Locust Grove, Oklahoma is a small community with just 1,200 residents. But in 2007, they passed a bond to add Monolithic Domes to their campus.

Locust Grove, Oklahoma is a small community with just 1,200 residents. But in 2007, they passed a bond to add Monolithic Domes to their campus. (L & L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)


Locust Grove, Oklahoma: Sold on Monolithic Domes

When you’re in Tornado Alley

Locust Grove, Oklahoma may not be big and it may not be famous and it may not be wealthy, but it is wise.

In 2007, this community of just 1,200 residents passed a bond to build an arena for its high school. On the advice of School Superintendent David Cash, they went Monolithic.

Their Monolithic Dome arena has a diameter of 148 feet, a height of 51 feet, a bottom floor area of 17,000 square feet and seating for 1,409 spectators.

“We get lots of compliments from visitors to our arena, and it’s definitely my favorite gym in which to watch a game,” said Mr. Cash. “And our Pirates (basketball team) love it.”

But one of the best things about this arena is its ability to protect. “We are in tornado alley,” Mr. Cash said. "Our Monolithic Dome arena is our official, community tornado shelter.

“People in Oklahoma are geared to watch the weather, especially in the Spring. When there’s a tornado warning, our arena is opened to the public. If I or someone else from the school is not available to open it, the police chief or his officer will. They have keys. Since its completion, we’ve sheltered there several times.”

No safer structure

In 2001, at a meeting of the Oklahoma School Board Association, Mr. Cash heard Rick Kibby, the superintendent at Texhoma ISD, talk about the domes on his campus.

“I listened to Rick tell about the disaster resistance and the energy efficiency and I became instantly interested,” Mr. Cash said. "I didn’t think that I could find a building that was safer or more energy efficient.

“Then we went to Beggs, OK for their opening night and watched a basketball game in their Monolithic Dome and really got excited about the possibilities.”

The visit to Beggs was followed by a visit to Italy, Texas and the start of many conversations with Monolithic.

More Monolithic Domes

In 2011, construction began on Locust Grove’s new elementary school – a complex of five, interconnected Monolithic Domes designed by Architect Lee Gray of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Mr. Cash said, “For this school, the most important factors were safety and security. Mr. Gray’s design gives us five separate buildings, with classrooms, that are all under one roof. You can go from one to another without going outdoors. Once you enter through any of the doors, you are in. But the doors have no hardware on the outside, so you can’t just go up and enter.”

For the construction of its elementary school, Locust Grove received a stimulus grant through the U.S. Department of Education.

“But the structures we planned to build had to qualify for the grant,” Mr. Cash said. “They had to be highly energy efficient and unique. When we wrote the grant, we knew what we were going for.”

Since its elementary school opened, Locust Grove has kept track of its energy use. Mr. Cash said, “Right now, we’re saving an average of about $2,000 per month on utilities.”

And even more Monolithic Domes

“We have a bond election this March for a new high school, and it will be a Monolithic Dome as well, designed by Lee Gray,” said Mr. Cash.

On its website (www.lg.k12.ok.us/bond), Locust Grove describes the bond proposal for $6.5 million. In part, it reads:

The actual amount of the bond is $9,470,000. This is the amount that will be on the ballot. $2,970,000 of the bond cost will go to cover interest leaving $6.5 million for construction purposes.

The new high school will be built using monolithic domes. There are many reasons to use domes in your construction projects. The first is cost. It’s 37% cheaper to build a facility using monolithic domes as opposed to conventional construction. When building the new Early Learning Center, it would have cost 3 million more to build a traditional building.

The two other reasons to go with domes are safety and efficiency. These domes are FEMA 361 Certified and can withstand a direct hit from a tornado. They also operate at a fraction of the cost when it comes to energy.

Monolithic vs conventional

Mr. Cash said, "I think eventually this (Monolithic) is really going to catch on because of what we’re seeing. What I’ve seen for conventional construction is that its beginning point is about $140 per square foot. We did the elementary school at $100/sq ft. So not only is it the safest and most energy efficient, it’s cheaper to construct.

“Here’s what I told my Board when they asked about conventional construction. I said that I will entertain anything. If you can build it for $100/sq ft and it’s energy efficient and safe, I’m for it. Right now, there’s only one kind of construction that does that and that’s Monolithic, so why not stick with it?”

Image: This Monolithic Dome arena, designed by Architect Lee Gray of Salt Lake City, Utah, has a diameter of 148’, a height of 51’ and seating for 1,409 spectators.

This Monolithic Dome arena, designed by Architect Lee Gray of Salt Lake City, Utah, has a diameter of 148’, a height of 51’ and seating for 1,409 spectators. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: School Superintendent David Cash said that they get many compliments from visitors to their campus.

School Superintendent David Cash said that they get many compliments from visitors to their campus. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: This Monolithic Dome arena has an important second purpose: to shelter and protect the community when tornadoes strike.

This Monolithic Dome arena has an important second purpose: to shelter and protect the community when tornadoes strike. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: Locust Grove is in tornado alley. The community chose Monolithic Domes because of the domes’ ability to withstand a tornado.

Locust Grove is in tornado alley. The community chose Monolithic Domes because of the domes’ ability to withstand a tornado. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: The school’s basketball team, the Pirates, love playing in their new dome arena. Superintendent Cash said, “It’s definitely my favorite gym in which to watch a game.”

The school’s basketball team, the Pirates, love playing in their new dome arena. Superintendent Cash said, “It’s definitely my favorite gym in which to watch a game.” (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: The dome’s interior is designed to take advantage of all available space, but maintain a clean, streamlined look.

The dome’s interior is designed to take advantage of all available space, but maintain a clean, streamlined look. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: Since it’s the designated Community Tornado Shelter, keys to the school’s dome are maintained by the superintendent and the police chief.

Since it’s the designated Community Tornado Shelter, keys to the school’s dome are maintained by the superintendent and the police chief. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: In 2011, Locust Grove began constructing their new elementary school. For that project, Lee Gray designed five, interconnected Monolithic Domes.

In 2011, Locust Grove began constructing their new elementary school. For that project, Lee Gray designed five, interconnected Monolithic Domes. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: Superintendent Cash said, “For this school, the most important factors were safety and security. Mr. Gray’s design gives us five separate buildings, with classrooms, that are all under one roof. You can go from one to another without going outdoors. Once you enter through any of the doors, you are in. But the doors have no hardware on the outside, so you can’t just go up and enter.”

Superintendent Cash said, “For this school, the most important factors were safety and security. Mr. Gray’s design gives us five separate buildings, with classrooms, that are all under one roof. You can go from one to another without going outdoors. Once you enter through any of the doors, you are in. But the doors have no hardware on the outside, so you can’t just go up and enter.” (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: The U.S. Department of Education approved a Stimulus Grant which Locust Grove used to construct its elementary school.

The U.S. Department of Education approved a Stimulus Grant which Locust Grove used to construct its elementary school. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: To qualify for a Stimulus Grant from our Department of Education, a school must meet rigid criteria. The structures must be highly energy efficient and unique.

To qualify for a Stimulus Grant from our Department of Education, a school must meet rigid criteria. The structures must be highly energy efficient and unique. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: According to Superintendent Cash, the school has kept track of its energy use. He said, “Right now, we’re saving an average of about $2,000 per month on utilities.”

According to Superintendent Cash, the school has kept track of its energy use. He said, “Right now, we’re saving an average of about $2,000 per month on utilities.” (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: On March 5, 2013, the residents of Locust Grove went to the polls again. They voted for and passed a bond that will be used to build a new high school.

On March 5, 2013, the residents of Locust Grove went to the polls again. They voted for and passed a bond that will be used to build a new high school. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: Locust Grove’s new high school will also be a Monolithic Dome designed by Lee Gray.

Locust Grove’s new high school will also be a Monolithic Dome designed by Lee Gray. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: The school bond proposal was for $6.5 million. But the actual amount, as posted on the March 5 ballot, was $9,470,000. Of that total, $6.5 million will cover construction and the remainder will cover interest.

The school bond proposal was for $6.5 million. But the actual amount, as posted on the March 5 ballot, was $9,470,000. Of that total, $6.5 million will cover construction and the remainder will cover interest. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: In addition to money amounts, the bond proposal specified that the new structure would be a Monolithic Dome.

In addition to money amounts, the bond proposal specified that the new structure would be a Monolithic Dome. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: The bond proposal read, “There are many reasons to use domes in your construction projects. The first is cost. It’s 37% cheaper to build a facility using monolithic domes as opposed to conventional construction. When building the new Early Learning Center, it would have cost 3 million more to build a traditional building.”

The bond proposal read, “There are many reasons to use domes in your construction projects. The first is cost. It’s 37% cheaper to build a facility using monolithic domes as opposed to conventional construction. When building the new Early Learning Center, it would have cost 3 million more to build a traditional building.” (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: Safety, low energy consumption and efficiency were given as three additional reasons for going Monolithic.

Safety, low energy consumption and efficiency were given as three additional reasons for going Monolithic. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: Monolithic Domes are FEMA 361 Certified and can withstand a direct hit from a tornado.

Monolithic Domes are FEMA 361 Certified and can withstand a direct hit from a tornado. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: Superintendent Cash said, “I think eventually this (Monolithic) is really going to catch on because of what we’re seeing. What I’ve seen for conventional construction is that its beginning point is about $140 per square foot. We did the elementary school at $100/sq ft. So not only is it the safest and most energy efficient, it’s cheaper to construct.”

Superintendent Cash said, “I think eventually this (Monolithic) is really going to catch on because of what we’re seeing. What I’ve seen for conventional construction is that its beginning point is about $140 per square foot. We did the elementary school at $100/sq ft. So not only is it the safest and most energy efficient, it’s cheaper to construct.” (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: When the School Board asked about conventional construction, Mr. Cash replied, “I will entertain anything. If you can build it for $100/sq ft and it’s energy efficient and safe, I’m for it. Right now, there’s only one kind of construction that does that and that’s Monolithic, so why not stick with it?”

When the School Board asked about conventional construction, Mr. Cash replied, “I will entertain anything. If you can build it for $100/sq ft and it’s energy efficient and safe, I’m for it. Right now, there’s only one kind of construction that does that and that’s Monolithic, so why not stick with it?” (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: When school administrators at Locust Grove first began thinking about building Monolithic Domes, they traveled to Beggs, OK to inspect the domes at that school.

When school administrators at Locust Grove first began thinking about building Monolithic Domes, they traveled to Beggs, OK to inspect the domes at that school. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)

Image: Locust Grove, Oklahoma now has a lovely, safe, affordable campus of Monolithic Domes.

Locust Grove, Oklahoma now has a lovely, safe, affordable campus of Monolithic Domes. (L&L Photography, Locust Grove, Oklahoma)