What you are about to read is a composition of information garnered from hundreds of customers since we entered the Dome (inflatable structures) industry in 1996.
We make no guarantees that any of the information will work for your particular situation, it is for your general education relating to the "World of Domes".
Inflatable structures are an unusual type of structure. Most building departments or other permit issuing authorities are not familiar with the product. This usually means that the local authorities will interpret the various codes as they understand them and because Inflatable structures are vastly different than typical buildings, the building department may take considerable time to process your request.
Note: Most of the time domes are regulated by the local Fire Dept., not the building Dept. Inflatable structures normally fall into the category of "Temporary" structures as they are usually erected no more than 180 days per year and therefore are regulated by the Fire Dept. The codes normally used in this case are the same as used for "Party Tents".
If in doubt about possible permit requirements for your situation, contact your local authorities before making a purchase. If you do contact them, and they indicate a permit may be required, be sure to get their requirements IN WRITING. This way additional items will not be popping up on their "to do" list and it will be easier for us to assist you as we see how the regulations are being interpreted.
"Sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission". Sad but true in our over regulated world today. We do have customers that take this approach. We have seen situations where the building departments just are too overwhelmed with their standard building permits that they for whatever reason (time, resources, energy, etc) say just "go for it".
Residential Domes for Personal use: It is rare when a residential dome has required a permit. There may be a restriction in your area due to a local Homeowners Associations. If there is a problem, it's typically due to a neighbor (one you've already had issues with) that will report the dome in order to aggravate you.
Medical use: If there is a situation where the dome is to be used for "Medical Purposes" IE: your Dr. says that swimming is basically "prescribed" for rehabilitation, specific hydro related exercises, or for your mental well being, there's not much any regulatory agency could say against the installation and use of a residential dome that would not place them in a vulnerable legal position. There are organizations (with deep pockets) that would defend your individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
Backyard Swim Schools/Lessons: If you run a small operation you may be required to use a Fire Retardant dome. This then falls under the Commercial domes category for regulation and pricing. Occasionally the local authorities may require a permit for a residential dome. If you think that is the case, be sure to order a commercial grade dome as we have the required Fire Retardant and Engineering certifications if needed.
Since there seems to be no predictable consensus in the regulation of inflatable structures, dome owners have come up with some impressive means to "navigate" through the process of installing one.
Some just call the dome a "Pool cover" and let it go at that.
If there is a problem with height restrictions, and agreement might be pursued between the dome owner and the authorities that would incorporate the clause that the dome would only inflates when in use. A typical residential dome is 11'-6" in the very center. (This relates to a 24 ft width. The wider the dome, the taller the dome gets.) For reference: A typical sized residential dome takes less than 30 minutes to inflate or deflate.
Again, Most of the time when there is a regulating entity for a dome, it is the local Fire Dept. If at all possible, that's the direction you should approach from as they tend to make things happen quickly and their regulations are much less confusing, more practical, and less restrictive than ones that could be imposed by the local building department.
If you are purchasing a replacement dome, you are very likely "Grand Fathered" in and there should not be any potential issues. Additionally, if there are other Commercial domes in the area, that information could possibly be used to further supplement your efforts.
We have the required Fire Retardant Certification as approved by the California State Fire Marshall and they are universally recognized as having the most stringent precedents in the US and therefore their certification is accepted nationwide.
We have different engineering reports for our domes based on widths of the structures. For permitting processes, we will provide the appropriate engineering for your specific dome. Our domes have engineered wind ratings that occasionally do not meet the local requirements in a given area. Example: On the gulf coast there are some places that require a wind rating of 135 MPH. There are NO domes anywhere that are engineered for that wind velocity. But, there are many domes in that area. Our company alone has MANY installed at resorts, HO Associations, City & County pools, etc. This is accomplished by the use of a CONDITIONAL or PRACTICAL / FUNCTIONAL VARIANCE. Basically it's an agreement between the Dome operators and the local regulatory agency that stipulates when and how the dome is to be used. Example: If the wind velocity reaches 50 MPH, the dome would be deflated and not occupied until the weather improves. We have a Sample you may use as a model to help you formulate your own agreement should it be necessary. SEE INFO HERE
There are times when a regulation or requirement is included in a code that works for most situations and in other situations the same regulation or requirement actually places the public in a potentially perilous position. In cases such as this, most authorities are generally willing to work with the Dome operators to come up with a reprieve or a work-around for a specific requirement.
Generally speaking there is no need for a Backup generator as the deflation time of a large commercial dome (over 5000 SQ-Ft.) is normally longer than 30 minutes from the time the power goes off. If there is a requirement for one, it would make sense to use a Power Failure Alarm on the blower system to detect and Sound an alarm should a loss of power to the blowers occur. This would notify the occupants of the dome that they would need to leave and with the extensive deflation time of a dome, there would be adequate time for all to evacuate safely and also eliminates the need for a costly and unsafe interior support structure should the power go off.
If you are checking with your local agency to see what (if anything) they require, be sure to take a copy of the commercial dome brochure with you when you go. Leave a copy of it with them if needed. It shows them much more than you could try and explain.
It can be found HERE.
If you need assistance when working with an agency, please feel free to ask. Remember, always ask them to put their requirements in writing "up front".