September 2008 – Dome School Facility Proposed for Fowler, Kansas


CONTACT: Carol Lanham
[email protected]


FOWLER, Kansas (September 18, 2008) – USD225 in Fowler will find out in November whether it can build a futuristic, energy-efficient dome building to serve as a new multi-purpose facility. Voters will decide on November 4th whether to approve a $1.94 million bond issue that would fund construction of a Monolithic Dome structure that would house a computer/technology lab, a new band/vocal room, a new gymnasium, two locker rooms, and a commons/concession area.

Monolithic Domes are steel-reinforced concrete buildings that cost as much as 50 percent less to heat and cool than a traditional structure of the same size. They also meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s standards for near-absolute protection from tornadoes. The dome being proposed in Fowler would double as a community disaster shelter.

Sam Seybold, superintendent of the Fowler school district, and members of the Fowler school board became interested in Monolithic Dome construction after learning about the many advantages it offers over traditional construction.

“As we researched the different construction models, keeping in mind that we wanted to hold down the cost to district patrons, the Monolithic construction made sense to us, especially with the 30 percent savings on construction costs, the 30 to 50 percent savings on energy use, the designation of a community emergency shelter, and the life-span of the facility,” Seybold said.

Although the Fowler High School facility would be the first of its kind in Kansas, Monolithic Dome schools have already been built in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Idaho, Texas, Arizona, Missouri and Florida. School districts have reported substantial energy savings after moving into their new round structures.

“Utility costs represent a substantial portion of a school’s operating budget, and we have found that these schools can pay for themselves in 20 years from the energy savings alone,” said David South, who co-invented and patented the process for constructing Monolithic Domes and now heads the Monolithic Dome Institute in Texas.

The domes’ energy efficiency is due in part to the concrete’s thermal mass, which keeps the temperatures inside the buildings stable. The domes also typically feature high-performing windows and doors. Another plus is their sustainability. Because of their shape, Monolithic Domes require the smallest surface area and employ the fewest materials to enclose space. They also have a life span measured in centuries.

“In order to match the long life and energy conservation of Monolithic Domes, conventional structures would be much more expensive to build and require significantly more materials and maintenance,” said Dr. Arnold Wilson, Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at Brigham Young University (BYU).

The process used to build Monolithic Domes is as unique as the structures themselves. It begins with the placement of a ringbeam footing and the pouring of a circular steel-reinforced concrete slab floor. Vertical steel bars embedded in the outer ring later attach to the steel reinforcing of the dome itself. An Airform, a tarp made of tough, single-ply roofing material, is attached to the ring base and inflated, creating the shape of the dome.

Crews then move to the interior of the dome, where they spray polyurethane foam on the Airform and reinforce it with a grid of steel rebar. They then spray the dome with two or three inches of Shotcrete. The result is a safe, permanent and energy efficient structure designed to last for centuries.

Seybold said the new facility would have the added advantage of providing a safe haven for Fowler residents when severe weather strikes. “Right now, we don’t have a community shelter,” Seybold said. “Our school was hit by a tornado three years ago and we all know what happened in Greensburg, Chapman, and Manhattan recently, as well as Hoisington several years ago. This would give Fowler a place for everyone to go during an emergency.”

Seybold added that the district wants to address challenges that have surfaced since the current gym was constructed in 1952. Not only have girls’ sports been added to the mix since the gym was built, but the practice schedule causes the students to sometimes not get home till 9:00 p.m. because the junior high boys and girls practice and then the high school boys and girls alternate practice schedules, he said. The volleyball team will only play one home game this year since the current facility is not large enough to host larger events, such as volleyball and basketball tournaments and playoffs.

The current band/vocal area also needs to be upgraded to create a more functional environment for students in addition to providing better acoustics and making it handicapped accessible, Seybold said. In addition, state assessments have caused the district to re-visit the configuration of accessible computers. Currently, computer classes have to be moved out of the business room in order for testing to occur. Computerized assessments weren’t the norm when the current configuration was established.

”Quality education always has been and must continue to be a priority in the Fowler schools. The Board of Education has made facilities a top priority, carefully studying needs, options, and available resources. Education has and continues to change dramatically to provide opportunities for all our students to reach their potential,” Seybold said. “The current high school was built in 1952, and we take great pride in taking care of our facilities, but education is different today and we need to address those challenges. Our schools are the lifeblood of our community and area. Communities invest in the things they deem important. In a community like ours, there is nothing more important than our children, grandchildren, and their education. This bond issue is no doubt an investment in our most important asset-our children, but also an investment in our community and its future.”