Locust Grove, Oklahoma: Sold on Monolithic Domes
When you’re in Tornado Alley
Locust Grove, Oklahoma may not be big and it may not be famous and it may not be wealthy, but it is wise.
In 2007, this community of just 1,200 residents passed a bond to build an arena for its high school. On the advice of School Superintendent David Cash, they went Monolithic.
Their Monolithic Dome arena has a diameter of 148 feet, a height of 51 feet, a bottom floor area of 17,000 square feet and seating for 1,409 spectators.
“We get lots of compliments from visitors to our arena, and it’s definitely my favorite gym in which to watch a game,” said Mr. Cash. “And our Pirates (basketball team) love it.”
But one of the best things about this arena is its ability to protect. “We are in tornado alley,” Mr. Cash said. "Our Monolithic Dome arena is our official, community tornado shelter.
“People in Oklahoma are geared to watch the weather, especially in the Spring. When there’s a tornado warning, our arena is opened to the public. If I or someone else from the school is not available to open it, the police chief or his officer will. They have keys. Since its completion, we’ve sheltered there several times.”
No safer structure
In 2001, at a meeting of the Oklahoma School Board Association, Mr. Cash heard Rick Kibby, the superintendent at Texhoma ISD, talk about the domes on his campus.
“I listened to Rick tell about the disaster resistance and the energy efficiency and I became instantly interested,” Mr. Cash said. "I didn’t think that I could find a building that was safer or more energy efficient.
“Then we went to Beggs, OK for their opening night and watched a basketball game in their Monolithic Dome and really got excited about the possibilities.”
The visit to Beggs was followed by a visit to Italy, Texas and the start of many conversations with Monolithic.
More Monolithic Domes
In 2011, construction began on Locust Grove’s new elementary school – a complex of five, interconnected Monolithic Domes designed by Architect Lee Gray of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Mr. Cash said, “For this school, the most important factors were safety and security. Mr. Gray’s design gives us five separate buildings, with classrooms, that are all under one roof. You can go from one to another without going outdoors. Once you enter through any of the doors, you are in. But the doors have no hardware on the outside, so you can’t just go up and enter.”
For the construction of its elementary school, Locust Grove received a stimulus grant through the U.S. Department of Education.
“But the structures we planned to build had to qualify for the grant,” Mr. Cash said. “They had to be highly energy efficient and unique. When we wrote the grant, we knew what we were going for.”
Since its elementary school opened, Locust Grove has kept track of its energy use. Mr. Cash said, “Right now, we’re saving an average of about $2,000 per month on utilities.”
And even more Monolithic Domes
“We have a bond election this March for a new high school, and it will be a Monolithic Dome as well, designed by Lee Gray,” said Mr. Cash.
On its website (www.lg.k12.ok.us/bond), Locust Grove describes the bond proposal for $6.5 million. In part, it reads:
The actual amount of the bond is $9,470,000. This is the amount that will be on the ballot. $2,970,000 of the bond cost will go to cover interest leaving $6.5 million for construction purposes.
The new high school will be built using monolithic domes. There are many reasons to use domes in your construction projects. The first is cost. It’s 37% cheaper to build a facility using monolithic domes as opposed to conventional construction. When building the new Early Learning Center, it would have cost 3 million more to build a traditional building.
The two other reasons to go with domes are safety and efficiency. These domes are FEMA 361 Certified and can withstand a direct hit from a tornado. They also operate at a fraction of the cost when it comes to energy.
Monolithic vs conventional
Mr. Cash said, "I think eventually this (Monolithic) is really going to catch on because of what we’re seeing. What I’ve seen for conventional construction is that its beginning point is about $140 per square foot. We did the elementary school at $100/sq ft. So not only is it the safest and most energy efficient, it’s cheaper to construct.
“Here’s what I told my Board when they asked about conventional construction. I said that I will entertain anything. If you can build it for $100/sq ft and it’s energy efficient and safe, I’m for it. Right now, there’s only one kind of construction that does that and that’s Monolithic, so why not stick with it?”