Wednesday, January 25, 2012

FEMA Funds Second Monolithic Dome Tornado Shelter for Missouri School

Editor's note- The Joplin disaster last year has further prompted the need to make to make safer structures in our area, especially those where many people gather and may not have access to early warning bulletins. Many local schools are participating in the Archie tournament this week and everyone is invited to go to the games and see this amazing structure. Our thanks to Carol Lanham for sharing this story with us:

Archie R-V School District is hosting its first basketball tournament this week in its new gymnasium, a steel-reinforced, concrete Monolithic Dome that will double as a community disaster shelter.

The building was funded in part by a $1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The federal agency helped pay for the building because Monolithic Domes meet the agency’s standards for near-absolute protection from tornadoes. The structure is designed to withstand an F5 tornado, and can accommodate a large number of people in case of severe weather.

“Our patrons and students are very excited about the opening of the new facility,” said Dr. Sean Smith, superintendent of the Archie R-V School District..”incite Design Studio designed a structure that utilizes all the available space, while McCownGordon Construction has done an excellent job of managing the construction of the project.

“The design team, construction manager and Board of Education have worked in unity to provide a greater measure of safety for our students and community during severe weather, while also providing a state of the art athletic facility,” Smith added.

The new gym measures 140 feet in diameter and is 43 feet high. In addition, there is a new 6,000 square foot commons that will attach the existing structure to the Monolithic Dome. In April 2010, the district passed a $2.75 million dollar bond issue that also provided for the construction of a new Agriculture Science building.

Archie is the second Missouri school district to receive funding from FEMA. The Niangua R-V School district completed a Monolithic Dome pre-school classroom last year with funding from the federal agency. A school district in Fowler, Kansas also completed a multipurpose dome building last year thanks to a federal grant.

The buildings meet FEMA’s criteria for design and construction of community safe rooms, and also offer near-absolute protection from tornadoes and hurricanes.

Monolithic Dome schools have also been built in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Idaho, Texas, Arizona, and Florida. School districts have reported substantial energy savings after moving into their new round structures.

“Utility costs represent a substantial portion of a school’s operating budget, and we have found that these schools can pay for themselves in 20 years from the energy savings alone,” said David South, who co-invented and patented the process for constructing Monolithic Domes and now heads the Monolithic Dome Institute in Texas.

The domes’ energy efficiency is due in part to the concrete’s thermal mass, which keeps the temperatures inside the buildings stable. The domes also typically feature high-performing windows and doors. Another plus is their sustainability. Because of their shape, Monolithic Domes require the smallest surface area and employ the fewest materials to enclose space.

The process used to build Monolithic Domes is as unique as the structures themselves. It begins with the placement of a ringbeam footing and the pouring of a circular steel-reinforced concrete slab floor. Vertical steel bars embedded in the outer ring later attach to the steel reinforcing of the dome itself. An Airform, a tarp made of tough, single-ply roofing material, is attached to the ring base and inflated, creating the shape of the dome.

Crews then move to the interior of the dome, where they spray polyurethane foam on the Airform and reinforce it with a grid of steel rebar. They then spray the dome with two or three inches of Shotcrete. The result is a safe, permanent and energy efficient structure designed to last for centuries.

For more information about Monolithic Domes, please visit

Photos of the new construction will be posted in the near future.

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