How to Build a Hurricane-Proof House

The views from the lot were so great that she had the idea of building a circular house, so that each room would have a unique vista of the beautiful setting. Rodriguez started searching for designs online and soon stumbled on the website of Deltec Homes, a North Carolina firm that makes prefabricated circular houses. Best of all, realized Rodriguez, as she scrolled through the company’s marketing materials, the structures—with their tightly sealed roofs and walls pinned to the foundations—were designed to survive hurricanes. “I kind of feel like I struck gold,” she says.

It took years, and multiple headaches with local builders and contractors, but her home was finally finished last year. It was not cheap. The wall sections, roofing, and other core components from Deltec cost nearly $360,000, and the Rodriguez family shelled out a further $980,000 on permits, foundations, assembly, plumbing, HVAC, finishes, and fees. Significant hard work and saving helped the family achieve this, stresses Rodriguez. Building such a house in a dream location had become a “life goal” for the couple.

Hurricane Ian struck while the house was still being built. The structure was undamaged, though one patio door did get pulled off its hinges. The real test was Idalia, a Category 4 hurricane, which arrived in late August 2023. As it approached Florida, universities and airports shut down, National Guard members were mobilized, and a Cape Canaveral space launch was called off. The Rodriguez family hauled everything they could to the upper floors of their new home, packed up their car, and drove to a hotel in Orlando.

Their house never lost power during the storm, which meant Rodriguez could watch the effects as the hurricane drew nearer and nearer. The nighttime exterior was at first illuminated weakly by their security camera lights until the sun came up and the full force of the hurricane arrived at around 7:45 am. That’s when Idalia made landfall roughly 180 miles to the north.

“We could see the floodwater coming into our garage,” she recalls. But overall, the live footage didn’t look too bad. A relief. When they drove back to investigate the aftermath, they passed neighbors’ homes with pieces of siding missing or large parts of their roofs destroyed. The Rodriguez homestead was comparatively unharmed. Flooding in the lower story quickly receded, and while the family lost some belongings that had been stowed there, the house itself recovered from the deluge—as designed.

“We’re OK. We’re going to be fine,” Rodriguez remembers thinking on the morning they evacuated. “And we were,” she says.

Rodriguez explains that steel reinforcement bar, or rebar, runs from the home’s foundations, up through the walls, and connects to the roof. The balcony floor joists run right into the core of the property. And the windows, made by the door and window manufacturer Marvin, are designed to cope with hurricane-force winds and rain.

“Our survival rate is 99.9 percent,” says Steve Linton, president of Deltec Homes. “We have had two homes that have had structural damage in our history.” One of those was built decades ago, to somewhat lesser standards, he explains. The other “had some defects from the builder” and was battered by a Category 5 storm. To date, the company has manufactured more than 5,000 properties—mostly in the US, with some scattered across 30 other countries worldwide. The walls and roofing sections prefabricated in their North Carolina factory can be shipped practically anywhere.

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