Sustainable Shield: The Beauty and Benefits of Metal Cladding on Monolithic Domes

Snapshot from the Highway.

The Price City Offices municipal complex in Price, Utah, opted for metal shingles in a graphic striped theme during exterior renovations in 2001, almost 20 years after they were built.

Larry Byrne / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

A-1 Rentals.

Initially built in 1983, this Monolithic Dome got a new metal cladding roof with “Rentals” emblazed in bright blue and white in 1999.

Monolithic / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Metal cladding adds beauty, strength and sustainability to Monolithic Domes. It reduces the need for maintenance and can add decades of life to a dome. Steel shingles protect domes from temperature extremes, UV light, and water absorption.

According to Mike South, president of Monolithic, metal cladding protects the polyurethane foam on older Monolithic Domes with worn Airforms.

“Sometimes, people don’t maintain domes when it’s easy, and they wait for a disaster to happen,” Mike said. “After the construction of a Monolithic Dome is complete, the Airform acts as a single-ply roof membrane. If not properly maintained, the PVC plastic of the Airform can deteriorate, exposing the fabric scrim.”

A Big Improvement.

AFTER: The Monolithic Fertilizer storage dome in Chandler, Oklahoma, was built in 1978, but its metal cladding (installed in 2011) keeps the dome looking as good as new.

Monolithic / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Half Done Dome.

BEFORE: The foam of the Lincoln County Fertilizer Storage was badly damaged. In 2011, metal cladding was installed to protect the foam from further erosion.

Monolithic / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

“An Airform can last for twenty years with no coating, but the best practice is to apply a coating every ten years,” Mike said. “In the early days of Monolithic Domes, Airforms were peeled off to reuse. Those domes can benefit from metal cladding. One example of this is the Lincoln County Farm Center Fertilizer Blend Plant in Chandler, Oklahoma.”

In a 2009 interview, David B. South explained, “When the urethane foam blanketing the dome is left unprotected, it is exposed to sunlight and moisture. At night, dew forms on the dome. You won’t even see that layer of dew, but it’s there every night. In the morning, the sun drives that water vapor into the foam, and you get blisters.”

“Air movement under the metal shingles provides an escape route for the water vapor,” David said. “The moisture rises to the surface and evaporates. Nightly dew still forms on the metal-clad dome but slides off the shingles instead of working its way into the foam.”

Cliffdome in 2022.

Cliffdome was built in 1979. The two-toned metal cladding was applied in 1988 and still looks as good as new.

Amy South / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Once a dome has steel cladding, it can stay practically maintenance-free for decades to come, although hail and wind have the potential to damage the shingles. The first Monolithic Dome clad in metal was Cliffdome, built in 1979 in Menan, Idaho.

“It was clad with steel in the late 1980s, and it still looks practically brand new,” Mike said.

Dome homeowners often feel drawn to the pure aesthetic of the metal cladding, creating a combination of beauty and sustainability. The Cornejos added cladding to their Dome Home, Dos Robles Dome, in 2021. The tan metal blended with the natural environment and perfectly matched the tin roof of their porch.

“The cover minimizes maintenance,” Luis Cornejo said. “In a hailstorm, it’s a concert dome.”

Other steel-clad domes include additional private residences, such as those owned by Gary Clark and Susan Bernau, and professional buildings, including Price City Offices municipal complex in Price, Utah; Orange Coast College Planetarium in Costa Mesa, California; and Living Arts College in Raleigh, NC. Metal cladding also protects a potato storage dome in Hamer, Idaho, and a salt storage dome in Denver.

Shiny New Roof.

Stonebridge Dome was renovated with steel cladding in the fall of 2022. The flexible nature of metal shingles makes it easy to clad complicated configurations of Monolithic Domes like this one.

Javier Figueroa / Monolithic Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0