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'Low' and dry: Appearances aside, new campus keeping the rains out

July 14, 2012

Despite being built below street level, the new Goliad Elementary has adequate drainage to keep water from flooding the buildings, architects say. (File photo)

The school that looks like it was “built inside a bowl” passed a major test last week.

Because of costs and other factors, the new Goliad Elementary building, located at the intersection of 18th and Goliad, was built below street level. However, this raised concerns from some local residents about how water-tight the school would be in case of heavy rains.

Those concerns were put to the test by a recent spate of precipitation, including one storm that dropped more than an inch of rain on the area. The good news for the school district — and the taxpayers who paid for the building — is that it remained dry, if not exactly high.

Jay Edwards of Parkhill, Smith & Cooper, the lead architect on the school construction project, always believed there was adequate drainage around Goliad to keep water out of the building. But even he sounded a little relieved after a post-thunderstorm inspection of the campus.

“It's going to take a lot of rain to flood that building,” Edwards said. “And if that happens, there's going to be water in a lot of other buildings in Big Spring.”

When first designing the layout for Goliad, Edwards and other PS&C architects faced a dilemma — the ground in the area sloped notably downward toward the south. To even the building's base, designers had two options: either bring in enough dirt to compensate for the downward slope; or lower the northern end of the site.

“We debated what to do for about six months,” Edwards said. “We finally decided it would be prohibitively expensive to bring in enough dirt to compensate for the downward slope. In addition, raising the southern end of the base would have caused even more severe drainage problems for the area south of the building.”

To combat the inevitable water issues that would arise at the new campus, architects augmented existing drainage systems in the area with a combination of underground pipes and concrete swales.

The systems, Edwards said, are more than adequate to keep students dry in case of future rainstorms.

“We've had people tell us it looks like we built the school inside a bowl,” he said. “But I think they will be very happy with the final results.”

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