of the United States.

We traveled all over the world, but somehow, we found ourselves to keep returning to Hawaii. We read tons of books and posts and reviews on the Big Island. One book was “Affordable Paradise,” which was particularly on target in the area we were interested in.

Long story short, we wanted to find out if we would like to live in the jungle in the rainforest, with all the bugs, frogs, and other creatures crawling around.

We booked an entire house for ten days in Leilani Estates; oh boy! We were hooked from the first moment we arrived. Walked and biked all over town, zigzagging the streets. We were looking to buy a house on the spot.

Rented a Pretty House in Lelani Estates

Talked to several realtors, and they were kind enough to show us a few homes on the market for sale. Gave us some pointers on what to look for when buying a home in the jungle. We learned a lot and were very grateful. This trip is worth every penny. We did a good thing.

Zigzagging The Streets in Leilani Estates

We learned from the realtors that, no matter what you buy, you must fix it, make it your own, and probably will spend more than anticipated. It is easier and relatively cost-effective to build one from scratch, from the ground up. Oh, geez, really?! Less than a year later, we purchased a lot on Nohea Street in the lovely Leilani Estates.

Checking out the underwater neighbors, too

Red Road Is Just Stunning!

Who Says a House Has to be Square?

We always had this crazy notion of building anything but square. So, the search for something different just began.

One day, I was in a yellow cab going uptown on York Avenue and 67th street when I shouted at the poor driver to stop the car, he almost had a heart attack; I needed to get out.

I spotted a glass dome structure behind the trees. Turns out; it is a Caspary Auditorium part of Rockefeller University. I don’t care; that’s what I want!

I know, it sounds incredibly obnoxious and I am, really not a demanding, high-maintenance woman, but this could be something magical and would love to see what’s out there resembling this shape that can be turn into a home.

I also remembered that the Hayden Planetarium and the New York Botanical Garden are dome structures. They became our weekend projects, and we visited them many-many occasions.

At this point it was clear that we want to live in a geodesic dome home. Not sure how we are going to pull this off, but we just have to try it.

While searching for geodesic dome kits and plans, we came across Natural Spaces Domes in Minnesota. They have a three-day DOME TOUR and a DOME SCHOOL that we signed up immediately. You get to see other people’s domes inside and out, and they will answer all your questions plus, in the school, you can learn to build your future dome. It was fantastic!

Can we build something as fantastic as this?

I wouldn’t mind building a geodesic dome that looks like a botanical garden.

Arrived To Hawaii To Build A Geodesic Dome

flying over Hawaii

If you are thinking of relocating to Hawaii with your pets, especially with birds or other exotics, make sure you follow the agricultural department’s rules and regulations to THE LETTER.

Otherwise, you won’t get on the plane, or even worse, you will have to leave your pets behind.

But that’s an entirely different story that I am going to write about in detail in another post.

at the Honolulu airport with my parrots

We arrived on the island on August 4th, and a few days later, Hurricane Iselle swept through the islands, knocking down power lines, uprooting ginormous Albizia trees, and turning the island upside down. On the positive side, it helped us by clearing some of the large trees on our lot.

Since we lost power because of Iselle, we had to camp out for a while. Used the barbecue grill for cooking pretty much everything.

In the meantime, we worked on the dome design, gathering builders, plumbers, electricians, and other contractors. The dome drawings were done and stamped by our architect and structural engineer. Started to clear the lot.



got the building permits

By the middle of May 2015, we had a concrete foundation in place and waited for the dome to arrive from Minnesota. Our dome stood tall and passed final inspections on June 29, 2016. Since our builders overbooked themselves with other projects, it took us longer to raise the dome than anticipated. However, in the end, it was worth it and looked beautiful!

Living room with 20 feet tall triangle skylights.

My very first kitchen island, all the drawers curved.

My favorite wall. Curved in the middle of the dome.

favorite curved wall

Curved kitchen island view from the loft.

Tribute to our largest and tallest Albizia tree.

tallest albizia tree

What a magnificent sunset in our backyard!

magnificent sunset

We were still working on the kitchen cabinets and about to start framing up the lanai when suddenly, on May 3, 2018, all hell broke loose in Leilani Estates. The lava river took our newly built geodesic dome on June 1, 2018, gushing out of fissure eight behind our garden.

Love those skylights!

Saddest moment, watching lava coming closer.

We’re Running From The hot molten Lava. Everyone is So Scared

No escape from this one

Fissure 8 is pouring out hot molten lava in our backyard. It was scary and magnificent in the same time.

On the right side is the dome; lava is getting closer by the minute

Do you see it?

Lava is getting closer!

And it’s all gone!

We Are Building A Geodesic Dome…Again

Long story short, we decided to stay on the island and give it another try. We quickly purchased a new lot (far away from the hotspots), fearing that we wouldn’t find any within our budget if we waited too long. We truly loved our new dome, and since we never had a chance to enjoy it, after several days of discussion, we decided to give it another try. This time, we can make adjustments that we missed or were not fond of for the first time. We feel fortunate to get a second chance. (No worries! We insured the dome to the maximum and were paid in full quickly.) Running a business in NYC, you quickly learn to insure just about everything.

In this blog, we share our experiences of building a geodesic dome, losing it to a volcanic eruption, and rebuilding it for the second time. Talking about all the fun and the nightmares of the construction. Hope you will enjoy it and be helpful if you decide to build one.

By Stella

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