The Cast Paper Dome: An Opportunity to Develop New Materials and Construction Techniques for Sustainable Building

EPA Grant Number: SU833565
Title: The Cast Paper Dome: An Opportunity to Develop New Materials and Construction Techniques for Sustainable Building
Investigators: Krawczyk, Robert , Davis, Blake
Current Investigators: Krawczyk, Robert , Al-Awadhi, Lolwah , Bambrell, Jennifer , Banda, Justine , Baulier, Paul , Blosky, Mitch , Chima, Steve , Christo, Robert , Davis, Blake , Derdelakos, Alexander , Duke, Kyle , Duong, Cindy , Enriquez, Sheena , Fernandez, Louis , Ghafoori, Marc , Harbour, Zach , Herrera, Johathan , Kim, James , Kim, Yoojee , Lipski, Brian , Ly, Christine , Morton, Stacy , Nguyen, Linh , Noonan, Christina , Ongchangco, Katrina , Phillips, Timothy , Rinecke, Jonathan , Rios, Homero , Schafer, Michael , Skinner, Jonathan , Vega, Mayra , Villa, Jacqueline , Walker, Jason , Zistakis, Nikola
Institution: Illinois Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2007 through May 30, 2008
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , P3 Awards , Sustainability , Nanotechnology


Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of years of architectural design and construction practice have reduced our materials options to only the strongest materials, put together in the strongest way. It is difficult for current practitioners to use sustainably produced materials, which are not as strong or as durable as the current materials that they are using. However, energy and material efficient structures will have to be designed and built to ensure a future for our children.

To conserve materials, reduce pollution and lessen energy use, these new structures will have to be compact and well insulated. They must be built using much larger amounts of sustainably produced materials and we must begin putting these materials together in ways that optimize their strength. Architects will have to research which combinations of sustainably produced materials will produce the strongest structures. Most likely, these will be new materials, put together in new ways.


The objective of this project is to synthesize these ideas into a specific project that can be built and evaluated. The project that we have chosen will be utilizing recycled paper, cast into architectural assemblies. Paper is not very strong, even in relatively thick sheets. However, when paper pulp is cast into complex shapes, and dried, it has substantial strength. Some examples of this are paper egg cartons, and fast food beverage trays. We are using this property of cast paper to make a strong, compact geodesic dome.

Casting the paper allows us to make the skin of the triangular subassemblies doubly curved, instead of flat, providing substantial structural support for the dome. Casting also allows us to provide for details like drip edges, which will improve the performance of the dome. By designing the molds properly, a drip edge can be cast into the triangular dome subassemblies, which will throw the water over the joint, eliminating most of the leakage. The remaining leakage will then be concentrated in the area where all the triangles come together, and an appropriate flashing can be designed for those locations.


We will be erecting and monitoring the performance of the dome for a period of several months. The dome will then be disassembled and the parts of the dome will be subjected to destructive and non-destructive testing to determine if their structural properties have changed. We will then evaluate what changes we need to make to the cast materials or the construction methods to maintain a weatherproof, energy efficient structure. These findings will be incorporated into a continuing research program on utilizing recycled materials in building construction.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 4 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Green building design, affordable housing, developing countries, architecture, sustainable development, temporary housing, refugee shelter, innovative technology, renewable, local materials, building technology, alternative building technology, alternative materials, ecological design, recycling, domes, waste reduction, waste minimization, emergency shelter,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report