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Monolithic Domes For Cold Storage

Image: CALAMCO — These two domes, which are each 230 feet in diameter and 115 feet high, were built for the California Ammonia Co. (CALAMCO). Each dome is big enough to hold 600 semi-truck loads of apples.

CALAMCO — These two domes, which are each 230 feet in diameter and 115 feet high, were built for the California Ammonia Co. (CALAMCO). Each dome is big enough to hold 600 semi-truck loads of apples.


Image: Resistant to Change — The massive thermal capacity of this structure is highly resistant to change in temperature. A Monolithic Dome cold storage uses half the cooling equipment and will keep an even temperature regardless of the outside weather.
Image: Product Stacking — Product stacking inside a Dome allows for a circular aisle along the inside perimeter of the Dome, as well as a center aisle. This allows for better utilization of space and travel time to load and retrieve product is minimal for both automated and manual retrieval.
Image: Crane — In the center of each dome sits a 100-foot-tall cooling tower that doubles as the pivot point for a large, computer controlled crane. This crane automatically places and removes large containers that hold 26 bins of apples. Each container weighs over 13 tons.

Adaptability and Affordability

Those are key words when you’re talking about Monolithic Domes built as cold storage facilities.

“It’s a matter of you tell us what you want and need, and we will help you design and build it,” said Monolithic’s President David B. South. “We can do a cold storage dome of just about any size — small ones with diameters of 75 feet or less, giant ones with diameters of 250+ feet, or anything in between.”

Adaptability

But the Monolithic Dome’s adaptability doesn’t end with size. Adaptability applies to the dome’s interior atmosphere and temperature as well. South said, "The dome can be designed to maintain specific temperatures, above or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

“That’s important,” he continued, “because every product has its particular set of storage problems. Take the potato, for example. America’s favorite vegetable can’t be frozen. If it’s frozen it turns black. Potatoes have to be stored at about 45 degrees. At that temperature, potatoes think it’s winter and go to sleep. But if it’s too warm they sprout, and if it’s too cold their starch turns to sugar.”

According to South, maintaining that absolute atmosphere in a Monolithic Dome is easy for a number of reasons:

  1. The structure is air-tight.
  2. It is super-insulated with up to five inches of polyurethane foam sandwiched between its tough, outer Airform and several inches of steel-reinforced concrete.
  3. The way in which the Monolithic Dome is constructed gives it a heat capacity that allows for more even air temperatures.
  4. As a seamless, one-piece structure, a Monolithic Dome doesn’t leak and reduces condensation.

Adaptability applies to the interior design of a Monolithic Dome cold storage as well. South said, "All you have is a whole lot of beautiful, open space on the inside of the dome. So you can hang what you want from its ceiling and include all the conveyor systems and cranes you need.

“Cooling evaporators are placed above the product, so a natural down flow of cool air occurs. This down flow encapsulates the product with conditioned air. Keeping the equipment up high also protects the equipment from damage.”

Product stacking inside a Dome allows for a circular aisle along the inside perimeter of the dome, as well as a center aisle. This allows for better space utilization. Travel time to load and retrieve products is minimal for both automated and manual retrieval.

Affordability

Not only is the Monolithic Dome adaptable, it’s affordable. South said, "Even with its superior insulation, a Monolithic Dome cold storage costs less to build. And the savings are on-going. Because of its massive thermal capacity and its insulation, the dome can use energy at off-peak prices.

“For example,” South continued, “Let’s say I need to keep a cold storage dome at -20 F. At night when power is cheaper, I run the compressor and get the dome to -20. During the day when electricity prices are at their highest, I don’t run the compressor. The temperature within the Monolithic Dome rises to -18, but that two degrees does not hurt the product, and at night I turn the compressor back on to regain those two degrees.”

Savings are also realized with lower insurance premiums since Monolithic Domes are virtually indestructible. They can and have withstood hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. They are impervious to fire and cannot be eaten by bugs.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

That was Miguel de Cervantes’ way of saying that you never know how good something is until you try it! The axiom applies to just about anything — including Monolithic Dome cold storages. Their adaptability and affordability have been proven through use. Here are some examples.

CALAMCO

In 1990, CALAMCO (California Ammonia Co.) built two Monolithic Domes, 230′ × 115′ each, for cold storage of food products at the Port of Stockton, California.

When the facility opened, CALAMCO used it for apple storage, since each dome was big enough to hold 600 semi-truck loads. At its center, each dome was equipped with a 100-foot-tall cooling tower that doubles as the pivot point for a large, computerized crane. The crane automatically places and removes large containers that hold 26 bins of apples. Each container weighs more than 13 tons.

For apple storage, CALAMCO maintained a controlled atmosphere, within the domes, of one percent oxygen and less than one percent carbon-dioxide. That atmosphere coupled with a constant temperature of 34 F put the apples to sleep and prevented further aging.

According to CALAMCO Vice President Lee Gardner, the domes have been in continuous use and performed well since their completion. Over the years, however, the products they store have changed.

Nevertheless, CALAMCO reports that in 2000 their Monolithic Dome cold storage facility had a record season: “Diamond Walnut increased their business with CALAMCO storing approximately 9.5 million pounds of walnuts in the shell from their 1999 walnut crop. We look forward to continuing this business in the future. We have also had the pleasure of doing business with Del Monte for a number of years and in 2000 a total of 15,820 bins of Bartlett Pears July through December. In addition, we had an increase in seed potatoes, storing just under 3 million pounds.”

K-P Foods and Snowy Mountain Spring Water

In 1979, Monolithic Constructors, Inc. built a 40′ × 20′ freezer adjacent to a 90′ × 30′ manufacturing plant in Rexburg, Idaho for K-P Foods, Inc. At the time, K-P Foods made frozen dessert products that had to be stored at -5 F. Owner Phillip Ricks said the 1250 square feet within the freezer used only five tons of generator power to maintain its chilling atmosphere. Ricks said that several refrigeration experts told him that his freezer area should have required four times the amount it was using.

The experts also claimed that K-P’s manufacturing plant, with its 6,350 square feet that are heated in winter with 120,000 BTUs of power, should need five times more heating.

After successfully operating the domes for several years, Ricks was asked about their energy efficiency. He said, “My Monolithic Dome buildings are saving me 75% on heating and cooling bills.”

More recently, K-P Foods was sold and its dessert-making Idaho operation closed. Snowy Mountain Spring Water bought the Monolithic Domes that they use to store bottled water.

Manager Toby Simmons said, “Oh yeah, we love the domes. They do a great job for us. We really don’t have to do anything, and they stay cool in the summer and keep things from freezing in the winter.”

Sun Glo and NorSun Food Groups Inc.

In 1980, Sun Glo of Idaho, a company that packaged and distributed a variety of convenience and frozen foods, had a Monolithic Dome freezer storage, 75’x 28’, built in Sugar City, Idaho. Sun Glo used this facility until 1999 when the company united with Northland Frozen Foods to form NorSun Food Groups Inc. According to Supervisor Daren Hines, NorSun continues using the dome as a refrigerated storage unit, with a maintained temperature of 45 F.

Tell us what you want/need and we will build it!

President David South said that Monolithic Dome cold storage facilities can be built virtually anywhere in the world, in any size and for any need.

“They can be built as way points or distribution centers,” South said, “for a specific business or product, or for someone who wants to lease storage space to others. We’ll accommodate your needs.”

To help a company decide just what their cold storage needs are, a Preliminary Concepts Evaluation Form is available. When completed, it can be submitted to the Monolithic Dome Institute for a free evaluation.

Updated on January 8, 2014