February 2007– Construction Begins on Hurricane-Proof School


PALATKA Florida (February 12, 2007) – The Children’s Reading Center, Inc. a local Florida non-profit organization which operates a charter school in Palatka, has begun construction of an innovative domed school facility. On Tuesday, February 20th at 8 a.m., crews are tentatively scheduled to inflate a giant balloon that will create the shape of the first of five domed buildings.  The inflation will take place at 7901 St. Johns Ave. in Palatka.

The buildings, known as Monolithic Domes, are scheduled for completion in July 2007. Monolithic Domes are known for their energy efficiency and ability to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s criteria for near-absolute protection from hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather. They also have a high fire safety rating. They have been used to build homes, indoor stadiums, churches and schools.

“As a charter school, we strive to offer an innovative curriculum that creates a solid foundation in literacy for all children which can allow them to learn at the highest levels,” said school principal, Dr. Geri Melosh. Along with the charter school, The Children’s Reading Center, Inc. also focuses on teacher training. “A desire for a safe facility where the library can be central and the classrooms configured to support student and teacher learning led the CRC board to the choice of this rather unusual construction design.”

The facility will consist of five dome buildings, measuring between 44 and 132 feet in diameter. It will have vertical stem walls, a ductless Mitsubishi air conditioning system and polished concrete floors. The $2.5 million building will replace the series of leased traditional buildings that the school has occupied since its founding in 2003.

The construction process used to build the dome is as unique as the building itself. On inflation day, giant fans will lift the external roof material, called the Airform, into the air. This creates the shape of the dome. The Airform is a circular piece of tough, single-ply material that is attached to the special hooks around a circular, concrete rebar enforced ring. In this case the ring is at the top of vertical solid concrete walls.

After the Airform is in place, construction moves to the interior. Polyurethane foam will be applied in several stages finally totaling about three inches. Hooks will be embedded in the foam around the dome’s interior surface and used to hang reinforcing steel rebar. Finally, the rebar grid will be covered with layers of Shotcrete, a strong light weight concrete that will be sprayed into place.

The insulating foam combined with the thermal mass of the concrete and seamless construction means that Monolithic Domes cost significantly less to heat and cool than traditional buildings.  Over the long run, these domes are said to actually pay for themselves in the savings derived from utility expenses.

The Children’s Reading Center Charter School will be the second Monolithic Dome school in Florida. Bishop Nivens Academy opened in Sarasota in 2002, joining dozens of Monolithic Dome schools across the country. For more information about Monolithic Domes, visit www.monolithic.com.