Frequently Asked Questions

Please use the search bar and jump links to the left to find the answers you are looking for. The video below also summarises the key benefits of a Solardome glasshouse over a traditional glasshouse. If you cannot find an answer in our frequently asked questions section please do not hesitate to contact us directly.

Existing Customers

How do I identify my old Solardome glasshouse?

There were 3 types of glasshouse manufactured before the current models were brought into production in 2004:

1. The Basic ModelAluminium coping
Manufactured between 1969 and 1995, the Basic Model can be identified by the use of aluminium copings (glazing strips) holding the glass in place:

We no longer have any spare parts for Basic Models.

Basic Model Diameter First Built Discontinued
SD1 10’6” 1969 1994
SD1A 12’6” 1985 1994
SD2 14’6” 1969 1994
SD3 19’6” 1986 1994

2. The ApolloThe Apollo

Manufactured between 1969 and 1987 (as far as we can guess from our records), the Apollo was the only model that was not a dome.

We no longer have any spare parts for Apollo Models and very little information on them.
3. The Deluxe ModelPVC coping

Manufactured between 1977 and 2004, the Deluxe Model can be identified by the use of PVC copings (glazing strips) holding the glass in place – these were probably grey:

We can supply some spare parts for Deluxe Models including copings and struts, but there are no replacement sliding doors or parts available.

Deluxe Model Diameter First Built Discontinued
SD1 10’6” 1977 2004
SD1A 12’6” 1986 2004
SD2 14’6” 1977 2004
SD2A 15’/4.52m 1995 2004
SD3 19’6” 1977 2004
SD3A 20’/6.1m 1995 2004
SD4 24’ 1992 2004
SD4A 25’5”/7.75m 2001 2004
How do I order spare parts?

Firstly, please identify the model of dome you have. If you bought your dome before 2004, please check the above guide ‘How do I identify my old Solardome glasshouse’ to check if spare parts are available.

Then please contact our team on +44 (0)23 8066 7890 or at sales@solardome.co.uk stating the model and parts required. If you are unsure of the model, or the exact parts required please take photographs and measurements as this will help us to process your request as quickly as possible.

Structure

What is a geodesic dome?
One geodesic pattern

One geodesic pattern

A geodesic dome, is a partial spherical structure, which encloses space. The geodesic dome’s design stems from a regular Icosahedron (interlocking pentagons making up 20 equilateral triangles) projected to create an approximated sphere.

Geodesics are a network of great circles on the surface of a sphere, which intersect to form a lattice of triangles that closely and smoothly approximate to a sphere and help distribute stress across the structure.

A Solardome® geodesic dome typically has five geodesic patterns that repeat around the top of the dome.

Why is a geodesic dome so strong?

It is the strength and rigidity of the various sized triangles over a spherical frame that allows even distribution of stress across the structure. The resulting dome is incredibly strong, whilst requiring the minimum amount of material possible. Solardome® geodesic domes are constructed from an aluminium frame and toughened glass cladding meaning they are very light but at the same time extremely robust and can withstand extreme wind and snow loadings.

What is frequency?
frequency of the geodesic pattern
The term ‘Frequency’ relates to the shape or smoothness of the dome.

To find the frequency of the geodesic pattern we use the central point in the top pentagon, then using the shortest possible routes find the centre of the next two pentagons lower down the dome, this creates a large geodesic triangle. We then count how many times each side of the large triangle is divided by smaller triangles.

The higher the frequency, the more times the large geodesic triangle is divided and the closer it is to a true sphere.

Our standard glasshouses range from 2-frequency to 6-frequency. Our SOLARDOME® PRO system ranges upwards from 4-frequency.

Are they structurally sound?

Our outdoor living standard domes comply to, and exceed British wind and snow loading standards. No other glass building is as strong in extreme weather conditions. Please ask if you would like to see our certificate of design conformity or our structural analysis.

All larger bespoke PRO domes (over 10m diameter) are structurally engineered to Eurocode standards and to meet individual wind and snow loadings.

What are they made of?

Our standard Solardome® glasshouses (between 3.5m and 10m diameter) are made from non corrosive mil finished aluminium profiles (79% recycled) and 4mm toughened glass known for its clarity, long life and strength.  They have a white powder coated finish to all exterior surfaces and all fittings are stainless steel to prevent rusting or moss build up. At the end of the domes long life, they are almost completely recyclable.

Our SOLARDOME® PRO system (from 10m diameter) is constructed from purpose designed mill-finished aluminium profiles (alloy 6082 T6) for the strut and link arm section with a unique Geo-Lok aluminium nodal clamping mechanism. The domes can be clad with any type of material depending on your building specification and application:

Glass

Single glazing – from 6mm thick panels

Double glazing – depends on your chosen specification. U values of around 1.2w/m2 can be achieved. We can also add safety film internally to create a laminated panel if used as a skylight.

Other materials

The PRO system can accommodate any material up to 100mm thick i.e. wood, metal composite or insulated panels (U values down to 0.35w/m2).  Insulation/acoustic materials can be fitted on the inside, if required.

Do the glass panes break easily?

All our standard glasshouse domes come 4mm toughened glass. Panes of glass rarely break, even in hurricane force winds, due to the unique way the glass is held in the triangles and is never under tension.  It is much stronger than a standard glasshouse and can generally withstand stones being thrown at it from distance and a ball hitting it.  If glass does break it is likely to be only a single pane (around £40) so can be cut by a local glazier and fixed quickly.

Do they get hot in summer?

A Solardome® glasshouse will always be several degrees hotter than the external temperature; therefore, it will get hot in the summer. However, our domes do not get as hot as standard shaped conservatories or greenhouses if all the ventilation is open. Ventilation is provided via the door and at base, mid and roof levels so the hot air can escape and not build up. On the hottest sunny days, when all the ventilation is open the normal difference in temperature between inside and out, in the shade, is up to about 10°C.

However, for a few weeks of the year this can be too hot.  We can provide UV reflective or coloured film to go on the top section of the dome to provide a section of shading and to reduce glare and heat gain by up to 80%.  We can also provide shade sails that can be stacked on top of each other. Please ask for more information.

Our Solardome PRO system is designed to your specification.  We can provide double glazed panels, which can be air-conditioned or thick insulated panels to keep the temperature regulated.

Do they stay warm in winter?

In winter close down the windows and the dome will heat up several degrees, especially when it is very cold but the sun is out. It is also ideal for cutting out the wind chill factor. It will require roughly 40% less heating in the winter than a standard greenhouse due to the geodesic shape.   This is due to its low volume for its base area and as two panes of glass are always at right angles to the sun’s rays even in low winter sun, heating it up naturally.

However, you may want to use a fan heater/wood burner for the winter on cloudy days if you are using it as an outdoor room or to grow tropical plants. It is possible to run electricity under the base to allow for outdoor appliances in the dome, please contact us during the planning stages if this is a consideration. We can also provide a flue access for a wood burner.

Our Solardome PRO system is designed to your specification.  We can provide double glazed panels, which can be air-conditioned or thick insulated panels to keep the temperature regulated.

Are they wheelchair accessible?

Yes. The entry has a low door threshold, which allows easy access for wheelchairs.  If required we can also design the door without a threshold to ensure no trip hazards. The door width depends on the model chosen but has a minimum aperture of 750cm.  We can also design double entrance ways, if required.

How long will it last?

Solardome® geodesic domes have been in production for over 40 years and the original models across the country are still going strong. Our geodesic domes are made with non-corrosive materials, are virtually maintenance free and should last several decades if looked after as per our recommendations. They can even be dismantled and rebuilt making them very cost effective over their lifespan.

How do you clean the dome?

Most loose debris ie leaves will fall off due to the round shape of the structure and most surface dirt will be washed off with the rain.  However to keep it looking good we recommended it is cleaned on the outside once a quarter. We recommend washing it with a telescopic pole and window cleaning kit or mild soapy water. You can use a jet wash on it from a distance of several meters.

Is it waterproof?

If sealed properly around the nodal connection points and along the external glazing bars when the dome is constructed the dome will be watertight.  You will also require our integrated base or the dome to be flashed to a circular concrete base to prevent water ingress under the base sections.

If we erect the dome, we offer a 1-year build guarantee on top of our 10 year structural guarantee.  If you have any build issues, we will rectify them as soon as possible.

Please note: The Solardome® glasshouse is designed to be an outdoor room/glasshouse so condensation may collect inside if the windows are shut and there is no heating or the base is not sealed/flashed.  Therefore, we advise not to leave soft furnishings or sensitive IT equipment in the dome overnight.

Do the domes get condensation on the windows?

Solardome® glasshouses are single glazed outdoor rooms so there will be condensation inside on the glass when there is a temperature differential and the glass is colder than the dew point. This is more noticeable in winter, especially when there is no sun. To reduce or clear condensation open up all the ventilation in particular the roof vents.  If the sun is out this will be enough to clear it quickly. In the winter you may need a dehumidifier and or a heater if you want it to clear fully.

SOLARDOME® PRO domes are designed to be habitable buildings with a variety of cladding options and therefore can support heating and cooling systems to minimise condensation.

Do you need a solid base or foundations?

Solardome® glasshouses are lightweight across their circumference and don’t require deep foundations however, for longevity they require a solid, level base of: concrete, lime crete, brickwork, decking or patio slabs.  At a minimum, there must be a level, solid ring beam under the circumference of the dome’s foundation plates.  Please ask to see our base preparation instructions.

We can also provide an integrated base to fit the dome structure.  The integrated base is an aluminium metal webbed structure with exterior grade wooden panels fitted on top. There is no need to flash around the dome with the integrated base. For ground works, the integrated base requires either concrete piles or a concrete ring beam for the base to bolt to.

When using the dome as an outdoor room, rather than for growing, we recommend an additional floor covering to create a nice internal finish. This could be artificial grass, vinyl, or tiles.

A SOLARDOME® PRO dome is designed to your specific requirements. Please contact us for more information about the base requirements.

I want a glass dome for my school or business, do I need planning permission?

Each district has different rules so it is best to check your local planning department.

I want a dome for my garden, do I need planning permission?

Under normal circumstances, and if built further than 5m from the house, and you have plenty of land no planning permission is required in the UK for most of our domes under 4m in height.  If the dome is sited closer than 5m to the house, it is classed as an extension and standard allowances apply.  If you live in a listed building or an area of outstanding natural beauty and a conservation area, you will need to check with your local planning office, as planning restrictions will apply.

Do they require building controls?

Building controls are generally not required for our smaller dome models with a floor area under 30m2. For the larger domes if they are not used primarily for Horticulture, building controls will apply. Please ask for our building control technical document.

Can I assemble the dome myself?

Yes, for our smaller glasshouses it is possible for you to assemble them yourself. We provide detailed assembly instructions which are colour coded and carefully written. Only basic hand tools, a drill to secure the base and a ladder or access tower are required.

Please note our Solardome® PRO system will require the support of our expert installation team.

What is the difference between a Solardome® glasshouse and the Solardome® PRO system.

Solardome® glasshouses are single-glazed aluminium geodesic domes, which range from 3.5m-10m diameter, we have five standard ‘off-the shelf’ models, although we can customise the size or height of the dome on request.

The Solardome® PRO system is a flexible solution for aluminium geodesic domes between 10m-25m diameter. The PRO is a heavy-duty architectural dome system that can be clad with a variety of options from single or double glazed units to insulated or wooden panels.  These domes meet any wind or snow loading and will suit any application.

Do you provide non-circular domes?

No all our domes are based on a circular footprint.

What are the acoustics like?

Our larger domes have a distinct acoustic, which is more prevalent when the dome is empty. Our customers find that once the dome is filled with plants and furniture this improves the acoustics. If you wish to further improve the acoustic effect after the dome has been filled, we can put you in touch with acoustic specialists to hang acoustic absorbers from the ceiling. If you would like further information about the acoustics in the dome please ask for our acoustic guide.

Uses

Are they only used for growing?

A Solardome® glasshouse is ideally suited as a multipurpose room. As well as being scientifically proven to be the best environment and shape for growing they are also elegant, and create a calming, light and airy environment perfect for any outdoor use.

Why is a SOLARDOME® glasshouse better for growing plants?

The unique geodesic design creates superior air distribution and airflow, which helps maintain a uniform temperature and keep it fungus and disease free, and the 97% light transmission through the multifaceted glass ensures maximum solar gain, leading to an extended growing season.

Can I grow tall plants in my dome?

Yes, our standard glasshouse domes are all much taller than a standard greenhouse in the centre. They start at 2.2m tall and go up to 5.2m tall in the centre depending on the model.  Some customers have successfully grown banana plants and other tall plants and fruit trees that only a large orangery could accommodate.

What have they been used for in a commercial setting?

Any outdoor project you can think of from a roof garden or skylight, to a community inclusion project centre piece, visitor centre café, observatory, butterfly dome, patient rehabilitation centre, research centre or outdoor classroom.  We provide 3.5m–25m diameter domes with single and double glazing panels and can provide alternative cladding options, to provide the ideal dome building to suit your needs.

How suitable are they for a public setting?

A geodesic dome creates a unique design feature and generates significant interest from the public. Our standard domes are very robust, with 4mm triangular toughened glass panels, which are never under tension and rarely break.  Domes can generally withstand large balls bashing against them or stones hurled from a distance. However, in extreme cases if you are worried about vandalism, we recommend a safety film over the glass to hold it in place in case of breakages or if necessary, you can use polycarbonate panels.

Our larger SOLARDOME® PRO domes are incredibly strong and robust. They are ideally suited to a public setting.

Can I put services in the dome?

We recommend you install electrics and a water supply if needed when the base is being constructed. Our base specification sheets provide recommendations on where to put the service ducts.  Please note – If you put electrics in the dome they must be rated for outdoor use and the dome must be earthed.

As our PRO domes can be designed as proper buildings all facilities and services can be installed in them if discussed at the time of the project specification.

Which dome fits over a spa?

All of our domes fit over at least a 6 person spa but most people choose the SOLARDOME® Haven (4.5m) or SOLARDOME® Retreat (6m) providing plenty of leisure space as well as the spa.

Can they be used as swimming pool covers?

Yes. You will need at least an SOLARDOME® Retreat (6m) dome. All of our domes are circular allowing room for plants or a seating area as well as a pool. They are also good for small exercise pools or spas above ground level.  We cannot offer oval shaped pool covers.

If you would prefer double glazing for a larger pool we would recommend the SOLARDOME® PRO system which allows us to produce a customised dome from 10m-25m diameter.

Schools

What do schools use domes for?

Domes provide a truly multi-disciplinary space and are ideal for outdoor learning. These outdoor classrooms are not just utilised for growing and break away spaces, they can be used for:

  • Art & crafts – to draw nature from within the dome, to use as a space for craft work or as a gallery to display artwork
  • Design technology – to inspire students to design and build some bedding areas for the dome or re-create a dome of their own
  • Food technology – teach about growing food, food waste recycling and healthy living – by growing and fertilizing your own fruit, herbs and vegetables
  • Geography – ecology and sustainability projects, climate and region studies; create different areas/gardens like the and the desert etc
  • Mathematics – basic or complex geometry lessons.
  • Science – growing plants, doing experiments or field studies in and around the dome
  • Storytelling/English/Drama/Music – using the space as a unique covered area to share story time or to enjoy Drama, English or Music lessons – make the most of the unique acoustics.
  • Performance space – our PRO domes are ideal for larger projects and create unique open plan spaces.
I want an outdoor classroom for my School, how many pupils will fit in a dome?

For our standard Solardome® glasshouse range, depending on use and the number of staging units/ work stations, recommended capacity is:

  • Agena (15ft/4.52m) – up to 24 pupils
  • Capella (20ft/6.11m) – up to 34 pupils
  • Vega (25ft/7.75m) – up to 44 pupils
  • Sirius (32ft/10m) –up to 68 pupils

Our SOLARDOME® PRO system creates a habitable building for a variety of building solutions. Each dome is designed to your specific requirements. Please contact us for more information.

We are increasing our classroom space, is planning permission required?

The following is a guide only. Please check with your local planning office.

For a permanent extension, temporary classrooms or other buildings, sheds or other structures, you need planning permission if:

  • The extension/building is more than 250 cubic metres (external measurements)
  • Any part of the building erected would be within 20 metres of the boundary of the school site
  • The site is used for play, either hard surfaced or playing field
  • The extension/building would not be used as part of, or incidental to, the use of the school (e.g. sports facilities for community use would need planning permission)
  • The cumulative floorspace, together with other buildings erected since 6 March 95, would exceed 10% of the total floorspace of the original school at 9 March 95
  • Materials used to construct the extension/building would not be of a similar appearance to those used for the original school building
  • The building is listed as being of architectural or historic interest
We want to use our school dome as an outdoor classroom, will we need to get Building Control approval?

Building controls are not required for the SOLARDOME® POD, SOLARDOME® Agena or SOLARDOME® Capella as the floor area is under 30m2. They may be required for the SOLARDOME® Vega or SOLARDOME® Sirius dependant on usage.

If used mainly as a greenhouse they are exempt. However, if used purely as an outdoor classroom you will require building controls. Please ask us for more information or contact your local building controls department.

All of our SOLARDOME® PRO domes will require building controls and planning permission.

Are your domes suitable as proper classrooms or extensions?

Our standard single glazed geodesic domes are only suitable as outdoor classrooms, breakaway spaces or greenhouses; they cannot be a standard classroom space with 100% usage and standard heating.

However, our SOLARDOME® PRO architectural range is ideal for creating an eco-classroom, science block, dance studio or dome shaped extension with full year round usage. All PRO domes are designed to your specification and can include internal facilities.

I want a dome for my school, is funding available?

There are a number of funding sources available for school grounds projects. Please visit our funding pages or contact us for more information.

Customising

Do you do bespoke sizes or designs?

Yes, we have an in-house design department available for bespoke projects. We can provide alternative sizes, linking domes to buildings or each other, merging domes and adding additional windows and doors etc.

For our single glazed standard domes we can produce bespoke sizes up to 10m diameter they can also have a low profile if required.

Using our SOLARDOME® PRO system we can design any dome size from 10m to 25m diameter. We can only design geodesic shapes on a circular basis. Please ask us for more details on any individual requirements.

I don’t want my dome to be all glass, what are the other cladding options?

For our standard domes we can provide any 4mm thick section ie wood, metal, obscured stippolyte glass, acrylic or solid polycarbonate; we can also provide a UV reflective film to go over the glass. These are additional costs and will need a separate quotation.

Our SOLARDOME® PRO system can be clad with any type of material depending on your building specification and application:

Glass – Single glazing, from 6mm thick panels. Double glazing, 4mm x 16mm gap x 4mm toughened. Low E, argon filled (U value 1.2w/m2). We can add safety film internally to create a laminated panel.

Other materials – Up to 100mm thick i.e. wood, metal composite or insulated panels (U values down to 0.35w/m2).  Insulation/acoustic materials can be fitted on the inside, if required.

Can I build it on a wall?

Yes, we recommend a wall about 325mm high, please contact us for site preparation instructions. We will need to know if you are building it on a wall when you place your order as we will need to quote you for a bespoke longer door and doorframe.

Can I have extra doors and windows?

Yes, in all of our domes you can have up to three doors.  There are five possible door positions in the dome.  You can put up to 5 vents in the roof per dome and up to 10 side windows as required.

Can I link domes?

Yes, there are two ways to do it – either via the doorways and a short glass and aluminium tunnel. This is good for joining different sized domes or if you are using them for different applications.  Or the other way to link the domes (only between the same models for the standard range of glasshouses) is via braced arches in the frame to create a mini Eden-Project effect or caterpillar look.

Service

Do Solardome Industries install the domes?

We can provide a full installation service for any of our geodesic domes. If we build the dome we provide a 1 year installation guarantee as well as the 10 year structural guarantee.

However, if you prefer Solardome® glasshouses are designed for self-assembly. We provide comprehensive instructions so you can build it yourself, or get your maintenance department or local building contractor to build it for you.

Please note our SOLARDOME® PRO system will require the support of our expert installation team.

What services do you offer?

We pride ourselves on offering excellent customer service, which includes pre sales technical advice including planning and building control guidance, site visits and presentations of our offerings, an in-house design service, a single point of contract for your order, full accessories and a complete build service with guarantees.

For bespoke projects we provide a full project management service, to include:

  • Concept designs
  • In house bespoke design for manufacture
  • Structural analysis
  • One main point of contact
  • Guidance for planning and building controls
  • Site visits
  • Dome manufacture in Britain
  • Specialist installation service with 1 year installation guarantee
  • Aftercare service
What guarantees do you provide

We provide a 1-year installation guarantee. Any issues relating to the initial dome build and we will come and fix them as soon as possible.

All domes come with 10-year structural guarantee on the frame and dome materials. Exclusions to guarantees –

  • We do not take responsibly for moving parts (i.e. windows or door) or damage resulting from: severe acts of God, windows or the door being left open during strong winds, falling debris, accidental damage or for vandalism
  • No glass, silicone or coatings in the Solardome structure are covered by the 10 year guarantee
What are your payment terms?

We request 50% payment upfront at the time the order is placed. This secures your place in our production schedule. We build all domes to order so do not keep domes in stock.  The final 50% is due when production is complete and we are ready to ship out your geodesic dome.

What are your lead-times?

Our standard lead time is between 8 weeks for shipping the dome out for self builds (or if using your own contractor) or up to 12 weeks for delivery and installation. Builds are scheduled based on the date the order and deposit are received.  Bespoke projects will be longer.

Our SOLARDOME® PRO system has a minimum design and manufacture lead-time of 16 weeks from order and deposit.  Lead times will be quoted when the project specification is defined.