Lloyd Turner’s Balloon Form Invention

Lloyd Turner’s Balloon Form Invention
August 28, 2013

Side view of Lloyd Turner's entrance.As a young architect in the 1960’s, Lloyd Turner dreamed of curves and concrete in architecture.  He pursued an idea to step away from the widespread use of wood framing, and designed an inflated balloon form for thin shell concrete structures.  He experimented with spraying a few inches of urethane foam on the inside of his balloon form to make a rigid form.  He then sprayed gunite (air emplaced concrete), again from the inside, to stabilize the form.

Entrance to Lloyd Turner's ballon form houseIt worked! The result was an insulated form with very low forming costs.  Lloyd had invented a system for multiple dome structures.  His original patents, and some with improvements, have been used for free form structures all over the world.

If you look closely through the trees and bushes of Lloyd Turner’s northern California property, the domes of his home seem to emerge from the landscape.

The photo above and to the right  show how the structure is earth burmed.  This allows the building to melt into the surrounding landscape.  This feature also keeps the interior climate more stable.

ballon form house interiorThe photo to the right shows the comfortable interior of  Lloyd’s home.  Plenty of light and space are a large part of the interior of Lloyd’s home.  There are many skylights throughout his house to take full advantage of natural lighting.  With his design, the walls begin to curve at a higher point than many other dome designs.

When is a Dome not a Dome?

Lloyd refers to his style as soap bubble (the shape is also called a torisphere) architecture.  The organic design of bubbles is both strong and efficient.  This “soap bubble” shape transfers well to a house in that the walls are much more horizontal than that of a dome.  This gives the home more usable floor space, and comfortable high curves for the ceiling.

Lloyd used his “soap bubble” architecture to design his house.  The photo below  compares a picture of bubbles to the floor plan he designed.  The resemblance is amazing.

Lloyd Turner's dome house plan next to soap bubbles

Build Your Own Lloyd Turner Balloon Form

If you would like to build your own bubble (torisphere) structure, the plans can be found at How to Build a Lloyd Turner Balloon Form.

The gallery below offers more details of Lloyd building his house.

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4 Responses to “Lloyd Turner’s Balloon Form Invention”

  1. Peter Tower says:

    I wrote to you a couple of months ago, but never received any reply, so here goes again. Great new website design, by the way.
    I live in a small village in India, I am an American, my wife is Indian. We are trying to build cottages for poor people in the area. I used to build Ecoshells and have a distributorship/license for India from Monolithic Institute, and I will build domes here again.
    My question is this: I have access to 4ft x 4ft x 6in dense styrofoam panels used to cushion products on a pallet when shipped by a factory in the area. I can get hundreds of these. I have also been researching Basalt Yarn and found a source in India, via China.
    My thought is to glue these squares together, wrap them in Basalt Yarn, then spray them with chopped Basalt fiber and concrete. Final coat would be a colored stucco with waterproofing and anti-mildew additives.
    Is this a pipe dream? I note that Dow and Corning make styrofoam panels that are covered in concrete for the building industry, so why not make my own?
    Second Question: I will be using your stucco sprayer, but the chopped basalt is very, very hard on your nozzles, so is that possible or just hand apply instead so as not to damage your sprayer?
    Thanks in advance for your advice, I appreciate it.

    • admin says:

      Hello Peter,
      You have a great idea about building your own panels and a great resource in the Styrofoam panels. I would collect as many as I could while getting ready for production. Often these are called SCIPs. Typically SCIPs have a W truss at the core every 6-12″ depending on the loads. Then a wire mesh face wire is added to the front and back. Shotcrete is applied with our sprayers and the results is a very strong structure.
      If you have smaller spans another approach cold be spraying GFRC right onto the Stryrofoam after you have assembled the structure. We are waiting for an update from a group in India that is using this method to build a children’s home. I will post an update when we hear from them.
      Best regards,

  2. Hi Lloyd,

    I like your dome homes. My friends Paul and Eva Fewel told me about them a few years ago, and there is a good chance I’ll make one when I get some property to build on.

    My main concerns are:

    1. Can they be made to be fire resistant? If so, to what temperature? Would the insulation in the walls be ruined if a forest fire came close to the house?

    2. Are the homes up to code? What sorts of code issues to I need to be concerned about?

    3. What is the best way to get plumbing and electric integrated into the structure (should they be kept in soffits, so they are accessible in case repairs are necessary?).

    4. If the structure is partially submerged into the ground, will groundwater seep in or cause damage?

    5. Are there other questions I should be asking?

    Thank you for making this information available.


    Kevin Browning

    • Sean Maxwell says:

      Hi Kevin,

      Those are some great questions, Nolan loves chatting about domes and I’m sure he would have some good answers for you. You may also want to check out monolithic.org for some guidance.

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