Aug 5, 2023 - Real Estate

Minnesota company helps design, build disaster-proof dome homes

above view of two connected geodesic dome homes

Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Kallal

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.

What's happening: 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.

Zoom in: The shape certainly stands out in Eden Prairie, where Sarah Kallal owns two connected geodesic domes featuring a pair of slides, indoor putting green and other whimsical details.

  • "It's like living in 'Alice in Wonderland,'" Kallal tells Axios.
  • Context: The family considered selling the home back in 2021 but ultimately kept it as a short-term rental and have since relocated to New Prague.
  • They miss the structure's abundant natural light and energy efficiency "now that we're in a house with 90-degree angles," Kallal says.
living room area in dome home
Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Kallal

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.
Share who say they were displaced in the last year because of a natural disaster
Data: Census Bureau; Map: Axios Visuals

Context: In Minnesota, 0.6% of people say they were displaced in the last year because of a natural disaster, per the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.

  • Nationwide, the average is 1.6%.
  • Louisiana, Oklahoma and Florida saw the highest share of disaster-related displacement among U.S. states, the data shows.

What's happening: The threat of climate change-related disasters is a big factor driving up consumer costs and putting insurers out of business in parts of California, Florida, Louisiana and elsewhere, Axios' Andrew Freedman and Nathan Bomey report.

The intrigue: More domes are sprinkled throughout the region. Johnson says his company has manufactured as many as 450 dome shells in east central Minnesota and west central Wisconsin.

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