How do you get spanking new Monolithic Domes to look like they belong next to traditional structures built in 1928 and added to in 1954?
That was one of the challenges that Architect Lee A. Gray of Salt Lake City, Utah faced in designing three Monolithic Domes for schools in Leoti, Kansas.
By 2007 the original school buildings in Leoti, the small county seat of rural Wichita County, had multiple, serious, structural problems, such as plumbing, heating, fire and asbestos concerns and termite damage.
But voters continued defeating the proposed bond issues that would have funded at least some of the needed repairs. Then the district’s insurance company refused to continue insuring one of the buildings.
So the district decided to try passing a new bond issue, one that featured Monolithic Domes. It passed by an overwhelming 77% margin.
Blending the new with the old
In 2010, South Industries of Menan, Idaho began constructing the first Monolithic Dome school building in Kansas, a multipurpose/fitness center. Plans called for two additional domes, an academic dome and a physical education/cafeteria dome.
But these new structures had to complement the old, which would be repaired and updated. That meant matching the brick that would cover the outside wall of the domes to bricks laid in 1928 and 1954.
Lee Gray said, "At the elementary school, we hand-stained the brick on the 1954 addition to the 1928 structure and subsequently matched the new brick on the addition we did that matched the original 1928 brick. We also detailed the entrance so it would match the architectural features of the 1928 building.
“For the dome addition to the high school, we used a brick that matched the existing building’s brick. We also selected a trim and roof color that matched the existing elements of the high school.”
In June 2011, Monolithic received an email from Dr. James Hardy, the superintendent at Leoti when the domes were proposed and completed. In part, it reads: “Mr. Gray’s concepts about the actual design of the domes have been great. They are appealing, make great classrooms, PE facility, cafeteria. They are energy efficient, fireproof, tornado proof, termite proof. They do not leak as they do not have a flat roof, and the cost is 2/3s that of conventional construction. Wichita County-Leoti will become a showcase for how good the domes look, the practicality, economics, etc. Our community and teachers are proud of the result.”
On November 27, 2012, we called Keith Higgins, the current superintendent, for an update. He said, “The domes are doing well. They seem to hold temperatures well, unless it gets really, really cold here, and we’ve had a few days that it’s been that way, but that’s not the fault of the domes. We’re having some issues with our HVAC, so once we get that corrected, it will regulate pretty well.”
Asked about community response and visitors, he said, "I believe the community is happy with the domes. There was quite a bit of interest – especially when we inflated them (the Airforms). We had a big crowd every time. People seem to have accepted them quite well. We’re an older community and brick and mortar is normally what we see here. The domes are something new. When relatives come to town, they want to see the domes.
“And we’ve had two other Kansas school districts come over to look at them. They were interested but worried about getting past the mindset of being round. That’s the big thing.”