Sunday, Nov. 9, 1997; 2B


by Steve Doll

Recent tornado damage in New Smyrna Beach points up a need for a change in thinking and in our perception of desirable building design.

Weather patterns are becoming more erratic and unstable. We cannot afford to thumb our noses at Mother any more.

Domes of reinforced, foamed concrete are beginning to make more and more sense. While we cling to outmoded concepts of square corners, pitched roofs, and columned porticoes, our present construction methods are fraught with potential missiles, disasters waiting to happen. Small wonder we consider 100-year-old conventional structures historic. They've managed to duck the odds so far. But they're all living on borrowed time. Domes, on the other hand, will be here for hundreds, even thousands of years.

Jacque Fresco, a design engineer and social innovator in South Florida, has built a small complex of domes as a prototype for a community of the future. They have come through Hurricane Andrew and several other wet, windy situations without a scratch. Likewise, a beachfront dome house in South Carolina withstood all Hurricane Hugo had to dish out while its neighbors were dashed to kindling.

With current construction techniques, the cost of dome construction is comparable to, even slightly below, that of conventional housing. The interiors can be as homey and rustic as a sodbuste(s cabin - or as sleek as a space shuttle. The foamed concrete shells are also highly energy efficient. And forget roof repairs.

Insurance companies should be the first on the dome bandwagon, with generous discounts to those considering dome construction. State, county and local governments should do everything in their power to encourage it. If they fail to do so and something comes crashing in on someone, the calamity is on their heads.

Like it or not, these times and this weather, they are a-changin'. No species that fails to adapt to its environment survives for long. We of all species have the capacity to think proactively, if we would just use that one most critical part of our bodies that nature tucked away in the most secure area - beneath the dome of our skulls.

Ormond Beach