For the past 15 years, Mark Sigler has been exploring ways to build
safe homes in dangerous places, including hurricane zones,
landslide territory, and most recently, mountain fire zones. He
engineered his first home in Pensacola Beach to withstand
hurricanes and a humid environment. In 2004, Sigler's domed
beachfront home survived a direct hit from Hurricane Ivan. He and
an NBC television crew stayed overnight while the storm surge
ripped off the front stairs and swept open the garage doors —
all of which were designed to break away (A). Here's why Sigler's
structure so impressively weathered the storm:
The 16 high-tech piles are made of recycled polypropylene with
fiberglass reinforcement, making them impervious to corrosion in a
salt environment (B). The piling acts like a big cleat to hold the
concrete-reinforced ring beam to the beach (C).
To construct the home, Sigler and his crew entered a fiberglass
balloon that was secured to the ring beam and inflated with a
blower (D). A man-lift, plus all the rebar required to support the
dome, was loaded inside beforehand.
The first layer of the dome consisted of 4 inches of spray-urethane
foam, applied in 1-inch lifts. Wire ties were inserted between
lifts to hold up a rebar cage and reinforcing for the beams over
each opening (E). The reinforced area was then sprayed with 150
yards of shotcrete. "It's like installing an upside-down pool,"
Next, the openings were cut away like a giant jack-o'-lantern (F).
The exterior was plastered with stucco, then sprayed with a rubber
truckbed liner (G) that provides a tough enough skin to resist
penetration from wind-blown debris and moisture.
Every bedroom of the completed 6,000-square-foot home (2,000 square
feet of conditioned living space) opens onto a deck facing the