David B. South

A 2015 photo of David B. South at his desk at the Monolithic headquarters in Italy, Texas.

David Barney South Sr. (February 20, 1939 – November 3, 2020) was an entrepreneur and inventor. He was best known as co-inventor and advocate of the Monolithic Dome. He was the president, chairman, emeritus chairman, and co-founder of Monolithic; founder and publisher of the Monolithic Dome Institute; co-founder and former chairman of the Domes for the World foundation; former chairman of the American Concrete Institute (ACI 334) committee for concrete shell design.

As a teenager, David was inspired by Buckminster Fuller to build domes. Over the years, he tried various geodesic designs but eventually rejected the geodesic dome as impractical and wasteful. He and his brothers — Barry and Randy — developed a new construction method using an inflatable form, polyurethane, steel, and spray-in-place concrete. They constructed the first Monolithic Dome in April 1976 in Shelley, Idaho.

The brothers founded Monolithic in 1980 with David as president. Monolithic constructed many domes worldwide. David and Barry split the company in 1988 with Barry starting Dome Technology in Idaho Falls and David — along with Randy — moving Monolithic first to Stockton, California, in 1988, then to Italy, Texas, in 1990. Randy returned to Idaho in 1993 and later started South Industries. All three companies continue to sell and construct Monolithic Domes.

In 1996, David founded the Monolithic Dome Institute to promote and advocate for the Monolithic Dome, grow the industry, and teach the Monolithic Dome construction process to individuals and companies. Hands-on Monolithic Dome Builders Workshops were offered in the spring and fall, where students spend the week constructing a real Monolithic Dome. The Institute also published the Roundup: Journal of the Monolithic Dome Institute — a full-color, quarterly magazine — from 1997 to 2001. The Institute continues to publish this website that reaches 50,000 visitors per month.

From 1997 to 2006, David served as chairman of the American Concrete Institute joint ACI/ASCE Committee 334 on Thin Shell Design and Construction. He was instrumental in publishing the committee report on the Construction of Concrete Shells Using Inflated Forms (ACI 334.3R-05).

Personal life

David was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on February 20, 1939. He was raised in Idaho Falls and Island Park, Idaho. His father died of a heart attack on David’s sixteenth birthday leaving David and Barry to run the family sawmill. David graduated from Idaho Falls High School and later married his high school sweetheart, Judy Lynne Bates, on his birthday in 1959. The couple raised ten children together.

He graduated from Idaho State University in 1968 and moved to Chicago to serve as the computer operations officer for Chicago Northern railroad. Two years later, he moved back to Idaho and co-founded South’s, Inc. to sell and apply polyurethane foam. It was working with polyurethane foam that led the brothers to develop the Monolithic Dome.

In 2014, David was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He decided it was time to move away from the day-to-day operations of Monolithic. In February 2015, he transferred ownership to Mike South, Gary Clark, and Dave South. He stayed on as chairman to continue pursuing some personal projects. Eventually, as his memory faded, he became emeritus chairman but still came into work often and loved to talk to people about his passion — the Monolithic Dome.

On February 25, 2019, his loving wife passed away. After her death, his health declined over the next 21 months. David passed away from complications from Alzheimer’s at age 81 on November 3, 2020.

Media

From the start of the new dome industry, David gave interviews to local and national TV networks. He’s appeared on the big three TV networks, the major cable news networks, HGTV, and more. He’s given interviews for many radio programs, newspaper stories, and magazine features.

He’s written hundreds of articles and blog posts. David was also a speaker who never tired of making Monolithic Dome presentations, whether to small groups or at major conferences.

David co-authored two books with Freda Parker, including Dome Living: A Creative Guide for Planning Your Monolithic Dream Home and his auto-biography Think Round: the Story of David B. South and the Monolithic Dome. He also wrote the seminal work on polyurethane foam, Urethane Foam: Magic Material — And the Best Kept Insulation Secret.

Patents