How Long Does It Take to Build a Dome? The Timeline for Constructing an Air-Supported Structure
Thinking about a dome but not sure on the timing? While domes are not necessarily permanent structures and are quicker to construct than other building types, you can’t simply decide on a whim to put one up just anywhere.
Domes require significant site preparation and infrastructure and are subject to applicable building codes and permitting, as laid out by your local building authorities. The construction process might be quicker overall, but the planning and approvals can take just as long.
1. The Approvals Process
The approvals process can take several months, and possibly even a year, before your general contractor can begin site work and The Farley Group can begin fabricating your dome. It typically involves receiving site plan approval, sorting out any zoning issues (including any necessary variances), and the application and issuing of building permits.
For best results, we collaborate with your local team of professionals that know the area and its requirements. This is a proven way of speeding up the process and cutting through red tape.
Site construction typically begins in late spring or early summer for the project to be completed by the fall, so it is a good idea to start the approvals process as early as 12 months before.
2. Site Preparation
Just as with any kind of building, the site chosen for the dome almost always undergoes some initial preparation. This typically involves clearing of any debris, removal of old structures or foliage, and balancing of the land. Environmental remediation may also be required before new construction can begin. The site preparation process can be short or involved, depending upon the amount of work and the degree of difficulty. Of course, if your dome is going to be constructed over an existing field, bank of tennis courts, or a pool, then this phase of the project will be minimal.
3. Site Construction
Before we can erect the dome, it is necessary to lay the required groundwork. All site construction is contracted locally with a general contractor or construction manager and is performed by their sub-contractors. Most important here is the construction of the concrete grade beam, which is the anchoring system for the air-supported structure, along with concrete pads for peripheral components like entrances/exits, and the dome’s mechanical equipment.
This phase of the project also includes excavation and the preparation of the sub-base for the dome’s interior surface, plus installation of the electrical/gas infrastructure. The timeline here can vary from 4-6 weeks for smaller dome projects and up to 3 or 4 months for larger ones. Delays in this stage usually result from the installation/commission of utility services by the utility companies.
It is common for dome projects to simultaneously have the entrance/clubhouse building under construction. It is also during this stage that other site improvements occur. These can include adding sewer/storm water management infrastructure, creation of the parking lot and laneway, and installation of lighting for those areas.
4. The Interior Surface
Depending on the phasing of the project, completion of the interior surface could occur before or after installation of the dome. That interior surface can take 1-4 weeks, depending on the type of surface and size of the dome.
5. Installation of the Dome Package
Installation can occur following completion of work on the site. This installation process takes anywhere from just a few days for very small domes to a few weeks for large ones. The dome itself arrives to the site in sections that are rolled up into large bundles for shipping. These bundles are then strategically placed so they can be unrolled, spread out, and connected to one another and to the grade beam anchoring system around the whole perimeter of the dome’s footprint.
Once the dome is secured in place, it’s just a matter of inflation. Filling the dome with air and watching it rise is one of the most exciting parts and usually gathers a decent crowd because you can blink and miss it! The powerful inflation system can fill the dome from flat to full in just a few short hours.
After the dome is inflated and stabilized, the entry and exit components are installed and connected, along with the interior lighting system, the dome’s insulation material, and any other finishing touches that are required.
The facility must then pass final inspections before your building authority grants an occupancy permit. This will include not only the dome itself, but also the entrance building (if applicable) and any other aspects of the project that relate to the safety of the facility.
Overall, the typical dome construction timeline spans several months from breaking ground to being ready for public use. So, if you’re doing the math, you can see why it’s important to start planning early. While a dome can go up relatively quickly, there’s plenty of room for delays. Because building a dome is a team effort, a slowdown in one aspect of the project can bring the whole process to a standstill. This is where planning and experience make the difference as to whether a dome is ready or not for the season!