Built in 1972, Baggins End is what some people might consider a
throwback to a hippie commune. Most people know it as the
Domes, because its residents live inside fiberglass geodesic
domes. Imagine 14 large igloos spread across a wooded area of
gardens and bark-covered pathways. Apart from the spherical
shape and colorful polka dots and spirals painted over the walls,
the domes are no different than a typical two-person dorm
room. They have all the normal living essentials . . . a
kitchen, a loft, a bathroom, and a living room.
But it's the community-based agricultural
lifestyle that attracts students like Kara Sweeney to the
domes. There's an organic garden outside each dome.
"It's called Permaculture. And that's like this basis
of having your gardens like right near where you live," Sweeney
There's also a large communal garden, a greenhouse, and a
well-equipped tool shed.
"This is like a collection that has been building for 40
years. So we pretty much have any tool that we need to fix
anything on site here," Sweeney said.
Chickens [chicken noises] in two coups produce eggs
daily. Everyone eats in a communal dining area. And
there's a large community room full of couches and pillows for
relaxing and playing games like spin the bottle.
"It has a laser right here, Sweeney said. "So whoever has
to be kissed will have like a laser on him."
But the domes have a problem.
"In January we had a meeting with student
housing going over their findings for ADA compliance and for
structural integrity. And they came back saying that these
were not up to 2007 building code. And they were not going to
be renewing leases once our current ones expire in July . . .
the end of July," according to Sweeney.
Students built the domes nearly 40 years ago, expecting them
to last maybe ten years. The construction is basic; an 1/8
inch thick fiberglass shell, lined with foam
Ramona Hernandez is a manager with UC Davis Student
"The UV rays from the sun eventually degrade the foam
that's on the inside . . . just the heat," Hernandez said.
"And that's been happening for some time and there have been some
foam repairs, but it was to the point where they wanted us to help
them and came to us and that's when we first went down this
Hernandez says the domes need to be totally re-foamed.
And renovations of that scale make the domes subject to 2007
building standards, and trigger much more costly repairs.
"Building codes in California," Hernandez said. "If
one were to do major renovations to a building then you have to
bring them up to standard code. If you're not doing major
renovations, as long as basic things are maintained, then you don't
have to make those changes."
Hernandez says it would cost about $43 thousand per dome to
make them comply with modern building codes and the Americans with
Dome residents claim they can fix the spots where the foam is
degrading and still use the 1972 building code. Then they can
build new domes as the old ones are phased out.
But Hernandez says state law requires Student
Housing to bid projects to union contractors and pay prevailing
wages for construction work. She says her department has
6,000 students to worry about, and it can't justify spending nearly
a million dollars to save housing for 28
"We did a financial analysis and looked at the risk and
looked at the benefits of putting more funds into the buildings to
keep them going a little longer and found that the most prudent
financial decision was to close the domes," Hernandez
But Kara Sweeney says her dome home is a unique piece of
history and an opportunity for experiential
"I've heard plenty of people say that they think that
they've learned got way more out of their four years of living here
at the domes than they did out of their four years of education
here," Sweeney said.
Hernandez says there may be a future version of the domes in
the same spot. But for now, no new leases are being offered