Domes constructed from recycled or natural products


Consisting of nearly 10,000 square feet, the domes of The WATER Foundation provide offices, meeting rooms, recording studios for the foundation’s syndicated Bog Frog programs and a learning center for environmental issues.
            In addition to using natural building products, dead trees were culled from the immediate area for the domes’ construction.  Energy efficiency and natural harmony are goals throughout.

            The building includes:

            --Composting toilets that prevent pollution of water bodies using natural sources to convert waste to a usable compost fertilizer.  A high-tech system provides an environment for bacteria to eat waste as it does in nature.  An odor-free composter uses temperature, humidity and ventilation to turn 150 system uses per day into a dry black powder called humus.  About 2 percent of waste is not digested, creating about two pails of humus in 12 to 18 months time.

            --Paving constructed of recycled asphalt and concrete.

            --Decks made from recycled plastic, soda bottles and other high-density polyethylene HDPE and mixed with waste wood fiber.  The material does not rot, sliver or crack and contains an ultra violet inhibitor.

            --Natural stone use maximized with Little Falls Granite Works providing granite plaques, flagstones and pavers.

            --Halo Power Track system by Cooper Lighting provided the house with compact fluorescent fixtures consuming 26 watts per bulb.

            --Energy efficient ceiling and wall fixtures used to house compact fluorescent light bulbs.  It is estimated 30 percent of electric energy in the United States is for light alone.  The WATER Foundation says that can be reduced five-fold wit fluorescent lighting.

            --Environmentally responsible paint from Ace Hardware Paint Division has low odor, and no heavy metals such as lead or mercury.  Paint cleans up with water and is stain and mildew resistant.

            --Geothermal heating and air-conditioning systems us the earth’s power.

            --A walk-in cooler, dubbed the root cellar, is an energy efficient natural refrigerator.  Using the earth as a coolant plans call for a sand blanket to store vegetables like carrots and potatoes.  Last your flowering plant bulbs were stored in the cellar.

            A round chamber that alters voice echoes, the cellar is formed by a steel substructure that acts as a Faraday cage in screening out cosmic radiation.  Humidity and temperature are controlled with adjustable ventilation.

            --Permanent wood foundation for both domes was made from pressure treated wood.  Considered more energy efficient than traditional block or concrete foundation, the wood is more resilient and lasts as long.

            --Cellulose insulation was used for its thermal resistance and sound reduction qualities.  It is made from recycled paper, newspaper, office paper and corrugated paper.

            --Recessed lighting platforms are highly reflective and use compact fluorescent light bulbs, which consume 32 watts per bulb, compared to the typical 150-watt incandescent bulb.

            --Ceiling thermotile provide a thermal resistance, or R factor, of 4.55 per inch.  Tiles are made from recycled polystyrene and have high light reflection without glare.  Tiles are washable, reversible and do not shed fibers.



Environmentally friendly

Dome structure uses wind, sun, earth for heating, cooling, power 

A geodesic building design is turning conservation talk into physical reality.

            The entire dome structure, about 10,000 square feet, is heated, cooled and powered by the wind, sun and earth.
            Geothermal pipes use the earth and an adjacent pond for heating and cooling.  Electricity is generated from solar power and a wind turbine and collected by batteries for a two-week reserve.
            Behind it all is the sound of flowing water.
            Rising from hardwood forest surroundings, the two Eco Domes are the headquarters for The WATER Foundation offices south of Brainerd.  Formerly in downtown Brainerd, the not-for-profit organization based on conservation education and marketing is now located on South Long Lake Road off Highway 18 East.
            As evidenced by the many blue recycling boxes passerby see on any drive through Brainerd city streets on pick-up days, Americans appear to have taken recycling to heart.  But are people ready to make the corner from a disposable society of just a few years ago to one with a conservation focus?
            “It’s a matter of education,” said David Winkelman, president and founder of The WATER Foundation.  “We need more information getting out there in the public.  I think information on conservation needs to pervade our society…
            “As a society we are ready to save money so that’s the direction we’ve taken with conservation marketing.”
            The WATER Foundation takes products that save money and promotes them.  Winkelman said the overall construction cost of the dome was less per square foot than the average home.  With 10,000 square feet, the domes were built for less than $50 per square foot.
            “It’s not just feeling good to be green, it’s getting more green (in the pocket book),” Winkelman said, noting the average house may cost $50 to $100 per square foot.
          In addition, the dome construction used 30 percent less building materials than the traditional frame home.
            The building includes 21-inch walls that have a thermal resistance factor of R-70 and argon-gas filled windows that are rated R-12--$45,000 worth of them.  Decks are made of recycled plastic and wood, and remarkable composting toilets use high-tech to basically eliminate waste to a few pails of humus every 12 to 18 months.
            Composting toilets have been used in Sweden for 20 years.  Several hundred thousand units are in use, primarily in vacation cabins or areas not served by sewers.
            Flowform water sculptures rising from the pond behind the domes actually are used to stimulate water’s natural ability to cleanse itself, mimicking circular water patterns in nature that actually cause molecular and structural changes in water.
            Winkelman said the work with flowform sculptures and water has been coming for 25 years.  “We are trying to understand the law of nature that allows water to refresh everything.”
            For Winkelman, change is still a long way off, but it is coming from the trades people to the consumer.  And he said the way to change is to show people they can save money, as well as the environment.
            “That’s a pretty good incentive.”
            Builder Larry Bullen, Bullen Construction of McGrath, east of Mille Lacs Lake, installed the geothermal heating and air conditioning systems and most of the domes’ plumbing.
            Bullen said with high furl prices just a year ago, people have good reason to seek alternatives.  And seeing a functioning house shows what can be accomplished in a new home or retrofits to an existing one.  Bullen said the U.S. government is promoting the building of 220,000 homes across the nation using geothermal heat and cooling as an unlimited resource.
            “I think the main thing is Winkelman is trying new ideas there and they will be applicable to the future and near future.”  Bullen said.  “…It’s too bad there aren’t more of those places around.”


Tours of foundation’s Eco Domes available

Tours:  Eco Domes will be available for specialized tours 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today through Wednesday, national Earth Day.  Tours are primarily designed for building contractors, engineers, architects, city planners and others interested in conservation friendly products and how they actually work in place.

            An open house tour for the general public is set June 26 through July 3.

            How to get there:  The WATER Foundation is five miles east of Brainerd on Highway 18, then south for five miles on South Long Lake Road, also called County Road 23.