The 2008 Buckminster Fuller Challenge
The Geodesic Earthworks Kit Housing Solution
Crises of Housing, Energy and Environment
James C. Garofalo
P.O. Box 287
Hadley, New York 12835
Defining the problem
The inefficiencies of design of conventional construction (including all past similarly constructed structures) has caused or
greatly contributed to crises in housing, energy and the environment. These inter-related, inter-dependent “design” crises
are becoming increasingly more acute, being exacerbated by the rising cost of energy and the rising cost of building materials
and related costs necessary to continue constructing and maintaining/repairing these conventionally built structures.
According to the US Department of Energy:
Today's buildings consume more energy than any other sector of the U.S.
economy, including transportation and industry.
According to the Rocky Mountain Research Institute:
“From materials and construction to lighting, heating, and cooling, the
building industry accounts for roughly 40 percent of all the energy
used in the United States.”
“Buildings consume nearly a third of America's energy — much of it
wasted by inefficient design … Real-estate development therefore
offers abundant opportunities for saving resources, not to mention
reducing waste and restoring damaged land.” [emphasis added]
The underlying cause of these crises is the continued operation of an obsolete paradigm, obsolete in that, for decades, the
technology has existed to eradicate the problems created by it. Implementing the available technology would introduce and
propel a new paradigm as its advantages far outweigh remaining in the old paradigm. Inversely, continuing to act under the
obsolete paradigm further exacerbates and compounds the aforementioned crises.
The obsolete paradigm holds:
assets need not be continually re-evaluated in light of emerging technology.
assets need not be optimally managed, i.e. utilities, labor and materials are cheap/abundant.
potential crises are routinely detected in advance of their onset.
comprehensive, holistic considerations are not imperative i.e. localized thinking is adequate.
itself in place “simply by the terms in which we have been conditioned to think.”
“We can't solve problems by using the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Absent a comprehensive vision, our countrysides continue to sprout rectilinear structures; further ingraining the practice of
enclosing smaller than optimum spaces using greater than optimum materials. Every new “relic” carries with it an energy
reliance of undetermined, open-ended cost into the future. We have not initiated a sustainable solution.
The solution and its implementation
The Geodesic Earthworks Kit Housing Solution (hereafter: “Solution”) addresses the housing/energy/environmental crises by
offering a viable alternative to live and work in an optimally enclosed, near maintenance-free, potentially energy harvesting
structure that minimally impacts the environment to the point of its spontaneous self-repair and recovery. The following points
delineate the rationale of this housing innovation:
• R. Buckminster Fuller stated: “We can live entirely on our energy income from the Sun.” The amount of solar energy
available to the Earth in one minute exceeds global energy demand for a year. Currently, we use only an infinitesimally small
percentage of that energy income. Putting solar energy economically into optimum use as quickly as possible is imperative.
• Typical passive solar heating designs actually attempt to limit the free and far greater potential solar gain of the summer’
s sun in favor of the winter sun.
• Over recent years, passive solar heating technology has rapidly advanced in one very important way: Passive Annual
Heat Storage (hereafter “PAHS” as developed by Dr. John N. Hait), a solar energy technology that utilizes, rather than
discards, the summer’s huge solar input.
• PAHS utilizes the living space of the home as a collector and the earth as a battery to absorb the heat of the sun year
around as it enters the enclosed interior space of the structure and is subsequently vented into the earth by natural
convection (this process also creates a natural system of air ventilation).
• PAHS finds its greatest and most efficient application by an increased amount of earth in direct contact with the exterior
of the enclosed living space; i.e. an “earth-sheltered” home. Dr. Hait further describes a “watershed/insulation umbrella”
which runs within the earth and over the top of the structure to trap the heat in the earth (insulative) by creating long
convective pathways preventing heat escape. The watershed aspect of the umbrella conducts water coming from above away
from the structure, keeping the earth battery/bank dry below it. Dr. Hait states: “By using [this] new process…heat can be
collected, stored and retrieved over the entire year, without using energy robbing mechanical equipment.”
• Dr. Hait determined the ideal structure to support the substantial earth loads associated with earth-sheltered housing
(and consequently the best use of the PAHS system) was the Geodesic Dome.
• The following comments are typical regarding the Geodesic Dome:
“A dome is the safest, strongest and most energy efficient
building. It takes less building materials to enclose usable
living or working area in a dome than any other shaped structure.”
“The Geodesic Dome is, simply stated, the strongest, most cost-
effective structure ever devised; a break-through in ease of
Amazingly, this engineered structure, through an optimally efficient geometry,
acquires its immense strength and ability to support large loads via a minimum
of materials. Further, the structure is actually stronger when “loaded.”
• The Geodesic Earthworks Kit is specifically designed to be earth-sheltered. This allows for the optimum implementation
of the PAHS technology. The resultant kit, however, is not a Geodesic Dome of conventional construction. The Geodesic
Earthworks Kit does not utilize a single 2 x 4/6/8 or sheet of plywood. The “Solution” references the Keiser Industries Report
of 1944 which predicted an advanced method of construction based on a material emerging at that time; a material that, if
economically molded into structure and finished parts, would be the ideal type of material for the mass-production of houses
and “could conceivably displace all existing methods of house construction.” That material is plastic. The Geodesic
Earthworks Kit is immensely strong and quickly constructed because it utilizes an injection-molded plastic tile: The “Bucky Tile”
(respectfully named after Geodesic Dome developer R. Buckminster Fuller). The Bucky-Tile is a plastic drop-in tile that fits
securely into a custom strut/hub geodesic framework. The Bucky Tile replaces much of the building materials used in typical
dome construction, takes out virtually all angle cutting (either in the factory or on-site), yields virtually no wasted materials,
and is not only a more quickly constructed Geodesic Dome but also a stronger structure.
• Consultations with engineers in the plastics molding industry have upheld the conclusion that the plastic Bucky-Tile,
correctly designed with proper supportive ribbing (with our without a minimal steel reinforcement) meets the structural
requirements of earth-sheltering. Sources for the plastic for the Bucky-Tile include recycled plastics. Recyclers have stated
that there is virtually an unlimited source of reusable plastic in landfills. Even more promising, plastics are now being
developed from renewable, natural resources such as starch resins derived from corn, wheat, tapioca and potatoes. This is
the emerging field of bio-plastics: economical and ecological sound substitutes for petroleum-based resins. Even at the time of
this writing, bio-plastics can replace a significant percentage of petroleum-based additives.
• The “Solution” anticipates a maximum contribution of bio-plastic and recycled plastic in the production of the Bucky Tiles
to promote ecological repair and a housing industry utilizing non-toxic, sustainable materials.
Financing the plan and economic viability.
• The “Solution” anticipates a distributor-based business structure aimed at existing contractors and developers to begin
working in the new building paradigm. To offer a highly viable business opportunity and to protect the investment of any
potential distributor, the Bucky Tile and its associated custom strut design has sought United States patent protection. A
distributor will receive a Geodesic Earthworks Kit model home included in the price of the distributorship. Discount
distributorships will be offered to help raise the capital to tool this product (primarily six injection molds, a small custom strut
manufacturing facility and initial runs of Bucky Tiles) and to compensate the distributor for the time lag caused by the tooling
• Geodesic Earthworks, successfully launched, will attract others with resources to expand the production and delivery of
this building technology. Through cooperation, the delivery of the “Solution” will be expanded and hastened.
• Strategic partnerships are actively being sought.
• There exists a completed business plan geared to potential interested parties (distributors and/or partner(s)). Therein
are listed advisors, experts in their fields, to ensure that a top-quality kit goes into production.
Fuller stated that by simply making available an artifact/invention that demonstrated a comprehensively improved performance
per unit of invested resources would free humans from the competitive struggle to exist, would render the living environment
more favorable for all humans and their supportive ecology. Such an artifact would cause humans to abandon their previous
problem producing behaviors and devices, and therefore cause people to operate in a new, technologically based building
paradigm. The Geodesic Earthworks Kit is such an artifact/invention.