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Disappearing dome homes are casualty of eroding beaches

November 11, 2019

As sea level rises and erosion eats away at coastal landscapes, we’re starting to see the casualties of climate change. In southern Florida, that’s particularly true with the number of critically eroded beaches rising every year.


On Marco Island, a small barrier island off the cost of southwest Florida, a curious architectural feature has been lost to the ocean. The “Dome Homes,” a series of domed concrete houses, were at one point a vision of future sustainability. Bob Lee, a builder from Tennessee, built the unusually shaped house in the mid 1980s as a vacation home. 


The house was ahead of its time in some ways; Lee built the house without electricity, instead relying on solar power. A rainwater capture system was used for drinking, bathing, and other chores. “Daddy was just trying to build something that could withstand the weather,” Lee’s daughter Janet Maples told The Weather Channel.


The utopian vision was no match for the ocean. Despite being built a long walk from the beach, persistent beach erosion allowed the water to creep up to the home, eventually submerging the white structure in the ocean. Two domes have since completely collapsed into the water. 


The home was deemed uninhabitable in 2007, and jurisdiction over the domes is now with the state since they are in the water rather than on land. Whether they will be completely destroyed is undecided, but for now, the domes are a particular breed of climate change disaster porn.


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