Reinforced Masonry School Protects Students And Others From Earthquakes And Tornadoes


Custom cast stone columns and panels with educational motifs add personality to the entry. Citadel, Saddle and Varsity colored Boral Brick (now Meridian) adorn the rest of the exterior of the 300,000 sf high school.


A variety of masonry materials are used throughout for both structure and finish on Mount Vernon’s new 300,000 sf, 2-story high school on 82 acres replacing a campus of 11 buildings.

Designed to accommodate 1800 students, in addition to classrooms and offices, the state-of- the-art 21st century facility contains laboratories, a cafeteria and kitchen, learning resource center, two gymnasiums, performing arts center and vocational technical school.

On the exterior, three brick colors are used in large panel-like fields and as accents to act as way-finding as well as to break up the overall massing, while the utility-size unit reduced the total number required – though it was still more than 200,000 – and improved productivity during construction. The 4x4x12 utility are a more proportionate size for the large building. Units in red, brown and tan tones of citadel, saddle and varsity feature formal edges and a wirecut texture in a running bond coursing pattern. Natural mortar is used throughout, providing an aesthetic of continuity.

The Wabash Valley seismic zone epicenter is located between Mt Vernon IL and West Franklin IN. Mt Vernon is also in a high wind region known as Tornado Alley. As such, the structural masonry portions of the school are heavily reinforced – every 4′.

The mason contractor considered productivity in selecting CMU and chose Hshaped units with ergonomic features to be more easily and quickly installed around the rebar instead of up and over. Close to 250,00 units are used, ranging in size from 4″ to 12″, though about half are 8x8x8 units.

A combination of smooth and split face CMU provides optimal acoustic performance in the 600 seat auditorium.

Educational motifs cast into stone panels adorning school's entry.

Not only did mason Kyle Demsar seek productivity savings, he also advised the design/construction team that they could optimize energy performance for the life of this building with this same block. The reduction in block webs according to ASTM C90 modifications for the H block allowed for a reduction in thermal bridging optimizing energy performance. Lightweight aggregate makes the block easier still to lift and increases energy performance even more as well as increasing fire protection.

The 16,500 sf performing arts center includes a 600-seat auditorium featuring smooth- and split-face CMU for optimized acoustic performance. CMU provide mass, isolating sound within the space and preventing sounds from outside coming in. Smooth-face units reflect the sound, rather than absorbing it, while split-face units help distribute sound evenly and without echoes or other distortions, all while providing aesthetically appealing, interesting and durable finish.

Masonry materials provide distinctly original elements, adding character and identity to the new school. Cast stone 24″ x 24″ medallions between first- and second-story windows near the main entrance display a series of 10 different images representing education, including technology, science, fine arts, athletics and graduation. A 3-ton panel displaying the school initials and two 20′ columns at the doorway are also created of cast stone.

Glass block is used as an accent feature wall at the auditorium entrance. A series of LED lights behind it can be programmed to change colors, drawing dramatic emphasis to the performing arts entry.

Glass block at performing arts center entrance is back-lit with colored LED lights for dramatic effect at events.

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