Liberty University Uses Unique Dome Building Technology

Lynchburg, VA - It's a lot like a giant paper mache; a temporary inflated dome, covered in cement and other material, and once it hardens, it's deflated, and there you have it.

The technology has only been used a few hundred times world-wide, and there are multiple benefits, including a ton of money saved.

"It's going to come down this tube and fill that all up with air" said Tom Dixon.

Dixon, a superintendent with Dome Technology, describes the process like a big balloon. A column fills with air, and out pops the dome.

"I've never done something this small before" said Dixon of the LU project.

Dixon is overseeing the dome build at Liberty University's new LaHaye Student Center.

"We have probably 560-something structures standing around the world" he said.

Most of which are completely different; massive silos, or storage facilities. But the six foot high dome at LU marks a first for Dixon.

"I inflated a dome in Colorado that was 310 feet across and it inflated in about an hour and a half" he said.

The air is pushed by giant fans, which run on multiple motors.

"This is my lifeblood, this is it, without this, I'm in trouble" said Dixon.

So how does it ultimately become a dome?

"Once it fills with air, the top will fill up to its form. Once we get it up to pressure, we'll put some primer on it, then we'll put some foam insulation on it, then we'll hang some rebar from that foam insulation and spray concrete on it till its solid" said Dixon.

The LU dome, considered small, puffed up in less than five minutes.

"It's a pretty unique, pretty cool thing to do" said Darryl Glass.

Glass, the Project Manager said the technology saved around $50,000 in steel expenses, not to mention, valuable time was saved as well.

"Steel you have the whole process of the steel, plus you have the paints and the finishes. This will be finished once they're done" said Glass.

Completion of the dome is expected right before Liberty's graduation ceremonies. The dome will house a brand new rock climbing wall.