Superintendent gets board approval to research construction of dome for new middle school

Monday, July 31, 2006

GREEN FOREST -- At a Tuesday discussion on a new, state-approved Green Forest middle school, the school board gave Superintendent Dr. Larry Bennett the go-ahead to further research the prices on a monolithic dome building.

Last Wednesday, a group of school board members, along with Bennett and Maintenance Supervisor Larry Newberry toured a school facility in Beggs, Okla. that had two of the dome-shaped structures on campus.

Board President Byron Russ started the Tuesday discussion by saying "I think the dome is the answer; it's extremely efficient with no wasted space."

However, School Board Member Brian Ayers said "there was no way you can convince me its more efficient or uses less energy than a conventional building."

According to its Web site, a monolithic dome starts as a concrete ring foundation, reinforced with steel rebar. Then, an airform, which is fabricated to the proper shape and size, is placed on the ring base. Using blower fans, it is inflated and the airform creates the shape of the structure to be completed. The fans run throughout construction of the dome.

Then, polyurethane foam is applied to the interior surface of the airform and steel reinforcing rebar is attached to the foam. Shotcrete, which is a special spray mix of concrete, is then applied to the interior surface of the dome. The steel rebar is embedded in the concrete and when about three inches of shotcrete is applied, the monolithic dome is finished. The blower fans are shut off after the concrete is set.

Russ explained that there was an "even air" throughout the buildings because of the combination of the outer insulated foam and the inner layer of concrete.

"I was amazed," said Larry Newberry. "I was very impressed that the building (in Beggs) only had one thermostat, and had even air flow throughout the building. It felt like walking in a cave."

Russ said he had asked about the energy bills while visiting the Beggs facility. "In a 30,000 square-foot domed event building, in the coldest month of the year, their bill was $700, and in May when the building was packed for graduation, it only cost $300. You're not getting that with a conventional construction."

Bennett added that utility cost for the Alumni Center during the month of May was $997.

Board members Susan Newberry and Peggy James, both retired teachers, said the safety of the dome building was an important factor.

"We have had tornado warnings here, and when you're a teacher and you're responsible for those kids, it gets very scary," said James.

The monolithic dome advertises to be fire resistant and to stand up to 150-mile-per-hour winds.

Ayers continued to question the efficency of the dome structures throughout the meeting, but seemed interested in a cost estimate on the buildings.

"I'll talk to the architect from Beggs and see where we go from here and I'll also talk to a conventional architect to get a comparison," said Bennett.

He said he hoped to get the project planned before the September election, when voters will be asked to approve a 3.6 mil increase.

"We need to let them know what we want to do with their tax dollars," said Bennett.

The new middle school building was approved by the state, which has offered to provide 57 percent of the nearly $7 million project.

However, if voters do not approve a 3.6 mil increase in September, the funds from the state will be cancelled and the project will be void.

The added 3.6 mils would result in a $43.20 increase on a $60,000 house and a $72 increase on a $100,000 house for Green Forest patrons.

In other business, the board hired Rebecca Brasel as the new high school assistant principal, Mary Webb as a high school English teacher, and Johnny Elmore as a high school social studies teacher.

The next regular meeting is expected to be August 21 at 6 p.m. in the high school library.

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