A new house design and construction method is going to make its debut in Cayman this year.
On 18 January construction firm Armour Homes and owners Leith and Tulsi Bodden broke ground in North Side at Splendid View Estates on the construction of a residential home that has a circular shape.
David Moffitt of Armour Homes is well aware that a round design will not find universal acceptance straight away. “We are not trying to appeal to everyone. Like anything that’s new, it takes a little time for people to adapt to,” he said.
With its round house construction method, the company aims to achieve a paradigm shift in the way houses are built right now by offering something unique, which nonetheless has a long tradition. Round houses have existed for thousands of years and are still used in Africa today.
“The engineering reason for a round house is that with a circular shape you have equal pressure throughout the structure,” said Mr. Moffitt, and this increases the roof-load, “which is a big factor”.
Only as construction materials and techniques evolved, did rectangular, square and other building shapes emerge.
Love at first sight
Tulsi Bodden first saw the design at the Island Living Show at Camana Bay two years ago. “Initially I loved its appearance, it wasn’t cookie cutter. I loved its round shape and the additional square footage which the flat roof provided,” she said.
“But it wasn’t just its looks, it was a property that offered safety for my family, and that’s what sealed the deal for me.”
Mr. Moffitt explained that his firm has been working for some time on a design for a more sustainable house. Seeing the destruction in the Cayman Islands after Hurricane Ivan firsthand only sped up this process. The ability of the round exterior walls to withstand a greater pressure is beneficial in a hurricane as wind is not able to build up as it does on a flat wall.
In a show home in Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was destroyed by a tornado in 2007, Armour Homes demonstrated the resilience of their building structure by dropping a car from a crane from over 60 feet on a round house, without damaging the structure.
Ms Bodden, a realtor, said it was easy to persuade her husband after taking him around the island to compare available properties with this type of construction and design. “After he had seen firsthand what was out there, it was a no-brainer for him.”
Additional benefits of the circular house shape are that, because technically no walls are required inside to carry the roof, it offers a greater flexibility for the design of the interior space.
Ms Bodden says that being able to redesign the interior layout was important. “I love cooking and socialising, so an open-plan kitchen, dining and living room were the first changes I made. Pretty much every wall that I could remove was taken out,” she said.
Although the round exterior walls have a slightly different look and feel, on the inside of the house two to three of the four walls will be straight. And as far as furniture and curved walls are concerned, Mr. Moffitt said: “If you have a couch, we are talking about an area of three inches, so it is not really exaggerated.”
Ms Bodden said she is going for a clean, industrial and minimalist style throughout, including a media room for her boys upstairs and a more tranquil art studio for herself downstairs.
“I replaced the interior doors with pocket doors, another easy way to increase usable square footage and provide a more spacious feel. The traditional staircase also had to go and is now replaced with a spiral staircase. The floor on the first level will be polished concrete and you will be greeted by a waterfall when you step through the front door.”
Energy savings are another significant factor in a round home. The energy efficient construction is going to show on the owner’s electricity bills, said Mr. Moffitt. “What we found in the US is that this type of construction only uses about 60 per cent of the energy use of conventional houses.”
When comparing square or rectangular and round shapes, there is some trade-off, conceded Mr. Moffitt. “The trade-off is that you lose some space, but for the same square footage there is less exterior wall space in a round shape than there is in a square or rectangular shape.”
The result is less heat loss and energy savings of 15 per cent to 18 per cent from this alone, he estimates.
The construction of a round home is a relative speedy process. It takes about four weeks to build the concrete shell from the foundation to the roof and the construction costs for a round home are the same as for conventional houses, Moffitt said.
Ms Bodden added that having a distinct vision of what she wanted meant that finding the perfect plot for the new property took some time. “Natural beauty was key. I didn’t want the lawn and imported trees, I wanted what Cayman naturally has to offer, beautiful indigenous trees, orchids and rock formations. I found that in North Side.“
The only clearing of trees that she allowed was for the footprint of the building and the driveway.
“This type of approach will also be easier on the upkeep. All of the trees and plants are established and thriving, so no watering required. They are perfectly suited to their environment. The local animal life will also not be impacted by having their habitat destroyed by unnecessary clearing,” she said.