COMMENTARY: A Revolution in Resilient House Design

This revolution has its origins even before my Revolution in Roofing click here to read article. It goes back to the very beginning of mankind and our Kalinago ancestors were practicing it long before Columbus.

In a nutshell, it is all about building circular structures and deflecting wind force rather than fighting against it. Have you ever seen a square sided tree or a flat fronted racing car? No, you haven’t. But we continue to build slab-sided houses!

A circular house is many times stronger than its square-cut neighbour and, for the same amount of perimeter wall, it contains almost 20% more floor space. It also lends itself to creative possibilities in terms of layout and interior design.

The floor plan and cross section that illustrates this commentary is for a house 50 feet in diameter. Surrounding the central living room are three bedrooms, two bathrooms, entrance hall, kitchen, store room and study. A diameter of 30 feet can accommodate a single bedroom, bathroom, study and an open plan living room and kitchen. For “study” you can read “work room”. In years to come the internet will enable many desk jobs to be done from the home environment.

The perimeter wall is topped by reinforced concrete beam. At their lower end, rafters are bolted onto steel lugs that are cast into the beam. At their upper end the rafters are bolted to lugs welded to the steel frame of the cupola and radiate like spokes of a wheel. Alternate rafters are half the length of a full rafter and terminate on cross beams. The purlins can be bent in situ to follow the curve of the roof. All of the roof’s lateral force is absorbed by the perimeter beam. The walls are only subjected to a helpful compressive force. The internal walls are none structural.

All window openings are protected by shutters and there are no overhanging eaves to catch the wind. Custom molded fiberglass guttering extends under the bottom row of tiles and its vertical face serves as fascia for the ends of the rafters. Hence, the guttering is an integral part of the roof.

The steel framed cupola is an essential design feature. The toughened glass lantern allows day light to stream into the central living room and the louvres provide ventilation.

There is no way that corrugated sheets of galvanized can conform to the roof’s conical form, but clay tiles or shingles can.

Incidentally, the semicircular 1st and 2nd World War Nissen Huts used corrugated galvanized to its best structural advantage. The Nissen Hut concept is still relevant in terms of emergency re-housing. The standard hut could be erected by six men in four hours.

At this point let me thank DNO readers that responded to my clay tile commentary. The main concerns related to breakage and cost. Due to flat clay tiles having a generous overlap and closely spaced purlins, when laid they are amazingly resilient to breakage. In terms of cost, the roof is only one component of the building and furnishing investment. And if you go up a level, the same roof covers both upstairs and downstairs.

I am told that bricks were once made out of local clay at Canefield and possibly clay roof tiles at Portsmouth. Bricks, floor tiles and roof tiles all share the same clay and method of firing. If these industries were revived, the walls, floor and roof of my circular house could be manufactured locally.

 

Illustration shows the author’s plan for a circular house.

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23 Comments

  1. Calibishi Warrior
    February 27, 2018

    Circular structures are, in fact, more wind resistant than similarly sized rectangular ones. Intuitively, we know this but one can demonstrate this both mathematically and empirically ( mainly to do with fluid flow around static objects). Many more factors com into play , of course. Roof steepness, workmanship, surrounding topography and vegetation etc. Practically the problems are obvious… building materials are generally not curved or circular and so the clear compromise is to build in an octagon . there are many attractive and practical examples of octagonal building on the internet and worth exploring for new build. the are a few hidden examples right here in Waitikubuli.

    • Roger Burnett
      February 27, 2018

      Thank you Calibishi Warrior, you have raised some interesting points.

      Over the years I have considered octagonal and hexagonal floor plans. As you say, building materials are not curved. However, on a 25ft radius, or even a 15ft radius, the flats created by 16 inch blocks are negligible and easily lost when rendering. Providing window openings do not have too greater width, straight frames can be accommodated within an 8 inch wall. Guttering is the only custom molded item.

      The advantage of the circular form include: the strength of the ring beam; equal rafter lengths and a more flexible interior space.

  2. langlou
    February 24, 2018

    when Dominicans hook on a word they usually finish it.. in a sense soon enough we will not
    not hear the word resilient again…. i hear that word about a thousand times a day… like diaspora…
    all ministers learn a new word and will mention it so many times it will make people head spin. soon to be forgotten

  3. Fr. Franklyn Cuffy,
    February 24, 2018

    The circular Church building of St Alphonsus, in Goodwill was also exposed to the category 5 Hurricane, Maria. How was it impacted? I think this could be a good test to Mr. Roger Burnett theory.
    I am on my way to visit this site.

    • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
      February 24, 2018

      Mr. Cuffy, I have seen structures of similar shape blown away by tornado here in the the United States, so what is the difference in a tornado?

      The Methodist Church in Wesley was built in a similar shape completely round, it stood there for more than a hundred years, Maria took it out send it into oblivion. The Wesley Roman Catholic built differently got hit badly, but still stands. There is no guarantee in what that guy is talking about; total nonsense!

       I do not want anyone to misunderstand my argument, I am not saying that we should not find a way to build better structures. I argued for a very long time that our building architecture stinks; everyone compile block, and call them house without following any sort of building code so what do one expect.

      In the 1950’s I am sure you remember hurricane Janet, smashed Miami, and Guanika in Puerto Rico, in that city they rebuild all concrete with flat roof problem solve to this day!

  4. Nan
    February 23, 2018

    I find this article funny, in a strange sense, as we have been owners of a ’round’ house in DA for over 3 years. Worked on for almost 6 years. Built and designed by my husband.

    Curious to know which part of Dominica you are from.

    • Roger Burnett
      February 24, 2018

      I’m located at Antrim. I would be interested to learn more about your “round house”.

    • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
      February 26, 2018

      Nan if you are referring to me, I do not respond to garbage, but if you must know, the name which I write under is by my name given to me at birth; proud to inform you that I am from the village of Wesley; and one who is highly academically educated; college and university educated.

      One who earned degrees in Electronic Engineering, and Electrical Engineering: compounded with a degree in the Liberal Arts, so do not question my legitimacy!

      You are not reading an idiot okay!

    • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
      February 26, 2018

      Well, Nan  if you were not referring to me, I must apologize; and I do not do that very often!

      Roger if you are Burnett perhaps your skill of wedging must be hereditary, when I was a kid growing up in Wesley, one of the last genius who mastered that skill was a man named Manasseh Lod Burnett. 

      • Roger Burnett
        February 26, 2018

        Francisco, I come from four generations of engineers and master craftsmen. I was not “born here” but I have known Dominica since the mid1970’s and lived here permanently for 14 years. I have a great and overwhelming love for the island. No one pays me to say what I believe needs saying.

        I am grateful for you’re earlier responses to my comments.

  5. Beatrix
    February 23, 2018

    Great Commentary <3
    This would also increase tourism exports too.

  6. Pedro
    February 23, 2018

    Interesting idea. This is a good start. It is a challenge though to convince folks on non-traditional design concepts. Also what about the construction with the tiles? Even if its available few locals will have that experience/expertise and labor is at a premium right now. All worthy of further discussion however. I think there should be an annual expo within the building construction industry to share best practices, experiences and introduce new materials etc. It would be great if there could be sponsors who can showcase one of the new concepts during that time with an actual model of your proposal which could include a video of the construction. Roger, I think you should pitch your idea to some of these development organizations as well! One important question though. DA is very vulnerable to earthquakes and there is evidence this activity has increased tremendously over the last few decades. How resilient is it to that? It would be good to also get that assessments

  7. LifeandDeath
    February 23, 2018

    Roger Burnett. I appreciate your article. You have come up with some good ideas on this site. Hoave you made any strides to implement any of the ideas?

    • Roger Burnett
      February 24, 2018

      Yes, I have been able to implement many of my ideas over the course of a lifetime but some take many years to bear fruit.

      This is particularly true with my work in the creative arts and in particular, inspiring young Dominicans to that end. There is a wealth of potential talent that is worthy of encouragement.

      Perhaps I’ll make this the subject of a future commentary.

      • LifeandDeath
        February 26, 2018

        Good Idea. I think you could actually try and set up a Company to build and market the clay tiles for roofing. Funding could be sought through several Green project initiatives.

  8. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    February 23, 2018

    Guy stop talking nonsense and find something better to do with your time!

    I do not care how much Roosevelt or who may have paid you to come here with this nonsense, to make the rubbish they are talking climate resilient  credible. Such nonsense does not ring a bell in the ear of the  educated mind!

    We know the  history of the Carib Indian life in Dominica, and as a matter  of fact the rest of the Caribbean, and North and South America: So pack your crap, and come again!

    When you are about to try to brainwash the feeble minded you might try to bring some sociology, and Anthropology facts to support your argument, because all of us who reads DNO are not like the many who only know about Skerrit  political winning record.

    So, just pack that rubbish!

    • Roger Burnett
      February 25, 2018

      Dear Mr Telemaque,

      Thank you for taking me to task regarding the history of Carib Indian life.

      I was mistaken: it was the Arawaks and not the Caribs that built round houses. I apologise for the error.

      Respectfully,

      Roger Burnett

      • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
        February 25, 2018

        Don’t worry about it  Roger; do not regard any harsh comments I write on DNO as personal personal.

        I error very often too: we are only human; there is no such thing as perfection, once again thanks for the information you wrote regarding the concept of weging utilized by our old builders!

    • LifeandDeath
      February 26, 2018

      Do you know how to be respectful at all even when you disagree or are you able Mr. Telemaque to separate from the politics?
      Before you go on an insulting rampage know that it is unbecoming of an educated person such as yourself to be so crass.

      • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
        February 26, 2018

        Mind your business, stay out of mine eh!

        Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!

        I only play politics when I on Roosevelt case, my comment to Roger is not political, I simply made a forceful comment which he understood where I was heading, and he responded accordingly, so much so he taught me something I did not know.

  9. Alickson severin
    February 22, 2018

    Very interesting!!! Sounds great!. I would love to see a display one.

  10. UDOHREADYET
    February 22, 2018

    I love it… i will be a circular home in Da… thanks for this!!

  11. derp
    February 22, 2018

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