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Introduction

There are any number of ways of framing a dome. All you

need to do is think of a random bunch of dots on the surface

of a hemisphere and start joining them up into a network of

triangles. Thing is you end up with all different shapes and

sizes of triangles and if you wanted to build the dome and

not have it collapse you would have to make some of the

struts and hubs very substantial to take the irregularly

distributed stresses. Geodesic domes do well because there

are only a few different shapes of triangle of much the same

size, and their arrangement distributes stress rather well so the dome frame is about as slight as it

can be.

The Geodesic Dome

To work out how to frame a geodesic dome it helps to understand

what a geodesic dome is. It starts off as a platonic solid, of which

there are five: the familiar cube, the dodecahedron with twelve

pentagonal faces, and the tetrahedron, octahedron and icosahedron

with, respectively four, eight, and twenty triangular faces. Domes

built on the icosahedron distribute their stresses well and have the

smallest variety of frame shapes and sizes.

Subdividing the Faces

Working out the angles and strut lengths is basically the same for all the solids. A Geodesic dome

approximates a sphere, so think of a sphere around the icosahedron with all twelve of its vertices

touching. An icosahedron is not particularly spherical because each of its twenty faces is flat, but

subdivide each face and project the new vertices out to the enclosing sphere, and the more you

subdivide the primitive face the more spherical it becomes.

If the basic icosahedron is a 1-

frequency, a dome built with a

single subdivision of the basic

face into four faces is called a

2-frequency dome, nine

subdivided faces is a 3-

frequency, and so on, and the

nomenclature used is 2v, 3v, etc,

where the v is really a Greek nu

which is the symbol sometimes

used in physics for frequency.

Incidentally, it's called a

geodesic dome because a geodesic, the shortest distance between two points on the surface of a

sphere, is an arc of a great circle, that is, a circle with the sphere's diameter, and the straight lines of

subdivided vertices on the face of the icosahedron lie on a great circle when they are projected out

to the sphere, a result of them being projected from the icosahedron's center.

Illustration 1: Randomly framed dome

Illustration 2: 20-Faced

Icosahedron

Illustration 3: Projecting the Subdivided Faces

Notice that for odd-frequency subdivisions the primitive triangular face is divided into an odd

number of rows of triangles, so for example the 3v dome has its basic face divided into three rows

of one, three and five triangles. Because of the vertices on the mid-line, an even-frequency dome

will split exactly into hemispheres, and because the vertices on the mid-line that form the base of

the dome are all projected onto the same equatorial great circle the base of the dome is flat. This

isn't so with the odd-frequency domes which split either above or below the central band of

subdivided triangles. The result is that the base of an odd-frequency dome ripples as the base

vertices ride up and down their great circles, all at a slight angle to the horizontal, most noticeably

for the 3v dome because the central band of triangles is relatively wide, and less so the higher the

dome frequency.

To describe whether the odd-frequency dome is split above or below the central band it's described

as a fraction of the total rows of triangles. An icosahedron can be thought of as unfolding into top

triangles, middle triangles and bottom triangles, and for an v-frequency dome those three sets of

triangles all subdivided into v rows, making 3v rows in total. A dome split above the central band

then has

¦3+−1)/ 2

3+

of the total rows, one split below the central band having

¦3++1)/ 2

3+

of the

total. A 3v dome is therefore either a 4/9

th

or a 5/9

th

, a 5v dome is a 7/15

th

or 8/15

th

, etc.

Central Angles

Working out the dome angles starts by realizing that the angles that the struts subtend at the center

of the dome are the same before the vertices are projected onto the sphere as afterwards. Working

out the angles for the vertices is not too difficult on the plane face, and with those angles, working

out all the other dome lengths and angles is not too difficult either. Consider the face of an

icosahedron of unit radius:

For an icosahedron tan¦0/ 2)=1/ t where t=

1+.5

2

is the golden ratio of classical architecture.

This makes the icosahedron vertex angle θ approximately 63.4º. Vectors to any of the vertices can

be expressed as a sum of the three mutually perpendicular vectors X, Y and Z. Vector X locates the

Illustration 4: 1v, 2v, 3v, and 4v subdivided primitive icosahedron faces

center of the equilateral triangular face. With a little trigonometry it can be seen that the side length

of the triangular face is 2sin¦0/ 2) and the height of the face is

.3sin¦0/ 2) so

X

2

=cos

2

o=1−sin

2

o=1−

4

3

sin

2

0/ 2

where

sino=

2

.3

sin¦0/ 2)

- it's going to be the square of the magnitudes that's useful. Y and Z

are vectors one vertex along and up respectively such that

Y

2

=

4

+

2

sin

2

¦0/ 2)=

3

+

2

¦1−X

2

)

and

Z

2

=

1

3

sin

2

¦0/ 2)=

3

4

Y =

9

4+

2

¦1−X

2

)

.

From the vector identity

r

0

⋅r

1

=r

0

r

1

cos¦!

01

)

the vertex angles follow. The vertices are easy to

express as a sum of X, Y and Z and because these vectors are mutually perpendicular their

magnitudes and their scalar products are all simple to calculate.

p

0

=X+2 Z p

1

=X+Y / 2+Z p

2

=X−Y / 2+Z p

3

=X

For φ

01

, p

0

⋅p

1

=p

0

p

1

cos!

01

=X

2

+2Z

2

=. X

2

+4 z

2

. X

2

+Y

2

/ 4+Z

2

cos!

01

which substituting for Y

2

and Z

2

and rearranging gives the red angle as

cos!

01

=

¦ X

2

+1)/ 2

.¦2 X

2

+1)/ 3

⇒ !

01

=20.08

o

For φ

12

, p

1

⋅p

2

=p

1

p

2

cos!

12

=X

2

−Y

2

/ 4+Z

2

=¦ X

2

+Y

2

/ 4+Z

2

)cos!

12

again, substituting and rearranging gives the blue angle as

cos!

12

=

¦5X

2

+1)/ 2

2X

2

+1

⇒ !

12

=23.28

o

And for φ

23

, p

2

⋅p

3

=p

2

p

3

cos!

23

=X

2

=. X

2

+Y

2

/ 4+Z

2

.X

2

cos!

23

which gives the green angle as

cos!

23

=

.

3X

2

2X

2

+1

⇒ !

23

=23.80

o

In this way it's quite straightforward to find the central angles for any frequency dome built on any

platonic solid, all you really need to know is the vertex angle for the solid.

Frame Angles

Once you know the angles that the

struts subtend at the center of the dome

all of the other angles follow. In the

diagram the panel's three edges are

represented by vectors A, B and C

which subtend angles α, β and γ

respectively at the center of the dome.

The vectors x, y and z locate the panel

vertices.

Strut Length

The strut length is the only dimension that depends on the size of the dome, all of the angles, for a

given design of dome, are independent of the size. By trigonometry, the strut lengths for a dome of

unit radius are

A=2sin¦o/ 2) B=2sin¦ß/ 2) C=2sin¦y/ 2)

These just scale linearly with the radius of the actual dome.

Mitre Angle

The mitre angles where the struts meet the hubs are the simplest as they are just the compliment of

the central angles

o' =¦180−o)/ 2 ß' =¦180−ß)/ 2 y' =¦180−y)/ 2

Corner Angle

The angles at the corner of the frame in the plane of the frame follow from the vector product of the

edge vectors. Writing the edge vectors as

A=z−y B=x−z C=y−x

and expanding the vector product, using the vector identity for the unit-length vertex vectors

x⋅y=cos y y⋅z=coso z⋅x=cos ß

gives

B⋅C=−BC cosa=¦ x−z)⋅¦ y−x)=cosy−1−cos o+cos ß=−4sin¦ß/ 2)sin¦y/ 2) cosa

and rearranging gives

cos a=

1+coso−cosß−cosy

4sin¦ß/ 2) sin¦ y/ 2)

cosb=

1+cos ß−cos y−coso

4sin¦y/ 2) sin¦o/ 2)

cos c=

1+cosy−coso−cosß

4sin¦o/ 2) sin¦ ß/ 2)

Hub Radial Angle

Looking down on the hub towards the center of the dome the angle that the struts radiate from the

hub is not actually the same as the frame corner angle because the struts radiate at an angle, α', to

the hub axis. This is the dihedral angle between the planes x×y and x×z , so using the vector

and scalar triple product identities

x×y⋅x×z=sin ysin ßcos a' =x⋅z×¦ x×y)=x⋅¦cos o x−cos ß y)=cos o−cos ßcos y

thus

cos a' =

coso−cos ßcos y

sinßsiny

cos b' =

cosß−cosocos y

sinosiny

cos c' =

cos y−cosocos ß

sinosin ß

Strut Bevel Angle

The bevel angle, ´ a on the top of the strut is the dihedral angle between the plane y×z and the

plane B×C such that

y×z⋅B×C=4 sino sinß/ 2 sin y/ 2 sina cos ´ a

The left hand side can be expanded directly and expressed in terms of cos ß' and cos y' but it's

a little neater to use the vector triple product identities to rearrange it so

y×z⋅B×C=B⋅C×¦ y×z)=B⋅¦¦ z⋅C) y−¦C⋅y) z)=¦ x−z)⋅¦¦ z⋅¦ y−x)) y−¦¦ y−x)⋅y) z)

which after substituting for the dot products of the vertex vectors and a little rearrangement gives

cos ´ a=

¦1−cos y)¦1−cos ß)−¦coso−cosy)¦coso−cos ß)

4sino sin ß/ 2 siny/ 2 sin a

cos

´

b=

¦1−coso)¦1−cos y)−¦cos ß−cos o)¦cos ß−cos y)

4sin ß siny/ 2 sino/ 2 sin b

cos ´c=

¦1−cos ß)¦1−coso)−¦cosy−cosß)¦cos y−coso)

4siny sino/ 2 sin ß/ 2 sinc

Examples

2v Icosahedral Dome

A B α β α' β' a b â

´

b

a' b'

.6180 .6180 36.00° 36.00° 72° 72° 60° 60° 79° 79° 63° 63°

.6180 .5466 36.00° 31.72° 72° 74° 69° 56° 83° 79° 72° 58°

3v Icosahedral Dome

A B α β α' β' a b â

´

b

a' b'

.4036 .4124 23.28° 23.80° 78° 78° 59° 61° 83° 83° 60° 62°

.4036 .3486 23.28° 20.08° 78° 80° 71° 55° 86° 83° 72° 56°

Note that for both the 2v and 3v dome there are only two different triangular faces, and the triangles

are isosceles so the C dimensions are all the same as the B dimensions.

An icosahedron can be thought of as unfolding into top triangles. Vector X locates the For an icosahedron tan / 2=1/ where = .Illustration 4: 1v. 2v. a 5v dome is a 7/15th or 8/15th. an even-frequency dome will split exactly into hemispheres. one split below the central band having of the 3 3 total. middle triangles and bottom triangles. 3v. and with those angles. and because the vertices on the mid-line that form the base of the dome are all projected onto the same equatorial great circle the base of the dome is flat. Central Angles Working out the dome angles starts by realizing that the angles that the struts subtend at the center of the dome are the same before the vertices are projected onto the sphere as afterwards. and for an v-frequency dome those three sets of triangles all subdivided into v rows. Y and Z. and less so the higher the dome frequency. so for example the 3v dome has its basic face divided into three rows of one. Consider the face of an icosahedron of unit radius: 1 5 is the golden ratio of classical architecture. To describe whether the odd-frequency dome is split above or below the central band it's described as a fraction of the total rows of triangles. working out all the other dome lengths and angles is not too difficult either. three and five triangles. The result is that the base of an odd-frequency dome ripples as the base vertices ride up and down their great circles. Working out the angles for the vertices is not too difficult on the plane face. and 4v subdivided primitive icosahedron faces Notice that for odd-frequency subdivisions the primitive triangular face is divided into an odd number of rows of triangles. A dome split above the central band 3 −1/2 3 1/2 then has of the total rows. all at a slight angle to the horizontal. Because of the vertices on the mid-line. etc. most noticeably for the 3v dome because the central band of triangles is relatively wide. 2 This makes the icosahedron vertex angle θ approximately 63. making 3v rows in total. A 3v dome is therefore either a 4/9th or a 5/9th. This isn't so with the odd-frequency domes which split either above or below the central band of subdivided triangles. Vectors to any of the vertices can be expressed as a sum of the three mutually perpendicular vectors X.4º.

all you really need to know is the vertex angle for the solid.center of the equilateral triangular face.it's going to be the square of the magnitudes that's useful. The vectors x. In the diagram the panel's three edges are represented by vectors A. p0= X 2 Z For φ01. B and C which subtend angles α. With a little trigonometry it can be seen that the side length of the triangular face is 2 sin / 2 and the height of the face is 3sin /2 so 4 2 2 2 2 X =cos =1−sin =1− sin /2 3 2 sin /2 . p2⋅p 3= p 2 p3 cos 23= X 2= X 2Y 2 /4Z 2 X 2 cos 23 which gives the green angle as cos 23= In this way it's quite straightforward to find the central angles for any frequency dome built on any platonic solid. p1⋅p2= p1 p 2 cos 12= X 2−Y 2 /4Z 2= X 2 Y 2 / 4Z 2 cos 12 again.28o 2 2X 1 And for φ23. β and γ respectively at the center of the dome. 3 4 4 From the vector identity r 0⋅r 1=r 0 r 1 cos 01 the vertex angles follow. substituting and rearranging gives the blue angle as cos 12= 5X2 1/2 ⇒ 12=23.08o 2 2 X 1/3 4 3 sin 2 / 2= 2 1−X 2 2 which substituting for Y2 and Z2 and rearranging gives the red angle as cos 01= For φ12. . 3X 2 ⇒ 23=23. The vertices are easy to express as a sum of X. y and z locate the panel vertices. p1= X Y /2 Z p 2= X −Y /2 Z p 3= X p0⋅p1= p 0 p1 cos 01= X 22 Z 2= X 24 z 2 X 2 Y 2 / 4Z 2 cos 01 X 21/ 2 ⇒ 01=20.80 o 2 2X 1 Frame Angles Once you know the angles that the struts subtend at the center of the dome all of the other angles follow. Y and Z and because these vectors are mutually perpendicular their magnitudes and their scalar products are all simple to calculate. Y and Z 3 are vectors one vertex along and up respectively such that where sin = Y 2= and 1 2 3 9 2 2 Z = sin /2= Y = 2 1− X .

all of the angles. Writing the edge vectors as A=z− y x⋅y=cos B=x −z C= y−x z⋅x=cos and expanding the vector product. a on the top of the strut is the dihedral angle between the plane plane B×C such that y×z⋅B×C =4 sin sin /2 sin /2 sin a cos a y×z and the The left hand side can be expanded directly and expressed in terms of cos ' and cos ' but it's a little neater to use the vector triple product identities to rearrange it so y×z⋅B×C =B⋅C× y×z =B⋅ z⋅C y−C⋅y z = x−z ⋅ z⋅ y−x y − y− x⋅y z . are independent of the size.Strut Length The strut length is the only dimension that depends on the size of the dome. By trigonometry. to the hub axis. α'. using the vector identity for the unit-length vertex vectors y⋅z=cos gives B⋅C =−B C cos a= x −z ⋅ y− x =cos −1−cos cos =−4 sin /2sin / 2 cos a and rearranging gives cos a= 1cos −cos −cos 4sin / 2 sin /2 cos b= 1cos −cos −cos 4 sin /2 sin/ 2 cos c= 1cos −cos −cos 4sin /2 sin / 2 Hub Radial Angle Looking down on the hub towards the center of the dome the angle that the struts radiate from the hub is not actually the same as the frame corner angle because the struts radiate at an angle. Mitre Angle The mitre angles where the struts meet the hubs are the simplest as they are just the compliment of the central angles ' =180−/2 ' =180−/2 '=180−/2 Corner Angle The angles at the corner of the frame in the plane of the frame follow from the vector product of the edge vectors. the strut lengths for a dome of unit radius are A=2 sin /2 B=2 sin /2 C=2sin / 2 These just scale linearly with the radius of the actual dome. This is the dihedral angle between the planes x × y and x ×z . so using the vector and scalar triple product identities x × y⋅x×z=sin sin cos a '= x⋅z × x× y =x⋅cos x−cos y =cos −cos cos thus cos a '= cos −cos cos sin sin cos b '= cos −cos cos sin sin cos c ' = cos −cos cos sin sin Strut Bevel Angle The bevel angle. for a given design of dome.

00° 31.4036 .4036 B .6180 .00° 36.which after substituting for the dot products of the vertex vectors and a little rearrangement gives cos a = cos b= 1−cos 1−cos −cos −cos cos −cos 4 sin sin /2 sin /2 sin a 1−cos1−cos −cos −cos cos −cos 4 sin sin / 2 sin / 2 sin b cos = c 1−cos 1−cos −cos −cos cos −cos 4 sin sin /2 sin /2 sin c Examples 2v Icosahedral Dome A .3486 α β α' β' 78° 80° a 59° 71° b 61° 55° â 83° 86° b 83° 83° a' 60° 72° b' 62° 56° 23.4124 .72° 72° 3v Icosahedral Dome A .6180 B . and the triangles are isosceles so the C dimensions are all the same as the B dimensions.28° 20. .5466 α β α' β' 72° 74° a 60° 69° b 60° 56° â 79° 83° b 79° 79° a' 63° 72° b' 63° 58° 36.00° 72° 36.28° 23.6180 .08° 78° Note that for both the 2v and 3v dome there are only two different triangular faces.80° 78° 23.

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