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Coast couple chooses the round house option to buihurricane-resistant structureld

Building outside the box can be rewarding experience

Perkinston — Irv and Jan Eaton were traveling through Florida after a hurricane a few years back, and noticed something very interesting. There was a wide path of destruction where every house had been knocked down. A round house was the only thing left standing.

The Eatons, after later visiting some round houses made from prefabricated panels by Deltec Homes, were sold. They learned that not only are the round houses much better at shedding hurricane-force winds, they are also very spacious, feel airy and more connected to the outdoors, and are very energy efficient.

The Eatons are now in the process of finishing up construction of their own round house located on their farm near Perkinston.

“People want to live outside of the box, and that is what this is,” Irv said. “It’s not a box. It is round. It is very energy efficient and structurally sound. The quality of materials is much higher than you would get with a stick built home around here. And there is no mess or waste. You don’t even need a saw to put it together, only a hammer.”

The Eaton’s “house in a box” arrived in a 53-foot enclosed trailer. The concrete foundation had already been laid. They hired a consultant experienced in Deltec Homes (which they highly recommend to anyone else considering this type of home), who operated a fork lift to first place the 10-foot tall, eight-foot-long wall panels in place, and then the unique roof trusses that meet in the center where they are bolted to a strong metal collar.

The Eaton’s house arrived on Monday, and by Friday the roof was on. By Saturday, the shingles were on the roof.
The clear span roof trusses transfer all load to the outside walls. There are no load bearing walls inside the house. That gives a great deal of flexibility in how the interior space is divided up into rooms. And it can allow for a panoramic view if the house isn’t divided up into a lot of small rooms. The rooms in the house are spacious, and the views terrific. They chose a site on their farm surrounded by scenic woods, green pastures, a picturesque round dairy silo and a red barn.

The Eatons stayed for recent Hurricane Ivan, even though the house was not yet bricked outside nor completed inside. They slept well and could barely even hear the wind except for the rustling of some of the outside sheathing.

The home has a large stone fireplace and lots and lots of windows. They could have gotten by with fewer windows. But Jan likes the feel of the windows that let in plenty of natural light.

Deltec Homes touts their offerings as “custom homes that are energy efficiency, environmentally friendly, and still truly affordable. Every Deltec home is made up of individual wall panels. Even though the house is round, the wall panels are flat, eight-foot sections. Furniture may be placed up against any wall with room to spare.
Deltec claims the shape of its round houses make them the most energy efficient homes

The Eatons’ home doesn’t feel strange. Yes, the dimensions are a bit different than a “normal” house. But the curves that make the house round are gradual, and with walls put in place to define bedrooms and bathrooms, the home isn’t a far departure from more conventional homes. And the curves can make for interesting forms to play with for interior decorating.

Since no interior support is usually required to hold up the room, the home can be custom-designed for dividing up the space into rooms. The Eatons have a large living room or great room that is open to the kitchen and dining room. In the middle there is a loft area looking down on the great room and, in the back, over an officerecreation room. The home is 2,070 feet on the ground level with a 430-foot loft.

One unique feature of the loft is that the heating and air system is housed underneath it. That allows all the duct work for the home to be contained inside the floor of the loft. That leads to less heat and cold loss than being housed in an attic that isn’t climate controlled. Only a third as much HVAC duct work is needed to distribute the air conditioning and heating compared to a conventional house.

The shape of the house sheds hurricane winds because the only part of the house receiving the full force of the hurricane winds would be one eight-foot panel. The Eaton’s house uses a large amount of hurricane straps and clips to connect the walls to the roof trusses and to the floor.

The panels are stronger than a conventional stick built wall. They are constructed with long nails that have a screw shape. The Eatons tried to pull out one of the nails, and found it practically impossible. The home also has double 2×10 wall headers, a strength which Eaton said is “almost unheard of.” Unique features include a light tunnel in an interior hallway that otherwise would have little natural light. Duct work is used to bring light from a roof opening down into the hallway.

The Eatons used brick for exterior sheathing, although Deltec’s other options include pine, cedar or vinyl siding. They used brick because it is more energy efficient. Irv said while brick is more expensive, he expects to make his money back in a few years because fire insurance premiums are lower.

A stick built home is a little cheaper. “But if you look at the quality, you would be willing to pay more,” Irv said.

The Eatons chose six-inch walls which allow for extra insulation. The outside of the walls is 5/8th-inch plywood covered by one-inch foam insulation and house wrap. That adds to the other advantages that Deltec says its homes have regarding energy efficiency: “Independent tests have proven a Deltec could be up to twice as energy efficient as a ‘built to code’ rectangular or square home of equal footage,” said Joseph Schlenk, director of sales and marketing for Deltec Homes. “The unique shape of the building allows for performance not seen in a conventional home. Ample air moves through the 360-degree ‘free flow’ roof vent system to keep your attic cool in the summer and dry in the winter. Also, the Deltec has less exterior wall space for the same footage as a conventional home of the same square footage. If you have 1,200 square feet in a box shape as opposed to a round shape, you will have more exterior space exposed with the box-shaped house.”

The company adds that Deltec homes have successfully stood up to Hurricane Andrew, Fran, Hugo, Opal, Jeanne, Francis, Charley and Ivan.

“We have a list of Deltec homes in Florida and Alabama that survived these recent storms without any structural damage,” Schlenk said. “Many of these homes were at ground zero where the storms came ashore in places such as Gulf Shores, Ala., and Port Charlotte, Fla. There were Deltec homes in key spots where hurricanes came into direct contact with these houses, and they didn’t suffer any structural damage at all. We just got a letter from a man in the Caribbean who went through two consequent category four hurricanes with no damage at all.”

Schlenk said the basic shape of a Deltec is the idea to resist the wind pressures of a hurricane. The round shape will let the wind blow around the house, not against a long flat wall. Each panel braces the next panel against the wind, and the wind can only blow directly on one eight-foot panel.

Another advantage is that Deltec Homes are built in a factory so there isn’t weathering of the structure while it is being built. And the shortened construction time can result in savings from less cost in construction loans and less chance of vandalism or theft. There is also less waste to haul off.

Schlenk said most early dwellings were round.

“Igloos, teepees and yurts still use the efficiency of a circle,” Deltec says. “Some of the greatest of man’s architectural feats still standing today are round.”

Depending on the type of interior furnishing, Deltec Homes can range in price from $80 per square foot and up.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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