Aug 5, 2023 - Real Estate

Here's what it's like owning a UFO-inspired dome home in Florida

Photo: Courtesy of Airbnb/Michael DeFilippi

More people are talking about dome homes and disaster-proof designs as a solution to climate threats.

Why it matters: Experts say increasing extreme weather could give mass-market appeal to dome structures, which are relatively cheap to build and resilient against hurricane-force winds, Axios' Cuneyt Dil writes.

Zoom in: Michael DeFilippi bought his dome home in Lake Placid as a short-term rental in 2021. Like other dome homeowners, he was drawn to the unusual architecture and saw it as a creative opportunity.

  • The rounded structure and porthole windows inspired him to go all out with a UFO theme, from green lights to space-themed arcade games.

The intrigue: Demand for the UFO dome soars when hurricanes hit, DeFilippi says. People who've taken shelter in the dome say they couldn't tell they were riding out a hurricane from inside, evening during peak winds.

The other side: Repairs are difficult, DeFilippi says. Finding experts and the right materials isn't as easy as replacing a typical shingle roof. His dome is made from Fiberglas-like material and steel.

What they're saying: Natural Spaces Domes, a Minnesota-based company with customers across the country, has seen demand surge in recent years. Owner Dennis Odin Johnson tells Axios he's doubled his staff and expects to sell around 40 domes this year, up from 20 last year.

  • "Our clients are looking for something different, and they're attuned to climate change," Johnson says.

The big picture: With fewer flat walls and its round shape, domes can weather severe winds and heavier snowfall while using less heating and cooling energy than a conventional house, Johnson says.

  • Also, the entire exterior can be built with fire-resistant material.

By the numbers: A completed dome is generally 5-to-15% less expensive to build, requiring 60% less lumber than a standard house of the same size, according to Johnson.

  • For an average-size dome, completed building costs range from $350,000 to $450,000 in rural areas, with costs up to 50% higher in cities and suburbs, he says.

Editor's note: The photo caption was corrected to show the photo is courtesy of Michael DeFilippi, not Michael Lynn.

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