There’s a Dome of a Home Going Up On Pensacola Beach!
A unique rental and opportunity
Once completed, the new Florida dome will be available to rent on a weekly basis. During non-rental times, the home will be open for scheduled tours. Being able to actually live in a dome before building one is an opportunity that the Siglers would have found extremely advantageous.
Although they have toured nine domes, the Siglers would have liked to have experienced life in a dome before making the major investment of actually building one. Seeing the Eye of the Storm on Sullivan’s Island was the decision maker. “That home was proof that domes could be built beautifully,” said Valerie Sigler.
“We feel privileged to provide people who are curious about domes or those contemplating building a dome a chance to live in one first. We have spent so much time, effort, and energy researching this technology that we are thrilled to share the information and experience with others. It is our hope that opening our home to visitors will increase awareness of the dome’s advantages. At the same time, we are dedicated to building a beautiful structure whose appearance will expedite the dome’s acceptance in upscale neighborhoods,” The Siglers.
Getting neighborhood approval
Before the Siglers were allowed to build the dome, they had to provide written confirmation of acceptance from their neighbors before the Santa Rosa Island Authority would approve the conceptual plans. An overwhelming 97% of neighbors and business owners were encouraging and very supportive. Having also been victims of hurricanes and rising insurance costs, the islanders were eager to learn about a structure that is built to survive the harsh beach environment.
“When we were canvassing the area, we were amazed at how many people had wanted to build domes, investigated domes, or had family and friends interested in domes. Most said they had not pursued their desire to build a dome because they did not want to conquer the opposition of the neighbors. We think the timing was opportune for introducing the dome into the beach neighborhood because of the extensive storm damage our island has received. We received excited anticipation rather than glares as we contacted our fellow islanders,” said Mark Sigler.
Researching hurricane survival
In 1995, after Hurricanes Erin and Opal severely damaged their home, Mark began researching building techniques that would alleviate such extensive devastation. What he discovered was the Monolithic Dome. Withstanding 300+ mph winds, storm surges, termites, rising energy costs, fires, and even earthquakes, airformed concrete domes are almost indestructible. Mark knew that it would be a true sanctuary, a place to come home to — even after a hurricane.
Having a home to return to after a hurricane would be a tremendous relief and comfort. “Knowing that the structure one calls home can also be a sanctuary, brings a sense of peace and comfort,” asserts Valerie Sigler. “Our desire is to reduce the human suffering associated with the destruction of one’s home in a natural disaster. We want to cultivate and promote awareness of the superior building technologies that can alleviate unnecessary loss. Many of the new technologies are more energy efficient and environmentally benign than their predecessors. Protecting the delicate balance of the barrier island while building structures is the ultimate goal,” state the Siglers.
Blending with the environment
Taking into account the pristine white beaches, the dunes, the emerald waters, and the peaceful nature of the environment, the Siglers wanted to create a home that would blend with and compliment its surroundings. Designed to be environmentally friendly with its low impact nature, the air and tension support structure can thrive in the harsh beach environment and has the ability to merge into the landscape. By utilizing the latest technologies, the Siglers hope to build an example of a structure that makes logical sense in the humid and harsh beach environment.
When visiting the island of Malta in 1999, Mark was very affected by the age of the houses there. He said, “The beautiful limestone homes were centuries old, housing generations of a family. What an incredible legacy to leave your family — a home that has withstood the test of time; a home that is created to thrive in its environment; a home that shelters and is a refuge in the storms of life. The reality that one could build a home that embraces these ideals was right before our eyes.” Although not made from Malta limestone, the concrete Airform structure could offer a home that would last for generations.
Their Dome of a Home
Construction of the Monolithic Dome began in March 2002. Bob Bissett is the genius designer who educated the Siglers about the newest technologies and also drew the construction documents.
The Siglers welcome a home that is designed to welcome them after the hurricanes have dissipated. And they invite you to visit their Dome of a Home website.
FEMA Grant Awarded to Sigler Family of Pensacola Beach, Florida
by Kris Garrison, Editor
Due to the flood district that exists in Escambia County, Florida, 11,000 residents of the county received a letter from the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program (FEMA-sponsored) stating that if their property had been flooded at least three times and they have had a unspecified dollar amount of damage, they were eligible to apply for a FEMA sponsored grant.
The spirit of the grant was to mitigate damage caused by the floods. The grant offered three options: 1) Demolish existing house and begin a new structure 2) FEMA buy out the property 3) Elevate the existing structure.
The Siglers went to work on their application. What started out as a 22-page application became a thick notebook containing the application and pages of information about the benefits of building a Monolithic Dome in a hurricane/flood prone area. Their notebook traveled to FEMA’s regional office in Atlanta, Georgia and caught the interest of The Institute for Business and Home Safety. After quite some time, the Siglers received a letter stating their application had been advanced to the next stage.
The Siglers opted for replacing their original home with a Monolithic Dome. Valerie Sigler said, “We were hoping that proposing something unusual would catch their eye and it did!” The Siglers were awarded the FEMA grant which provides 75% of eligible cost. The dome shell is considered eligible costs. All remaining cost will be paid for by the Siglers. As of May 1, 2002, their Monolithic Dome has been inflated.
Pensacola Beach virtually destroyed, but Dome of a Home still stands!
Hurricane Ivan Report from Dome of a Home
by Valerie Sigler
September 17, 2004
Mark’s decision to stay in Dome of a Home with the news crew from MSNBC during category 4 Hurricane Ivan was a testament to his faith in the structure that we had built. Kerry Sanders, the MSNBC correspondent, had been reporting on hurricanes for twenty-one years. He also felt confident in the engineering and design of the home. As I stayed in contact with Mark throughout the evening as Hurricane Ivan approached, he expressed surprise and delight with how well the structure was responding. Live coverage was broadcast on MSNBC until the equipment succumbed to the storm.
2:30 AM — The eye of Hurricane Ivan is now making landfall. Pensacola Beach is in absolutely the worst position (upper right hand quadrant – east) as the storm arrives. Most of the MSNBC crew is asleep. Asleep? I guess that is testament to the confidence the crew had in the home and the fact that the noise from the storm was not unbearable. Mark is awake listening as the wind intensifies and the water is crashing across the island. The storm surge and rain caused five feet of water to rise underneath the dome. Mark says he can hear debris crashing into the dome, but does not feel any movement of the dome from the surging Gulf although the water is flowing over the entire island. Although he has no visual confirmation, he said it sounds like there are tornadoes howling around the island. The most unnerving sensation is the realization that there is no land until you reach Gulf Breeze.
7:30 AM — Daylight has brought devastating visuals of a storm whose damage far exceeds that of Hurricane Opal in 1995.
Dome of a Home has maintained its structural integrity! Everyone is safe and the home will be livable again with some necessary repairs. We did have wind driven rain leak through the windows and flood the floors. The good news is that the dome is still standing, albeit with some exterior damage from the staircases that were ripped away by the waves. The geo-thermal system is damaged, the fences gone, and the garage concrete floor has disappeared.
Mark has been traipsing across the island and says that the devastation is extensive. All lower floors are gone with the blow-out walls doing exactly as designed — being blown away, literally. It seems evident the entire beach was covered with at least 5 feet of water. All of the garages and their concrete floors have disappeared. The Catholic Church’s roof has sustained much damage and the school looks like it has been hit hard. Homes that were older and still on the ground level have basically vanished. The surge has subsided on the Gulf side, but the Sound side of the island is still under waist deep water.
After Ivan Came Dennis: Dome of A Home fairs well and Florida residents start to clean up
by Rebecca South, Editor
July 11, 2005
Hurricane Dennis, which made landfall on Sunday afternoon on Pensacola Beach, Florida, did not pack the punch Floridians had feared. Thankfully, Dennis did not do as much damage as his big brother Ivan did last year.
In the western Florida Panhandle, where the storm crashed ashore Sunday afternoon with 120 mph winds and storm surges higher than 10 feet, the memory of last September’s Hurricane Ivan tempered reactions, despite mountains of debris.
“Without the Ivan experience, we would have thought this was a terrible experience,” said Hunter Walker, administrator of Santa Rosa County.
I have not yet heard from the Siglers as to the details of their home’s state, nor the surrounding area, but from news reports and information from other sources, it looks like Dome of a Home is a-okay.
July 10, 2005
Hurricane Dennis is due to hit Pensacola Beach, Florida in a matter of hours. Unlike last year, no one is risking it by staying on the beach during the storm. According to CNN, Hurricane Dennis is an even stronger, more dangerous storm than Hurricane Ivan.
The CNN website reports: Dennis (a Category 4 storm) is stronger than Hurricane Ivan — a Category 3 storm which pounded the Gulf Coast after it came ashore last September near Gulf Shores, Alabama.
At 12 p.m. ET Sunday, Dennis was centered 65 miles south-southeast of Pensacola, Florida. The hurricane is moving north-northwest at near 18 mph. Its maximum sustained winds were at 140 mph. The storm was expected to keep turning to the north-northwest as it approached shore.
Monolithic received this email from Valerie Sigler this morning:
We are not staying in the house — no media to help educate the public, so there is no point in risking anyone’s life. After Hurricane Ivan, no one in the media seems too eager to stay.
When Jim Cantore (of the Weather Channel) says there is no way he is staying, that is good enough for me. Everyone is just devastated. And frustrated! Again! We have all depleted our reserves of energy, optimism, money, and physical ability to deal with the repeated hits. What is truly frustrating is the debris that will soon become flying projectiles, surfing concrete slabs, and dumpsters transformed into floating battering rams.
It is absolutely criminal that there was no official mandate requiring the removal of the dumpsters. Houses that have been repaired will be destroyed by the metal boats pounding the home over and over in the wave action. If FEMA is truly trying to mitigate further damage, they would require the removal of such items, not to mention all of the FEMA trailers still left on the beach.
Last month, to the day, we had a wake – up call with Tropical Storm Arlene. It was obvious then that we were not ready for a major storm. Was this trial run utilized? No, we still have so much debris to contend with 10 months later that essentially we would have major damage with even a minor storm. A minor hurricane will pick up the projectiles and float the debris and cause tremendous damage.
So, what we have here is the UNNECESSARY potential for something minor to become major because no one took responsibility to have the dumpsters and debris dealt with. Negligence beyond belief. My stairs were ready for their final coating. I hope they will fair better than last time, but if it is the stairs versus a dumpster, the stairs will be destroyed. I just don’t know.
I do know each storm is so different, so we can only wait and wait. Media has been showing up as we prepare to leave. Several newspapers, news channels, even radio has contacted us. It is pretty routine by now. But, not near as interesting a story since no one is staying in it during the storm. Human interest is the key. I just hope we have a success story after the storm.
July 9, 2005
Note: Valerie wrote the following letter to her much loved home and was gracious enough to share it with us.
My Dear Sweet Serenity,
As we once again prepare you to face Mother Nature’s fury, I want to share a moment with you. So we can sit quietly together, I filled you with beautiful sounds of peaceful music instead of fearful rhetoric. I feel your Spirit of strength gives me the courage to leave you alone to face the storm.
When people assume I want to stay only to protect my investment, they underestimate my love for you. You’re my child. Such intense labor pains, but such a beautiful creation. I really feel like we were only midwives assisting the birth of a home destined to be.
Ironically, or maybe not so ironically, today is the memorial service for Jonathan Zimmerman, the architect that designed you. Last month, he succumbed to cancer. We were scheduled to be in San Francisco today to pay our respects. Instead, we’re preparing you, his creation, to do what you were designed to do: not to compete with Mother Nature, but to work with her.
I have asked Jonathan to stand guard to protect you. Yes, I believe you have a guardian angel now. So, you really won’t be weathering the storm alone. Jonathan will be there with you. I asked Granny and Grandpa to show up, too. So, I think you will not be quite so lonely. No partying. I do worry about that, you know. I mean, the lonely part, not the partying.
Serenity, I want you to know how deeply you’re loved. Hundreds and hundreds of people tell us how much they love you, how you are their favorite house, how they drove miles and miles just to see you, how much fun they had vacationing with you. You even had guests from the UK fly all the way to Florida just to play the guitar and to resonate with your music. You are a celebrity.
How many people can boast of your media success in less than two years’ time. The media from Saudi Arabia, the UK, Canada, Germany, and the United States has placed your picture across the globe, quite literally. You made your debut in so many venues: the Weather Channel, the Travel Channel, National Geographic, MSNBC news, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Scarborough Country, Discovery Channel, Good Morning America, ABC news, Fox news, and the list goes on. Your fame and reputation baqua square according to Feng Shui is the screened in porch that protrudes on the north side. It’s definitely been working overtime. I need to place more emphasis in the wealth and prosperity area. What good is all that fame, if we can’t afford to keep you?
Anyway, I just want to tell you that we and a lot of other people love you dearly. I love you dearly. We are all with you in Spirit. You have been an inspiration to many, including us.
July 8, 2005
Less than a year after Hurricane Ivan ravaged the coastline of Pensacola Beach, Floridians are facing another evacuation, hurricane and possibly disaster.
In an email the Monolithic Dome Institute received last week from Valerie Sigler in Pensacola Beach, she said, “This area still looks devastated from last year’s storms. I am grateful we built the dome. Feels like the safest place in town. We were under tornado warnings [July 5th] and [July 6th] from Tropical Storm Cindy’s arrival. I just went back to sleep, not worried about it. What a wonderful feeling.”
The three-day forecast projection for Dennis has the storm striking Sunday afternoon near Pensacola, Florida at either Category 3 or 4, depending on how much the storm strengthens over the warm waters of the Gulf.
Escambia County, which includes Pensacola, officials ordered evacuations of coastal and low-lying areas beginning 7 p.m. ET Friday, including the resorts of Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key. Ten shelters have been opened for evacuees.
This must feel like Deja Vu to Mark and Valerie Sigler of “Dome of a Home.” In September of 2004 Pensacola Beach, Florida was deserted due to evacuation orders, but the Siglers had permission to stay because of their Monolithic Dome home. The Siglers weren’t alone. They served as gracious hosts to NBC News reporters on the day prior to the storm as they set up cameras in and outside the dome.
Reporters stayed through the night broadcasting live as often as possible. Before the eye approached, Pensacola reporters clenched railings on the front porch while reporting to America and gauging wind speeds as often as possible. At one point during the night, after recording a 65-mile an hour wind speed and practically yelling to be heard over the fierce wind, one reporter chose to go inside the dome to visit with Mark. It was obvious upon entering the dome that it was not only quiet and strong, but provided a safe haven from the storm. Mark gave the reporter an explanation of dome construction and bragged about the dome’s strength, engineering and safety.
Note: This article is a combination of several pieces written about Dome of a Home in 2002-2005.