Delivering Norwegian couple Benjamin and Ingrid Hjertefolger's dream of an eco-home near Bodo in the Arctic Circle, built using traditional materials such as wood, sand, clay and straw was never going to be easy.
Their vision of a home that met their nature house ideals depended on them finding an architecture specialist who could provide a 15m wide, 7.5m tall glass shield around the build to protect the house and garden against wild arctic winds and heavy snowfalls.
"In my original plans the internal house was square with a rectangular greenhouse surrounding it," said Benjamin Hjertefolger. "However, we were worried about how a standard glasshouse would cope with the extreme weather. We knew that domes are much stronger so thankfully, after some 'googling' we found Solardome Industries in the UK."
For the Hampshire-based supplier of geodesic glass dome technology, the brief demanded something beyond the scope of existing systems.
The large dome also had to feature a set of double doors, eleven windows and a large door aperture. No doubt, this was a unique opportunity to push the boundaries of dome design.
"We've always felt that you have to innovate to stay ahead, whatever the situation. In fact, you might say we believe there's no such word as can't," said Pippa Bailey from Solardome Industries. "As a result, we were keen to take on the challenge of developing a larger dome system that could accommodate the Hjertefolger's dream. We listened carefully to exactly what they wanted, before sitting down with our designer engineers to figure out a way to make it happen."
The innovation process of designing, developing and testing a new dome system led to Solardome Industries creating its GEO-LOK nodal assembly system (international patent pending). This engineering breakthrough means the firm can now scale up dome projects to 25m in diameter whilst retaining the same design and components. The new system, known as the Solardome Pro, had all the ingredients to solve the Hjertefolgers' Arctic eco-house conundrum.
With the planning, designing and manufacturing done, boots hit the ground at the earliest opportunity. Working through the long Norwegian summer days it took just three weeks for the developers to assemble the glass dome on site.
"We have been blown away by the magnificence of the dome and the life it is helping us to lead," said Benjamin Hjertefolger. "We all worked really hard to create our eco-friendly home, our dream, and our little sustainable bubble that supports our eco values."
Like all of Solardome Industries' products the Solardome Pro boasts a host of sustainable credentials starting with its greenhouse-like qualities. This reduces the need for artificial heating, cutting the Hjertefolgers' carbon emissions, and ensures a uniform temperature is maintained throughout the year. It also extends the growing season, enabling more fruit and vegetables to thrive.
When you add to that the fact it uses 30 % fewer building materials than traditional rectangular structures, you have a very sustainable model. Each dome is framed by recycled aluminium and has a structural life span of 100 years.
So far the Pro system has won two awards for innovation: an International Green Apple award, and a rare commendation from the Federation of Small Businesses at its WorldPay UK Business Awards. In addition, Solardome Industries is a finalist in the Southampton NatWest Venus Awards for both the Silverlake Green Business Award and the Dutton Gregory Small Business Award.
Since the Hjertefolgers moved into their new home Solardome Industries has added to its international pedigree by building a further two Pro domes in Austria, proving that the investment in this scalable system was a sound one.
"There was never any doubt in my mind that if anybody could pull this off it was us," said Bailey. "I have no regrets about not charging the Hjertefolgers for all the extra design work that went into their project; after all, we now have a truly world class architectural dome system to take forward into the global marketplace."