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Virginia Round House Retreat

By Camille LeFevre Home Features Editor
Mar 19, 2020

When a Virginia couple decided to build a second home on the wooded property they'd purchased, they wanted to incorporate as many sustainable features as possible. They also thought they might want their cabin to be round instead of a traditional square. While searching out companies that design and construct round houses, they also found several online, including Mandala HomesArmour Homes (which include a circular component), and Deltec Homes. The companies all have prefab or modular components, as well as multiple options for sustainable design, construction, finishes, and systems.

Virginia Round House
Virginia Round House. Photo Credit: Deltec Homes

The couple decided to go with Deltec. They chose a one-story model from Deltec's 360° Collection. Deltec completed the home in 2016. The couple has since fallen in love with home's treehouse-like feel (the homeowner says that, as a child, she always wanted a treehouse). "We love our round house," she adds. "It is cozy and comfortable, and nothing in nature is square or rectangular, so we feel we blend right into our clearing in the woods."

Virginia Round House Layout
Virginia Round House Layout. Photo Credit: Deltec Homes

The 2,070-square-foot round home includes Deltec's Energy Wall and spray-foam insulation. The fireplace is a BIS (Built-in Stove) Panorama, which is similar to a wood stove and fits into a fireplace like an insert. "Thanks to the energy efficiency of the home," says the homeowner, "we find that most of the time, the heat generated by the stove is enough to heat the house—which is great when it comes to utility bills!"

Benefits: Sustainable and Spiritual

Founded in 1968, Deltec is a family-owned Certified B Corp, based in Asheville, North Carolina. The company specializes in creating innovative, high-performance prefabricated net-zero energy homes. Deltec uses durable framing lumber to create its prefab or panelized components. The components are fabricated in a climate-controlled environment powered with 100% renewable energy. The real joys for those living in a round house, however, are also less tangible.

Round House Living and Dining
Virginia Round House Living and Dining Areas. Photo Credit: Deltec Homes
Virginia Round House Bunk Room
Virginia Round House Bunk Room. Photo Credit: Deltec Homes

A representative from Mandala Homes, when asked what it's like to live in a round house, said it felt like being "held by the container of the space…. like a hug from a home." They added that "the hallways and the stairwell of this house are curved, so the way I move from one area to another [flows]…. A gently rounded motion is evoked simply from the shape of space, and I notice that my body feels calm and graceful."

On Econation.com, founder Michael Lockhart cites the multiple sustainable advantages of living in a circular home. Circles, he explains, have "the shortest boundary relative to its area," he says. Meaning, circular homes have less wall length and thus require fewer building materials. 

A circular house, then, also costs less to construct than a traditional home. Round houses, he adds, "use 15 to 20% less materials per square meter (or square foot) than a rectangular design." 

The round shape also requires less energy. Circular homes are also more aerodynamic than square or rectangular houses, are less draughty, and thus are more energy efficient. Yurt builder David Raitt takes a more prosaic approach when talking about living in a round house. "Circular living," he says, "provides a balance of looking inward and outward, looking out at the natural environment and surroundings but then coming in again to the self and the hearth."

Circular homes, however, aren't new. Throughout the world, many of the oldest forms of human shelter were round in shape.

Palloza Dwelling

Early Dwellings, Futuristic Visions  

From the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, the Celts constructed circular homes from wood posts and wattle (woven wood) and daub (straw and mud). They fabricated roofs from thatched straw or heather. The palloza, built by the Astur tribes, is found in El Bierzo, El Bierz, and the south-west of Asturias. Circular or oval, with the conical roof falling close to the ground, the structure is stone. The roof is rye straw on a wood frame.

The nomadic Native tribes of North America's Great Plains constructed teepees (tipis). They tied long poles together at the top and spread them out at the bottom to make an upside-down cone, then covered the shape with buffalo hide. The Scythians, another a nomadic nation that moved about on horseback, constructed yurts in the northern Black Sea and Central Asian region from around B.C. 600 to 300 A.D. Bronze Age rock etchings in Siberia also depict yurt dwellings. The Mongolian Huns also lived in yurts from about the 4th to 6th century A.D.

Modern Navajo Hogan Sheep Springs New Mexico
Modern Navajo Hogan, Sheep Springs, New Mexico. Photo Credit: NavajoPeople.org

In the southwestern U.S., the Navajo built hogans, which were usually round or cone-shaped. Constructed with wood poles, with walls of stone or packed earth, and bark for a roof, the hogan's front door faces east to welcome the morning sun, ensuring good fortune. Traditional hogans are also considered an early example of energy-efficient homes. The walls (which we'd now refer to as thermal mass) kept the house cool by natural air ventilation. In winter, wood burning in the fireplace heated the interior with the walls retaining the heat long into the night.

Dymaxion House
Dymaxion House. Photo Credit: Henry Ford Museum

In 1930, inventor Buckminster Fuller introduced his Dymaxion House, a circular metal home built in a factory as a kit, then assembled on site. When asked why he designed a circular house, he replied: "Why not?" An abundance of natural resources and building materials, he added, helped drive the trend toward square and rectangular houses. "Moderne" materials and technologies, and the streamlined shapes in fashion, could be applied to houses "with the same efficiency of engineering that we apply to suspension bridges and airplanes…" 

Many more examples of round homes, ancient and futuristic, exist. Today, they're gaining traction again as an inherently sustainable alternative to the traditionally shaped home—particularly when equipped with solar panels for electrical power, when sited for maximum heat gain in winter and shading in summer, and completed with low-VOC finishes and recycled materials.  

The Well-Rounded Life 

Another Deltec homeowner chose a circular home because he'd always wanted to live in a treehouse (a popular sentiment), and wanted a circular dance floor, as he and his partner love ballroom dancing. The Mandala Custom Home, also a prefab option incorporating performance-based building technologies, can be fortified to withstand hurricanes, heavy snow loads, and earthquakes—and clad in fire-resistant materials.

Virginia Round House Kitchen.and Living Areas
Virginia Round House Kitchen.and Living Areas. Photo Credit: Deltec Homes

What homeowners love most, really, about their round homes are the views the curved window walls bring inside and the sense of being outside that the circular shape creates. As a Mandala homeowner said, "I could never imagine living in a rectangular house again…" With lake views through her multiple windows, and birds and wildlife passing by, "our view is like looking at a living painting."

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2020-06-23T18:24:30+0000
Camille LeFevre

Article by:

Camille LeFevre

Camille LeFevre is an architecture and design writer based in the Twin Cities.