FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Roger Magill of Port Charlotte, Fla., took shelter during 2004's Hurricane Charley in the round house he had assembled a few months earlier, but he wasn't prepared for what he saw upon emerging after the storm.
"On our street we were the only ones who were OK," he said. "We didn't have a penny of damage."
His neighbors didn't fare as well, Magill said. "The house across the street lost its roof; the house next to us was 51 percent damaged. Another house down the street was pretty much blown in."
Magill's house was built by Deltec Homes, which has been producing hurricane-resistant dome-shaped homes since 1955.
Joseph Schlenk, director of sales and marketing for the Asheville, N.C., company, said Deltec ships the prefabricated houses all over the world – mainly to places where the risk of high winds and catastrophic home damage is high.
"They're more aerodynamic than a traditional box-shaped home," he said. "Wind cannot create enough pressure on any side of the building. On a rectangular-shaped home, you'll have a long wall, 40 or 50 feet. When the wind begins to blow, energy builds up in that wall and ultimately a structural failure will occur."
Deltec is not alone in touting the safety and durability of round buildings. Researchers at the Texas Tech Wind Science and Engineering Research Center say the dome shape is a good way to minimize damage from high winds.
A variety of designs, such as the one-piece concrete monolithic dome, are being offered for sale by homebuilders around the country.
Schlenk said that while the round shape is an advantage, Deltec uses other strengthening techniques as well.
"We're using the very best structural materials available," he said. For example, the frame is made of wood "twice as strong as what you could get in a lumberyard."
Magill, a semi-retired insurance agent, said he can confirm his house functioned as advertised.
"During Charley, we listened to the wind whistling around the house, literally. We didn't hear the moan of the wind," he said.
He acknowledges the house is "goofy" looking but said he'd never build anything else in Florida based on his experience.
Retiree Diane Sutphin of Punta Gorda came to the same conclusion but said she learned the hard way: Charley destroyed her traditionally built home the same day Magill's came through unscathed.
Six years ago she put up a Deltec round house on stilts and said it's given her comfort. "The house is very tight, very quiet. The house has given me complete peace of mind."