Touring a Tiny Home and Geodesic Dome Home

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For this week’s class, we toured a local tiny house that’s located in the backyard of a retired microbiology professor, Dr. Peter Hartel. Visiting the house and talking to Dr. Hartel was a great learning experience because he shared with us the challenges he faced when having the house built in his backyard and the things he learned during and about the process. His tiny house was built to model the craftsman style home in which he and his wife live, and as such, Dr. Hartel was not able to incorporate much “whimsy,” as he called it, into the design. But small details like the beautiful wood used to build the dining table and the tree-as-column at the front door add a nice personalized touch to the house.

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The most telling thing I learned from what Dr. Hartel told us is about the give-and-take nature of building a tiny house in a historic district. He told us about the requirements he had to meet, not only the standard construction and building requirements but also those requirements set by the historical designation of the neighborhood. Dr. Hartel extended the offer to each of us students to spend a night or weekend in the tiny house, so hopefully there will be more pictures to follow!

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After our visit to the see the tiny house, we traveled to rural Oglethorpe County where we met with John Fortuna, a recently retired art professional who is now building a geodesic dome home. John has a very warm and friendly spirit and was a very gracious host to us. Along with his partner, Sara, they offered us plenty of sweet treats and explained the story of the home and their progress.

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The house is a remarkable sight, but even more remarkable is that John, a retired man in his 60s is building the dome home nearly all on his own. That detail alone makes the construction process even more astounding. I’ve seen geodesic domes only on TV and the internet (besides the Epcot sphere), and seeing John and Sara’s dome was absolutely stunning. Seeing it under construction gives you a rare and unique perspective on how the structure is constructed.

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Essentially, in very general terms, the dome is built using triangles to form alternating pentagons and hexagons that are framed together with wood and steel points. This type of construction requires less materials than the traditional home construction, so the question becomes, should we start building more of these domes as homes?


Brian Holcombe  |  09.27.15