Monolithic Domes and Hail Damage

An uninformed statement

Recently, a school superintendent interested in a Monolithic Dome for his campus told me about a conversation he had with an architect, who will remain nameless. According to the superintendent, the architect had told him that Monolithic’s Airform fabric and sprayed-in foam insulation were “fragile and would sustain severe damage in a hailstorm.”

I’m always concerned about such statements. This one was particularly distressing since we had not had any reports of significant hail damage. In fact, except for our domes here in Italy, Texas, I only know of two Monolithic projects that experienced a severe hailstorm. I’m sure that many more domes have been hit by hailstorms, but we simply have not been told about them, and, I suspect that’s because the hail did not hurt them.

No hail damage to Texhoma’s Monolithic Domes

View Texhoma’s feature article here.

In 2001, Texhoma, the small, picturesque community that straddles the state line between Texas and Oklahoma, built two, interconnected Monolithic Domes. One has a diameter of 108 feet and the other is 66 feet.

Shortly after students began using their new domes in August and September of 2001, raging thunderstorms, many with hail, hit the Texhoma area.

But those storms did not damage the Monolithic Dome school buildings on that campus. The conventional buildings, however, were not that fortunate. Rick Kibbe, who in 2001 was Texhoma’s School Superintendent, recalled that the school spent close to $300,000 repairing hail damage to its conventional structures. They spent 0 dollars repairing hail damage to the domes!

No hail damage to Corley Gasket Company

In 1993, we constructed a Monolithic Dome office, with a 50-foot diameter, for the owners of Corley Gasket Company in Dallas, Texas.

They actually had started a metal building project for this office. But just as they were getting the footings dug, a drive-by with a machine gun shot-up their existing building.

That really frightened the owners. They found several bullet holes that went clear through the building. One bullet had hit extremely close to their computer. The company could have had its accounting system virtually destroyed by a single bullet.

So in a rather short length of time, instead of a metal, square building, the Corley company had a Monolithic Dome that they finished-out themselves.

About a year later, I received a call telling me that Corley had had a horrible ice storm hit their facility that made a mess of their dome. They wanted me to come up and tell them what we had to do to make it acceptable for use as an office.

But, as it turned out, I was not able to immediately get over there. About two weeks later, I finally made it.

What struck me when I drove-up next to the dome was a parked car with two baseball-size holes, made by hail, in the windshield. That surprised me because I knew that automobile windshields were made of tough material, so anything going through the windshield had to deliver an enormous impact. A couple of other cars had rear window damage, but that was not as startling as the windshield damage.

Then I looked at the dome, and I couldn’t see anything wrong. I got an explanation from co-owner Jerry Teakell. As I recall, he said, “Well, you took so long to get up here, the problem went away.”

Apparently, right after the storm, the dome had looked like a giant golfball because of all the hail stones that had hit it. But in the time that it took me to get out there, the tension in the fabric and the urethane itself had pulled and pushed itself out. You could no longer see any hail strikes, except for a couple that were down low on one side, and they were a fraction of their original size.

But the metal roof on another building did not fare well at all. It looked like somebody had gone after it with a sledge hammer. And a conventional house on the property had structural damage. Hail stones had gone right through its roof and into a bedroom and the kitchen.

Hailstorm protection

The hailstorm events I recounted here illustrate another reason for the viability of a Monolithic Dome in disaster country.

Obviously, the dome’s Airform can be totally shielded from hail stone damage with a chain shell cover. But over the years, we have had several of our domes hit by massive hailstorms with very little noticeable damage and absolutely no structural damage.