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Utah students help build disaster-resistant dome homes in Mexico

GUAYMAS, Mexico (Deseret News) — Neighbors gathered to watch as the balloonlike structure rose above the rows of shanties perched on the parched Mexican hillside.

The word igloo comes to mind, but the landscape is anything but polar.

This dome house will replace Daniel and Adela Mendoza's pressboard and cardboard shack that was partially destroyed during Hurricane Jimena last September.

"When the hurricane hit last year, the walls fell down and the entire house was soaked," Adela Mendoza said through an interpreter. "It was like a river flowing through the house."

Thanks to some unusual building techniques, proponents hope dome houses could revolutionize humanitarian work in poverty and disaster-ravaged areas around the world, including recently devastated countries such as Haiti, Chile and now in Mexico, where at least one person was killed and many more injured by collapsing buildings during Sunday's earthquake.

In a flurry of dust and noise, Southern Utah University is joining the pioneering effort to build quicker, cheaper and stronger housing for families like the Mendozas.

A group of students, faculty and staff from the college spent spring break in Mexico, experimenting with the new building system.

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