With a cat under the dome. A unique experiment continues in Yakutia

Dome technologies
For 10 weeks, 30-year-old Vitaly Litvinov, his girlfriend Regina and cat Zack have been living in a unique house under the dome. The dream that had existed since the 60s of the last century has become a reality.

Many people wanted to go down in history.

The experimental house is located at the testing ground of the Northeastern Federal University on the territory of the advanced development of Kangalassy, 40 km from Yakutsk. Back in July 2019, there was a bare field.

The dome with a diameter of 20 meters is a metal frame on the principle of "honeycomb", covered with PVC film. Under it there is a house with an area of 128 sq.m (residential - 64 sq. m), a garage for two cars and a patio. It took about two months to manufacture the 5-ton metal frame.

The interest to this project in the republic was huge. When the search for volunteers began, about 60 families wanted to go down in history. Doctors recommended that a young couple without children be settled in an experimental house, so some of the applicants were immediately eliminated. A car was also a prerequisite — the nearest village is 8 km away. The shortlist included 6 couples. Vitaly and Regina received the proud title of residents of the house under the dome, and two more families were enrolled in the reserve. According to the Dean of the NEFU Faculty of Road Transport Dmitry Filippov, the absence of bad habits, the experience of living in a private house and the ability to survive in extreme conditions played a role here.

Let there be light!

Life under the dome began on December 2. According to the newcomers, there are many advantages: the opportunity to be in nature around the clock , it is  peaceful and quiet there, there are no neighbors from above and below (before the experiment, the couple lived in an ordinary apartment building). You breathe fresh air, you can do sports, and in general, whatever you want. Besides, this is a private house — there is always something to do.

It's not so far to go to the city - 40 km, they got used to it quickly. As well as to the dome above their head, which is not particularly noticed. They say that Zack got used to new conditions best of all — that's who has the expanse here!

The main problem was the autonomous power supply. The generator cannot work without a break, it needs rest. It, of course, does not warn about this. According to Vitaly, over time he got a "feeling" for these things: you wake up in the middle of the night, but there is no light. You get up and start fighting, because the boiler that heats the house may turn off.

A 100-kilogram station must be brought into the house, you need to find out and eliminate the cause of the stop, and then take it back and connect it. For all the time, this has already happened 9 times. After the third incident, another similar station was brought to the guys - for safety. Similar vagaries of the unit are caused by the only inconvenience for the participants of the experiment — you always need to spend the night at home.

It is unknown when a stationary power supply will appear. The technical conditions were issued in December 2019, and then - according to the standard: the technical connection in Yakutsk is expected for six months. An exception was not made even for a unique project.

... and the ground is under your feet

The residents of the house are already used to the increased attention.

— It seems that all the TV channels had visited us already, - Vitaly smiles. - Local bloggers are regular guests: they come on excursions, shoot videos for their channels. I often see people driving by, stopping and taking pictures. A lot of scientists come. Recently, an urbanist architect from the Netherlands, Case Donchen, visited us. He told me that they also had worked on a similar project in their student years, but they never brought it to mind.

I came to see the experimental house at the end of January. Everything looked very futuristic from the outside. From the inside, when you see how it works, the halo disappears, but the scale is impressive. In the lower part of the structure, on which the dome rests, there are several long "vents". They will be useful for ventilation when it gets warmer. At the bottom of the dome there is a transparent film for light transmission, and a dense white "cap" on top.

— At the installation stage, the most difficult was the removal of the chimney, - says Dmitry Filippov. - For this purpose there is a hole in the dome, was made by the Moscow company FullerDome. The contractors of "Vikontstroyproduct" are professionals, they completed the task perfectly. In the coldest weather, the temperature difference outside and inside the dome can reach 12-15 degrees. Many people doubted whether the structure would withstand the weight of snow. According to forecasters, during the first month of winter in Yakutsk, precipitation fell three times more than normal. At the same time, the snow lies only at the very top — it slides off the sides under its own weight, as we expected.

That day it was minus 35 outside and a slight wind. It feels much warmer under the dome. When you close the gate, it becomes very quiet. And it's also kind of strange to see the ground under your feet. Such a reddish one. In Yakutia. In January. Very unusual.

The Dome Project

The ideological inspirer of the project was the founder of the Sinet group Arsen Tomsky. The purpose of the experiment is to study the reliability of dome structures and assess their impact on the state of permafrost. To do this, 7 wells were drilled, 3 of them in the house, where sensors for measuring soil temperature are immersed. Based on the results of observations, a forecast of permafrost behavior will be calculated.

The scientific component of the experiment is the responsibility of the staff of seven departments of NEFU: Engineering, Physics and technology and Medical institutes, the Institute of Natural Sciences and the Institute of Psychology, as well as Geological exploration and Road faculties. The initial engineering and geological surveys were carried out in July. To get comparable results, scientists will collect data at least until the end of summer.

- Yakutia is the coldest inhabited place on the planet with a long and harsh winter, and dome technologies make it possible to reduce the impact of extreme climate, - says Arsen Tomsky. - The first results are encouraging - it is noticeably warmer inside the dome. This year we plan to install another dome with a diameter of more than 40 meters and a weight of 60 tons over a children's playground, which we will equip ourselves.

First time in the Far North

The volunteers will live in the house until May 31. It is planned that interns, NEFU students will come to the house in the summer.

Under the dome, vegetables, as well as flowers and shrubs will be planted in the open ground — inside and outside. This will allow for a parallel comparative observation of their growth.
- Having lived here for 2 months, I can make some conclusions - says Vitaly - It can already be stated that the idea is viable and everything was not in vain. Many said that the dome would not withstand snow, and in summer it would get dusty. As practice has shown, there are no problems with the first issue, I think any modern irrigation system can cope with the second. The experimental sample is not completely sealed. If this is achieved, it will become even warmer inside — you can go out into the yard in a light jacket and look at the fog and snowdrifts outside the window. This is the first experience, then we will have more. Moreover, both Arsen Tomsky and Dmitry Filippov are delighted with the idea, they are constantly coming up with something and are not going to stop there. With such pressure, everything will work out. And most importantly, it's much better than sitting and doing nothing.

Temperature measurements inside and outside the dome.

By the way…

Soviet architects of the last century literally dreamed of dome technologies for the arrangement of cities in the Far North. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was proposed to cover Deputatsky, Udachny and Tiksi cities with domes. Several projects were recommended for implementation, but only one was put into practice. Yes, and even that one hasn’t been completed.

In 1974, the Department of Construction and Architecture under the Council of Ministers of the IASSR approved the project of the Leningrad Research Institute of Experimental Design. It provided for the construction of a successful chain of residential groups of five- and nine-storey houses, kindergartens, schools and social and cultural facilities connected by a covered gallery. The city for 20 thousand people was supposed to be built before 1990.

However, the "novelty of the proposals and the creative approach" of the authors were not appreciated. A year later, the project was "closed” — the contractors refused to build wave-shaped houses. Residents of six five-storey buildings, on the ground floor of which they made a through passage to the future gallery, complained that it was very noisy there, children were constantly running around and fights were taking place. As a result, the passages in the houses were sealed up, and in the late 70s - early 80s, in order to solve the apartment issue, the Udachny was built up with standard five-story buildings.

Author: Ninel Guseva

Source: "Arguments and facts"