Monolithic Dome Schools

The Vanguard School in Colorado Springs.

Monolithic Dome schools like The Vanguard School Junior High in Colorado Springs are strong and energy efficient.

A Monolithic Dome school is unique. Distinct. Different. It challenges the community to ask, why? Why build something so alien? Why can’t it look like other structures? Why does it have to be round? Why would anyone want that? And why are so many schools choosing to build a Monolithic Dome? What makes this building process so compelling?

Safe school

Safety is the first reason. The steel-reinforced concrete dome can withstand terrible disasters—hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, earthquakes. Monolithic Domes have survived them all.

And that’s just the standard dome. With a few tweaks, better doors, and stronger windows, the Monolithic Dome meets the FEMA P-361 standard for Safe Rooms. But it’s not a safe room. It’s a safe school. The Monolithic Dome classrooms and gymnasiums are the shelter. Students are safe in a familiar environment. Most residents around these “FEMA Domes” will drive to the school to seek shelter during tornado warnings.

Working and studying inside a safe school is comforting for the students and staff.

Less initial cost

What does all this safety cost the community? Nothing. It’s free. It’s standard with every Monolithic Dome. Build a gymnasium, get a safe shelter for free. Plus, the initial construction costs are equivalent to or even less than comparable conventional structures. No other structure will ever match the strength of the Monolithic Dome without spending more—much more.

And FEMA will give grants (up to 75 percent) to qualified schools to help build Monolithic Domes as FEMA P-361 safe rooms. Constructing a safe shelter that survives a tornado is always less expensive than replacing structures afterward. Not to mention the lives it can save.

Long term energy savings

The Monolithic Dome is insulated by arguably the world’s best insulation—polyurethane foam. The foam and concrete work together to create a thermal flywheel that maintains an even temperature and saves 50 percent or better on energy costs. Schools save enough money—month after month—to pay for the school in less than 20 years.

Lower maintenance

The composite dome wall is impervious to bugs and rot. The wall has no gaps, no space for problems to begin. Domes are tough enough to take everyday abuse and occasional disaster. Of course, no structure is zero maintenance. Long term maintenance costs, though, are typically less than conventional structures and properly maintained, a Monolithic Dome will last for centuries.

Flexible design

All Monolithic Domes are free-span structures with no interior columns or bearing walls. The internal layout is entirely up to the needs of the school and the imagination of the designer. Many dome designs put common areas—media center, study areas—in the middle of a dome and classrooms around the outside. A small, circular hallway connects everything and provides more efficient “traffic” flow through the building.

Multiple domes linked together create dedicated spaces for each need—gymnasium, cafeteria, library/classrooms, administration. Typically there are high, curved ceilings in the classrooms and common areas. Most classrooms end up pie-shaped, which seems inefficient, but turns out to provide much-needed nooks and crannies for the teacher’s desk, craft areas, and computer stations. No dome owner has ever complained about working “outside the box.”

And domes are quiet. The dome walls are virtually soundproof. Separating uses by dome allows for a loud gymnasium with raucous crowds in one dome and a quiet library with warm, comfortable study areas in another.

Challenges assumptions

Nobody ever questions a standard building. They are everywhere. Invisible. Nobody thinks to ask, could they be better? Building a learning environment in a competitive and changing world, the question is not, why are we building a dome? The question is, why shouldn’t we?

Next steps

Every school is different. Are they looking for a FEMA rated safe room to improve school safety? Do they need help finding a grant writer? Do they want a whole new school, something that stands out and makes a statement?

The Monolithic Dome Institute is here to help. We have access to industry experts who can give practical advice for school administrators and board members at no cost and no obligation. We mean it. We are too busy to pester people who don’t want a dome.

Fill out the Free Monolithic Dome School Evaluation form and we will respond with real, useful information. The more you can tell us, the more we can help you.