Michael Morley loves domes.
No, not the kind that fair weather sports teams play games in. He loves the kind that you live in.
“It is the sacred geometry of being in a space that has such an open feeling,” Morley said. “I don’t know how to explain it, but you just feel good being in there. Your mind works a little bit different.”
East Lawrence soon will get the chance to see for itself.
Morley and his Lawrence-based company SIPSmart Building Systems are teaming up with Lawrence’s Tenants to Homeowners to build a new dome-home structure on the northwest corner of 13th and New Jersey streets.
“I promise you the idea isn’t to be weird,” Morley said.
Instead, it is to be green. Morley is confident the 1,400-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home will have heating, cooling and light bills totaling less than $50 per month.
Huh, maybe there is something to this dome thing.
Actually, the dome isn’t the magic when it comes to the energy efficiency. That honor goes to specially constructed insulated panels that are built off-site and then are fitted together on-site. The result is a kit-like home that fits together so tight that the home has to be equipped with a special device to suck in air from the outside to keep everything fresh.
The dome is used to cut down on costs. Morley — who built a similar but larger house that received national attention in Greensburg — said the dome reduces material costs by about 25 percent. A big reason is that the dome is self-supporting and doesn’t need any rafters that account for bundles and bundles of wood in a traditional home. The money saved on materials is put back into high-efficiency windows, heat pumps and appliances.
Morley is estimating the house can be built for about $75 per square foot, similar to what traditional homes cost. That’s what got Rebecca Buford’s attention at Tenants to Homeowners.
“Everybody hears about all the latest, new green things, and then families look at them and realize there is no way that they can afford to do it,” said Buford, executive director of Tenants to Homeowners. “This could be different.”
Buford said her organization hopes the new house will provide solid data on just how energy efficient a home can be.
“We’re trying to find that spot where we can build green but still get the biggest bang for our buck,” Buford said. “The goal for our organization is long-term affordability. It is not just what you can sell a house to a buyer for, but really how affordable will it be for them to live in over time. That really means we have to consider how we build.”
Morley is confident energy-efficiency fans will be impressed. He said the Greensburg home — about 3,000 square feet — has a monthly utility bill of about $30.
Now Morley is eager to see whether neighbors of the new home become fans of its unique look. Both he and Tenants to Homeowners have met with the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association about the project and received few complaints.
Some neighbors who were out and about on the block last week said they thought the project likely would fit in, even if some neighbors found its look to be odd.
“I feel like Lawrence and really this neighborhood lets you do your own thing,” said Kimberly Simonetti, who lives in the 1200 block of New Jersey. “If it is environmentally friendly, it probably is going to be more than welcome.”
Plans call for construction on the house to begin in mid-March and for the project to be completed by June. Buford hopes to sell the home for about $150,000 to people who qualify for the Tenants to Homeowners affordable housing program.