The recent spate of devastating tornadoes in the American Midwest has raised plenty of tough questions. Among them, “Is there a link between the record-breaking tornado surge and climate change?” and “What can be done to limit the damage in the future?” rise to the top of the list. As for the first, researchers don’t have enough good data to draw any distinct conclusions yet.
For the second, there’s a more interesting answer: Residents of known tornado alleys should live in monolithic domes, scientists and engineers say. There are also calls for increased investment in warning systems and weather data-gathering equipment, as is to be expected. But when communities begin rebuilding the brick and mortar fabric of their towns, some experts are advocating that they do so in a radically different way.
Here’s the Christian Science Monitor:
Another approach that appears to be gathering interest involves building a concrete dome that is anchored to a concrete base. Such monolithic-dome structures “are the lowest cost option for creating windstorm-protected space” above ground, says Gregory Pekar, state hazard mitigation officer in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s division of emergency management. The structures can withstand winds above 200 miles an hour as well as wind-driven debris.
Monolithic domes have cropped up across the country as church sanctuaries, school gymnasiums, and other public buildings, which then double as community storm shelters. The domes can be configured as one- and two-story homes, adds David Smith, widely acknowledged as the pioneer in building concrete monolithic domes.
In fact, one such monolithic dome house survived a direct hit from a tornado in Blanchard, Oklahoma. The windows were shattered, and some dents were put in the exterior, but the home by and large survived in tact. Similar reports have trickled in of similar dome house survival stories occurring in the past. Buckminister Fuller would be proud.
Not up to date on the latest in monolithic dome technology? This intro should help:
Now, if further research does establish a link between the warming climate and nastier, more frequent tornadoes, large swaths of the population just might have to get used to living in bubble-shaped abodes. And the proposal presents an interesting dilemma — should residents in tornado-prone regions be opting for the inexpensive, semi-weird looking dome houses anyways, even though they’re certainly not aesthetically preferable to most folks? Regardless, such considerations should again enter the planning debate with renewed sincerity — we need to make a habit of responding to our changing environment with the smartest design available.