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UC Davis dome dorms: free thinking & inclusion against gloom

Inspired by Buckminster Fuller, in 1972 a group of UC Davis students set out to build their own affordable tiny homes. With the help of a local foam roofing company (Central Coating Company) they built 14 polyurethane-insulated fiberglass domes on four acres of campus land.

With communal gardens, free range chickens and a system of direct democracy, “Baggins End” (a Tolkien-inspired moniker) was launched as an experiment in eco-friendly, nonconformist, grow-your-own living.

Meant to last 10 years, the domes weathered nearly 4 decades of students before risking closure due to the need for costly repairs. After a “Save the Domes” campaign, hundreds of volunteers and the local Solar Community Housing Association brought the structures back to life, patching foam and making two of the vaulted shelters wheelchair accessible.

We talked to several “Domies” about their quirky dorm rooms (yes, there’s electricity, plumbing and even a kitchen); the upgrade (some are heated/cooled via geothermal heat exchange); and life under a bubble.