School officials in Hartshorne, Oklahoma want $7.7 million for two safe-rooms — or as we like to think of them — a brand-new, start-of-the-art gymnasium and computer center. It’s quite a different perspective if you think of money serving two purposes. The planned high school gymnasium would be a 150-foot diameter Monolithic Dome with four locker rooms, concessions, offices, a competition basketball court, and seating for 1,200. Plus it’s a tornado shelter! The elementary school gets a brand new library and computer center in a 70-foot diameter dome. And it’s a tornado shelter, too!
These facilities are designed to meet FEMA’s guidelines for Near Absolute Protection from disasters. In an emergency the gymnasium is expected to hold 3,000 students and residents. The library should hold 1,000. After a storm, emergency generators will keep the domes running as recovery centers.
A bond before Hartshorne residents on November 11 would pay for all the facilities from basketball courts to generators.
School officials held a public meeting Monday night to discuss the proposed bond.
“It will be something to protect our school and every day — 24 hours, 365 days a year — that our community can use,” [Superintendent Mark] Ichord said during the meeting. “It’s kind of a small price to pay to have this building for years to come. It will be here and if you live in this town you know that you are safe. You’ve got a place to go that will be opened up. And when the kids are in school you don’t ever have to worry about it.”
[Architect Michael] McCoy is the head architect on the projects. He said a dome is the safest structure when it comes to combating heavy winds and storms.
“If you throw a ball at a circle it will not bounce back to you,” McCoy explained to the crowd. “It will bounce off at an angle. Same goes for wind. When it hits at an angle it bounces off at an angle. That wall does not have to take the full force of that impact. A circle is a very structurally strong component.”
More than that, these buildings will be beautiful additions to the community. Domes are naturally open with vaulted ceilings and open spaces.
They will save money, too. The domes use 50 to 70 percent less energy compared to similar conventional buildings. Some Monolithic Dome campuses report saving enough money in energy to pay for the buildings in less than a dozen years.
Obviously we are biased when it comes to Monolithic Domes. The people of Hartshorne have to pay the bill, but we expect this will give them the most for their money — safety, utility, and efficiency. We hope they agree.