Frustrated too often by Lansing, Michigan's winter weather, Larry Clark of L. D. Clark Building Co. decided to do something about it. After a year of planning and preparation, his solution is anair-inflated dome enclosing and supporting its own working environment. Regardless of theweather, inside conditions can be maintained to keep workers efficient and product quality high.The dome, a 213-foot-long by 150-foot-wide and 45-foot-high bubble of 28-ounce vinyl-coated polyester, is supported by 1 psi of air pressure. Air for support, heat, and ventilation is supplied by a 1-hp electric blower unit enclosed in a 45-foot semitrailer and routed to the dome through 30-inch ducts. The dome transmits light well so little extra lighting is needed during the day.
Access to the interior is through air locks. This is necessary to avoid deflating the structure with sudden, massive air locks. Equipment and materials, including ready mix trucks, are driven into the air lock, the outer door is closed, and the inner door opened to complete the entry operation. Ventilation to reduce humidity and accumulation of fumes from the truck and equipment exhaust is accomplished with six adjustable vents in the dome walls.
Twelve workers can set up the dome in a day. Once the dome is assembled and anchored, it is inflated and ready for use. Using the dome costs about 50 cents per square foot, making the dome competitive with other forms of enclosure. This value is underscored by production increases of around 20 percent, by Clark's estimates.