To consider domes monolithic or geodesic? Consider the same for bridges, the ones which are huge,
massive structures of rebar reinforced concrete, square forms, few arches, basically post and beam like
design. They are built extra big because their design and materials are inherently weak and ready to fall
or crumble. Now consider the arched bridge over the New River gorge in West Virginia. It is an arched
truss type bridge. It weighs perhaps half that of a bridge of equal span or area. Why? Because it was
nearly built right, though it is still huge and overbuilt by geodesic standards, even while there are some
geo-elements in it.
What you want is structure which is either flexible and light or strong and rigid. The best, though, will have elements of each. A geodesic dome is inherently stronger than the monolithic dome because it is lighter and its structural integrity is made by the standard laws of the universe. The monolithic dome follows few if any of these laws. The strength of any given material can affect this, as determined by the integrity of the connections of the materials used to build with, the strength of the materials themselves. Given the same material, the geodesic dome is far stronger. The monolithic dome has so much weight to it that it barely holds itself up, having also few integral connections (of that special strong shape we all know of as the triangle) to hold itself together.
Offered by Steven.
The monolithic dome also has great strength. Consider the test - a shell on a sea urchin, for starters. Monolithic domes are based on the arch - a universal structural form, if there ever was one. Both geodesic and modern monolithic structures are strong. The geodesic simply adapts a series of planes in a geometric configuration to make a "spherical" form. This made construction of domes simpler and easier until other options (like monolithic ferro-cementing) became equally viable options. The monolithic dome is a continuous hemisphere, without the "breaks" defined by the triangular shapes that characterize the geodesic dome. Thus, there is a continuous rounded surface, like a ball, that is constructed in one continuous whole (monolithic) and not in the connected triangles that give the geodesic it's unique "pointy" look.
Offered by Granville.