A Monolithic Dome Gym at Thousand Oaks
Surprise! 1000 Oaks Retreat Center has new facility!
A Monolithic Dome that is semi-elliptical in shape, 143’ in diameter and 45’ in height will greet youths arriving for summer camp and adults attending retreats at the Thousand Oaks Retreat Center near Barry, Texas this summer.
Established in 1995 by the DFW Church of Christ Jesus in Carrollton, Texas, Thousand Oaks encompasses 236 acres of gently rolling, wooded land with its own fresh water pool and creek. The serene, secluded atmosphere of Thousand Oaks belies the reality of its location — just a 90-minute drive from busy, noisy Dallas.
According to Mark Beaman, administrator at DFW Church of Christ Jesus, their church organized in 1990, opened its Carrollton facility 1997, and now has a congregation of 1400 and a Sunday attendance of more than 10,000.
A safe, fun place
“We’re all looking forward to the gymnasium’s completion and use at Thousand Oaks,” Beaman said. “There are a lot of children who will be down for summer camp and the gym is going to be a great place for them — a safe place, with fun, indoor activities.” He said that the safety and security of a Monolithic Dome was a bonus they had not expected, but something they are very pleased to get.
Shade O’Quinn, AIA, the project architect, agrees. He said that the Monolithic Dome’s resistance to storms was something their committee was not fully aware of until they began investigating.
Four members made up the committee: Beaman; O’Quinn; Nick Young, lead evangelist at the church; Daniel Lima, camp manager. They considered and investigated designs and building plans and presented their findings to the church board.
Problems and planning
“Initially, we thought about a pre-manufactured, metal building for a gymnasium,” O’Quinn said. “The estimates for that project were around $800,000 for a 14,000 square foot activities building. That was over our budget.”
Besides being over-budget, the metal building brought with it yet another problem: heating and cooling with only single-phase, rather than three-phase, electricity.
[According to Gary Clark, Monolithic’s vice-president of operations, single-phase electricity with a total of 220 volts is what is used in most homes. Three-phase electricity provides more voltage; it’s usually best for running heavy-duty motors, large air conditioners, etc.]
“The campground only has single-phase electrical power,” O’Quinn said. “To air condition a typical type of lightweight metal building, you need a lot of power. With single-phase electricity, we would have had to use many, many multiple, small single-phase units and many small air compressors outside.” That created a greater initial expense and a greater on-going expense.
“We looked into having three-phase power brought out,” O’Quinn added, “but that would have been a substantial cost that just was not feasible. We considered using transformers, converters and generators — all cost way too much money. So we were really in a position where we had to deal with single-phase power.”
Other factors further complicated the situation. Instead of producing plans that included full design and specifications to be submitted to general contractors for bids, the committee preferred using Design-Build, an alternative method for doing a project. In Design-Build, a set of concept drawings is created that gives a general idea of what is needed. A contractor is then chosen to work along with the design team to build the project.
“But we were not able to find a suitable general contractor,” O’Quinn recalled. “Individuals we had worked with in the Dallas area were not too hip on working so far away and therefore their prices reflected that, and general contractors in the area, while good, were few.”
A few advantages
A somewhat discouraged committee began investigating domes, and eventually met with Larry Byrne, Monolithic’s resident designer.
O’Quinn said that after taking a look at the Monolithic Dome process and product, “a few advantages” immediately appealed to the committee.
“First of all, the simplistic nature of the structure really helped us out in the sense of doing a Design-Build project,” O’Quinn said. "If we would have done it the traditional way (accepting the bid of a general contractor), we would have had to have many subcontractors to complete the project, but with a Monolithic Dome one source could build the shell.
“And the building shell itself is simplistic,” O’Quinn continued. "The design is uncomplicated. So, we don’t have to plan different types of insulation systems, different sidings. Before, we were questioning: do we go with brick, masonry units, metal, part brick and part metal — on and on. There were so many variables that complicated the other structures.
“The Monolithic Dome was very straightforward, so we felt very comfortable that by going with it, we would get a good product and everything we wanted within our budget restraints. That was a very important second advantage,” O’Quinn said.
The third advantage O’Quinn cited had to do with the electrical power at Thousand Oaks. “This was a real biggy,” he said. “Because of the dome’s efficient insulation, we could heat and cool with single-phase power. That probably tipped the scale. We just had nightmares thinking of twenty small air conditioners to cool. The Monolithic Dome brought that down to possibly four units heating and cooling the whole facility. That was a big, big plus.”
A Monolithic Dome’s ability to withstand tornadoes and high winds constituted the fourth advantage. Administrator Beaman said, “The fact that the dome provided a safe shelter really appealed to us. We presented all our findings to the church board, and they concurred.”
A perfect gymnasium
When completed this summer, Thousand Oaks’ new gymnasium will include 15,273 square feet of floor area on the main level and 1,089 square feet in its mezzanine, at an estimated construction cost of $500,000.
O’Quinn, who had not worked on Monolithic Dome projects before Thousand Oaks, said, "I have a traditional education and the dome is not a very common, traditional type of structure. But the more I understood it and as I got more involved, I came to really believe that the Monolithic Dome suits itself perfectly to this project. I’m really anxious to see more people use this type of structure for gyms; big, open assembly areas; churches and schools. It meets a lot of needs that traditional structures just don’t.
“I don’t think the dome is the answer for every project,” O’Quinn concluded, “but it sure makes a perfect gymnasium. We’re excited to see ours finished.”
Note: This article is reprinted from our Spring/Summer 1999 Roundup. Quoted prices are from that time period.