Michael McCoy of Michael McCoy Architects hopes to design more Monolithic Dome projects in the future.

Michael McCoy of Michael McCoy Architects hopes to design more Monolithic Dome projects in the future.

Michael McCoy Architects, Inc.

Close encounter of a different kind

After more than twenty years of experience and with the completion of 100+ projects under his professional belt, Oklahoma-based Architect Michael McCoy encountered the Monolithic Dome.

Was he surprised? Yes and No. Was he pleased? Yes.

Despite the many school, church, commercial and government facilities Michael either designed or renovated, prior to 2004 he did not know much about Monolithic Domes. He said, “There was not a marketing situation, nor a client, that had come to my office and was interested in Monolithic Domes. So the concept was there, somewhere in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t totally familiar with all its advantages.”

Beggs, Oklahoma – a rural community of just 1300 people with a school district that serves 1100 pre-K through Grade 12 students – changed all that. Beggs ISD wanted two Monolithic Domes.

The Beggs project

“That client wished to investigate that particular construction type,” Michael said. "Beggs wanted Monolithic Domes instead of standard, metal buildings. They were interested in the attributes the dome-building system could bring to the table.

“Obviously, my job as an architect is to provide service to the client,” he continued. That was the incentive. So, Michael went through the learning curve, studied Monolithic Dome construction and its benefits, inspected completed projects and talked with individuals involved in that process.

“Really I just worked to come up to speed and know the pros and cons,” he said. “I wanted to successfully complete this project for the client and move on from there.”

In 2005, Michael designed two Monolithic Domes that Beggs liked and had built: a 112’ diameter dome on a 12’ stem wall with classrooms, offices and a commons area; a 160’ diameter dome on a 24’ stem wall as the school’s gymnasium/events center.

Moving on

Since Beggs, the Buffalo, Oklahoma school district talked with Michael about a Monolithic Dome classroom building. At that time, a bond issue to raise the necessary funds was presented to Buffalo’s voters. Unfortunately, they opted against it.

Forced to abandon its plans for a classroom dome, the school district had Michael design a small Monolithic Dome for its Physical Education activities, that it paid for out of existing funds.

More recently, Michael has been discussing plans with Native American Creeks for a Monolithic Dome multi-purpose facility in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, the “home of the Creek Nation.”

The challenge

Asked if Monolithic Dome designing is either harder or easier than more commonly expected and accepted architecture in America, Michael said, "It’s neither harder nor easier. It’s a different building system that includes elements that a typical construction simply doesn’t have.

“It’s a mindset difference,” he added. “We’re used to designing in rectangles and squares. You have to alter the program layout because, obviously, a circle creates a different geometry and you have to be sensitive to that difference.”

Monolithic Domes, Michael insists, have attributes that are hard to replicate – especially their innate ability to shelter and secure. “They deserve consideration for schools, churches and municipal buildings, particularly in tornado areas, such as those in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, etc. The domes provide a realistic shelter system and have the capacity to hold large groups of people.”

Michael hopes to design more Monolithic Dome projects in the future. “I definitely want to work with and have a relationship with a team doing that. I think that planning a new facility should include looking at long-term, not just short-term, costs. And Monolithic Domes are a leader there,” he concluded.

Originally published January 22, 2008