A short history
In 2005, the 1700 residents of Woodsboro passed a $9.9 million school bond for a new gym/activity center and for termite repairs to their existing buildings. They then contracted an architect who promptly designed a conventional, rectangular gym.
Then as School Superintendent Steven Self put it, “Things began going wrong. Hurricanes began hitting and prices began skyrocketing. Projections just on the cost of electricity showed that our money wouldn’t stretch.”
That’s when Steven and his school board began looking for alternatives and found Monolithic.
In October 2011, a proud and happy Woodsboro dedicated their new, 20,000-square-foot, Monolithic Dome gym/auditorium/activity center that doubles as the community disaster shelter.
Getting another grant
“We were fortunate,” Steven said. “At the same time that we were doing the dome, we learned through Meridian Solar that we could apply for a solar grant with the State of Texas Comptroller.”
Meridian Solar provided help in writing the grant at no charge to the school. “It was still a long, drawn-out, difficult process – as most of these things are – but it was really worth it,” Steven said.
“There’s a neat, educational component to it. We have a television/computer set-up in the library, so the students can see just how green we are – how much energy is being saved, how many trees are being saved, etc.”
To qualify for the solar grant, Woodsboro had to show that they were actively involved in operating green and interested in saving energy and money. Their energy-efficient, super-insulated Monolithic Dome greatly helped them there.
A Monolithic Dome and solar
Woodsboro received a solar grant for $700,000 that they matched with $138,000.
Steven said the school district is saving a significant amount of money with their dome and solar. “These were wise moves by our school board,” he said. "The money we’re saving for electricity will pay for our part of the initial expense of building the dome – probably within just five years.
“We have good comparisons,” Steven continued. “If we had added a conventional gym, our average monthly power expense would be about $2,128. But with our dome and solar, it’s only $500 – even in hot August. David South (Monolithic’s president) always talks about saving 60%. We’re doing a lot better than that.”
Using the dome
Because their dome is comfortably air conditioned, the school uses it for special programs and for athletic and academic summer camps.
Fortunately, so far, they have not had to use it as a hurricane shelter.
A special request
But DuPont Chemical’s safety officer, who knew about a Monolithic Dome’s near-absolute protection, asked if his crew of first responders could shelter in the dome if an evacuation were ordered.
Steven said, “At one time, that safety officer was a school board member at Woodsboro and a positive proponent for the dome. The State of Texas had no objection to the first responders using the dome, so we agreed. There’s no money involved, but DuPont will help us if we have some special project. It’s a nice exchange.”
Asked about the community’s and the school board’s reaction to the dome, Steven said, "We’re very, very happy that the decision was made to go with the dome. We’re feeling good about everything, even though there were some times when we were wondering if we did the right thing.
“Overall, our Monolithic Dome is a good thing. We’ve had some problems, but they were not problems with the dome. They were problems with our city water pressure and with some contractors – stuff like that. But as far as the dome itself and the plan that Architect Lee Gray did, I think everybody is happy.”