Gallery: Could Encasing Cities in Giant Domes Be an Energy Solution for...

Winooski Dome, Winooski, Vermon, Geoengineering, Concept, Reduce Energy, reduce emissions,

Back in 1979, Winooski, Vermont, a town that often experiences -20 degree weather in January, proposed building a giant dome over their city to help reduce energy costs and keep warm throughout the winter. Thirty years ago, we were experiencing an energy crisis with rising oil prices, and people were looking for solutions to reduce their costs. Nowadays, while we’re also looking to reduce our carbon footprint in addition to costs, the concept is still applicable. By doming off the small city of 7,000, Winooski could stay warm all year round, reduce energy costs and emissions, grow food all year, and ban cars inside the dome. Environmentally, it seems like it has potential.

What do you think?

Is encasing cities in giant domes the answer to our energy problems?

  • 409 Votes No way! It didn't work on the Simpsons and it won't work in real life!
  • 287 Votes It absolutely could be. Geoengineering is the wave of the future.
  • 491 Votes Depends. How much will the initial structure cost in $ and energy compared to the savings?

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A study back in 1979 determined the Winooski Dome could save residents 90% on their heating bills, and for a town that spends most of its year in freezing climes shoveling snow, that is a huge boon. The proposed transparent dome would rise 250 feet in the center, more than enough room for the town’s tallest building, which was at the time eleven stories. Internal combustion automobiles would be banned inside the dome and instead electric cars or an electric public transportation system would be used. Fresh air would be pumped into the town via large fans and could be heated or cooled as necessary. Most of the residents were fully in favor of the plan, and even Buckminster Fuller openly supported the concept.

Economically, the study determined that such a structure would become feasible if oil rose above $1.25 a gallon (in 1979 dollars). Costs for snowplowing would be almost non-existent, food could be grown locally year-round, and automobile emissions inside the dome would stop too. Of course the study didn’t calculate the reduction in carbon emissions, but as you can imagine, they would be significant. All in all, it seems like a win-win situation – better air quality, decreased emissions, locally grown food, decreased energy costs and warmer living.

Winooski’s dome is an interesting example of geoengineering, and a concept that should at least be considered. Geoengineering is a pretty hot topic right now, what with new proposals for wacky ideas coming out all the time to reduce carbon emissions. A group of scientists debated it last week in Washington DC, and even the author of Super Freakonomics thinks it’s an economical way to fix our problem.

Via H+ Magazine


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  1. fullandc November 18, 2009 at 5:47 am

    have you ever build a dome – we have (ZENDOME) and trust me – to cover a city will remain a dream – let´s focus on technology that is solving the problems and not on technology to capsule them!

  2. davidwayneosedach November 14, 2009 at 8:42 am

    I lived in Vermont for one full year. The winters are brutal. This dome could change all that for those living in the centre city.

  3. Eric Hunting November 13, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    What makes this question interesting now is that, while this was a rather fanciful and technically implausible concept in the early to mid 20th century when such notions emerged, today we actually have the technology to do this on a modest community scale. It’s a real possibility. Materials like Texlon (ETFE) -used for the Eden Project and the Beijing Water Cube- are more transparent than glass, strong enough to support tension structures of vast area, and durable enough to have life spans regarded as ‘indefinite’. I think, though, that the suggestion of a dome inspires an anachronistic perception. We are inclined to see this concept as comically ‘retrofuturist’ in the context of a giant dome structure when, in practice, this sort of community enclosure might employ any number of different forms and be integrated into buildings in many different ways.

    So the smarter version of this question is whether or not it makes sense to design communities to be more physically integrated and unified in architecture as a means of both conserving energy and eliminating productivity losses due to seasonal climate. Doesn’t sound so SciFi a proposition that way, does it? Doming-over a conventional suburban town is silly on the face of it because one would never do that without re-designing the physical form of the community in the context of the dome unifying it. But the very same effect might be achieved simply by trading the free-standing house for a micro-urban structure and putting your roads underground -which would seem a whole let let ‘alien’ than some giant dome.

  4. kpxiv November 12, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    This sounds interesting, but 1) would birds, migrating or otherwise, collide with the transparent structure? 2) The article mentions there would be no need for snowplowing, yet how would the city remove snow that accumulates atop the dome?

  5. Shwango November 12, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    What kind of effect would a dome have on the surrounding ecosystems?

  6. bearb319 November 9, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Buckminister Fuller suggested this would work over Long Island…..

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