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Dear Jim: We are planning a new house and we want it to be an open spacious design that can use passive solar heating and cooling to hold our total monthly costs down. What do you think of round (not dome) houses? -- Ed H.

Dear Ed: Circular houses are an efficient design due to their geometry. They are also uniquely attractive and are often completely surrounded by large windows, multilevel porches and decks for the openness you desire.

The interior room layouts can be as breathtaking as the exterior. Some circular houses use a self-supporting roof design giving you the freedom to locate interior walls anywhere. With few or no interior load-bearing walls, you can use glass blocks and other unique materials and room shapes.

When you think of nature, round is the preferred shape for shelters, i.e. bird and squirrel nests, bee hives, etc. Animals are often smarter than people and would not waste materials on rectangular dwellings. A circular design is naturally stronger and resists damages from high winds better.

Circular houses have about 28 percent less wall area than a rectangular one with the same living space. This means, not only less wall materials are needed, but lower utility bills, too. The amount of heat that a house loses in the winter or gains in the summer is proportional to the amount of wall area.

Since you are on a budget, select one of the panelized "circular" house kits. Instead of being truly curved walls, which would be expensive to build, these houses are constructed of many flat wall panels. When up to 20 insulated wall panels are used, it has a nearly true circular appearance.

These house kits are available in plans from 800-square-foot bungalows to over 4,000-square-foot dream homes. For even more area, you can connect two units side-by-side or build a hybrid design with some typical rectangular room additions. The exterior is often finished with siding (wood, vinyl, brick) or stucco.

The quality and workmanship on circular houses is outstanding. Each custom-made panel is built in a factory to your specific plan. The lumber never gets wet. It is assembled in jigs so the tolerances are exact. This makes airtight assembly simple at your site, and you can do some of the work yourself.

In the winter, the many windows allow full advantage of passive solar heating. In the summer, the circular peaked roof naturally vents the hot air.

Another unique design has fewer sides (often octagonal) and is built on a pedestal. The bedrooms are often on the first floor and the living area is on the second floor for openness with skylights, vaulted ceilings, etc. The kits come complete with spiral staircases and super-insulated floor and roof panels.

Write for (instantly download -- Update Bulletin No. 915 -- listing circular house kit manufacturers, eight floor plan layouts and exterior diagrams, sizes and construction specifications. Please include $3 and a business-size, self-addressed stamped envelope.

James Dulley, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

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