In regions that regularly face gale-force winds, priorities like making a house fire- or snow-proof take a backseat to the more-important goal of ensuring the building won’t go flying off its foundations during the next big storm. Some architects have gotten creative with this aim, turning to an eye-catching, super-sturdy design: a simple dome.
Most buildings have lots of stuff that can come flying off in a storm—like, say, a roof. But the top won’t pop off a gigantic concrete hemisphere. Building a house from one solid piece of concrete certainly helps defend against weather: A single curved slab lacks those points of weakness that, when struck, can make a regular four-walls-anda-roof collapse. But this home’s real strength comes from its rounded shape. That’s because, when something strikes a sphere, the force gets distributed evenly over the curved surface. So a blow that might shake the seams of a standard house won’t find a similar weak point on a dome. To build that perfectly round shape, builders inflate a giant balloon in the shape of the outside shell. They then spray that bubble with 3 inches of urethane foam insulation. When the coating cures, they add 3 inches of concrete, reinforced with rebar, on top of it, kind of like constructing a swimming pool in reverse. How well does the dome design work? One beachfront residence, built in 2003 in Pensacola, Florida, withstood 2004’s Hurricane Ivan as it decimated the surrounding neighborhood. That house has gone on to weather two more major storms. And hemispheres aren’t just suited to squalls. In 2003, a 5,000-pound bomb reportedly hit a rounded Iraqi mosque that was built using the same company’s designs. The blast destroyed everything inside the building but left its exterior structure standing. Most homeowners seek out familiar shapes. But as survivalists and doomsday preppers look for secure buildings, more people are moving outside the box and into the dome. These houses provide all the security of an underground shelter—with the added bonus of sunlight.
Special thanks to: the staff at Kingspan Panels, Equitone, Technical Glass Products, Fortress Storm Rooms, BuildBlock Building Systems, and the Monolithic Dome Institute, particularly Gary Clark and David B. South; and the architects John Berg of Berg Design Architecture, Hector Magnus of Architects Magnus, and Robert Klob of Robert Klob Designs.