Get the awesome construction innovation content in your inbox every week

Give it a try—it only takes a click to unsubscribe.


Igloos and the future of Dome Construction

Alice-India Garwood
by Alice-India Garwood on October 15, 2018

Igloos are totally iconic. Whether you’ve tried to build one yourself as a kid, you’ve seen them on tv or you learned about them at school, there’s something fairly magical about them.

An igloo is essentially a snow dome with an arch also made of snow. The dome has long been considered an excellent shape for both durability and insulation due to the natural strength of the arch, and the minimal surface area of the spherical part of the structure.

In Igloo construction, snow is used because of the air pockets it creates, trapping air creating insulation. With outside temperatures dropping as low as -45 degrees, you’re going to need all the insulation you can get. If made properly, the interior temperatures can get to anywhere from -7 degrees to 16 degrees. A lot more preferable to being outside.

igloo, bobtrade, construction, sustainability, construction materials, building supplies[Photo Credit: Metro Mand]

Although the stereotype is that Igloos are built by Inuits and tend to be found in the Arctic, they are actually Canadian, and more traditionally associated with the Canadian Central Arctic. The Igloos of the Inuits are usually built with whalebone as well as snow.

Although we cannot exactly date the first igloo, it is presumed these have existed since ancient times. The first noted sighting by western explorers was during the 1500s. Martin Frobisher, an explorer who sought to discover the Northwest Passage, landed on an island populated with Inuit Igloo communities.

"We cannot exactly date the first igloo, though it is presumed to have existed in ancient times."

Domes are a highly efficient form of construction. Similar to arches, they are self supporting, using the force of gravity. The weight of a dome produces downward and outward thrusts. The weight of downward thrust needs to be transferred and managed by a strong foundation, whereas an outward thrust requires resistance. Without resistance the dome will collapse.

igloo, bobtrade, construction, sustainability, construction materials, building supplies[Photo Credit: 3BL Media]

Although we’re not sure we’d want to live in one ourselves, the innovation of snow and bone in igloos is a sustainable dream! Proof that when looking to the future of efficient construction, we should also consider the innovations of the past.

In Switzerland, the Guinness World Record was taken for the largest dome igloo made of snow. 10.5m tall at its highest point and with an internal diameter of 12.9m, this whopper is an incredible display of the effectiveness of dome architecture and the use of snow. The record was planned in accordance with the Iglu Dorf’s 20th anniversary.

"The record breaking igloo was 10.5m tall at its highest point with an interior diameter of 12.9m."

A spokesperson for Iglu Dorf wrote: “As the initiator of igloo overnight stays in Europe, we want to show the world that we can build the biggest igloo ever.” This is indeed proof that use of snow in dome construction can be used at any scale.

igloo, bobtrade, construction, sustainability, construction materials, building supplies[Photo Credit: Adrian Gunter]

It took 18 people and around 1,400 blocks of snow to complete this incredible structure. It has also stolen the crown from the previous record holders Pro 7 Galileo, a German TV team, who held the record in 2011.

The igloo is an incredible innovation with a great deal of efficiency. These record breaking structures in Germany and Switzerland are proof that there can be something learned from the past when we look to the future of construction.

"Something can be learned from the past when we look at the future of construction."

igloo, bobtrade, construction, sustainability, construction materials, building supplies[Photo Credit: Dezeen]

Since ancient times the dome has been a standard of efficiency and minimalist construction. It was used at the turn of the century to create The Eden Project in Cornwall. A bio-dome used to demonstrate and celebrate the diversity of ecology and plant based biology.

Looking to the future, organisations such as research lab Space10 are exploring how small (and perhaps in the future large) scale dome construction along with biofuels can be used to produce plant life and even food. It is hoped with further development that these domes could be sustainable solutions to the problems associated with global warming and farming.

Tags: Creativity

Alice-India Garwood

Alice-India Garwood

Content Marketing Executive at Bobtrade. Interested in design, sustainability and the history of construction. I love all things indie and theatrical.