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These energy-efficient prefab homes withstand the toughest storms

Deltec has built over 5,000 resilient homes in areas hit by some of history’s strongest storms

Welcome to Home of the Future, a four-part video series co-produced by Curbed and The Verge. Each month, we'll take you inside one innovative home and explore how the technology of today informs the way people will live in the future. To follow along, stay tuned for new video episodes on our Facebook page. This month’s location? A round net-zero prefab home engineered to survive the strongest storms.

This past summer’s intense hurricanes—namely Category 4 storm Harvey and Category 5 storms Irma and Maria—struck the Caribbean and U.S. Gulf Coast one after another within a month and a half, offering a frightening glimpse at the threat of extreme weather. For affected folks lucky enough to evacuate, devastation often follows when returning home to find entire properties destroyed. As we anticipate a future of more monster storms, building homes to withstand extreme weather events is crucial—and possible.

Deltec, a North Carolina-based prefab home builder, has been around for over 50 years. In that time, it’s built over 5,000 homes, many of them in areas hit by the biggest storms in recent memory, including hurricanes Katrina, Charley, Sandy, and the trio of 2017 storms mentioned above. The survival rate of Deltec homes to date? An impressive 100 percent—even as neighboring stick-built houses, such as one in Rockport, Texas, after Hurricane Harvey shown below, were left in shambles. How? It’s definitely not down to luck.

Christian Mazza

Since the beginning, Deltec has specialized in prefab round homes, which, by design, are more aerodynamic than the standard boxy house. The circular shape distributes wind pressure evenly (resulting in a 30 percent reduction in wind pressure compared to a rectangular home), while the roof pitch has also been optimized for wind deflection and reduced lift.

The other major factors in the homes’ strength are materials and rigorous testing. Frames for Deltec homes are built using Southern Yellow Pine, one of the strongest woods available, and each piece of lumber used goes through an acoustic stress test for density and durability.

Christian Mazza

And the company continues to innovate on the nitty-gritty. Last year, Deltec unveiled a new model home that also serves as a prototyping lab. Outfitted with sensors for heat and moisture levels in the roof and walls, the net-zero house allows engineers to hone in on ways to improve durability and sustainability.

Indeed, in addition to designing a home that can survive extreme weather, the other piece of the puzzle is designing a home that, in the words of Deltec president Steve Linton, “can have a restorative effect on the planet.”

After Hurrican Harvey, Rockport, Texas.
Courtesy of Deltec Homes

All Deltec homes, which come in at $150-200 per square foot and are available in the signature round shape or a more conventional style, can be built to be fully net zero, with airtight construction, thermal mass flooring, and energy from solar trackers.

This way, after the storm is over, the home can shelter people right away, and in an energy-efficient manner.

Watch how Deltec homes stand up against intense storms in this episode of Home of the Future.