Storm Shelter Prototypes

Grantee: Masonry Institute of St. Louis
Principle Investigators: Darrell McMillian
Year: 2021
Project Number: 2021.009
Status: In Progress

Storm shelters save lives during extreme events. This project will develop concrete masonry storm shelter prototypes to be used in schools.


Beginning with the 2015 International Building Code, storm shelters are required in educational buildings such as schools in a large portion of the United States. These storm shelters save lives in extreme events, and concrete masonry is a good choice due to its inherent durability and design flexibility.

Ensuring that storm shelters are properly designed, detailed and constructed is critical to their performance. Other industries have capitalized on the need for storm shelters to promote their systems through branding, complete design solutions, and prototypes that designers can easily incorporate into their projects.

Previous NCMA Foundation grants have focused on creating a design guide for storm shelters and development of training resources for contractors related to construction. This project will create new storm shelter resources in the form of prototype designs. These prototypes can easily be used by designers in the their projects.

Work Plan:

This project will create four CMU storm shelter design prototypes that will cover the different sizes of buildings such as elementary gymnasium, middle school gymnasium, high school gymnasium, and school wing. Gymnasiums are selected due to criteria required in designing storm sheltering, such as space, furniture factors, restroom facilities, and lack of openings. These prototypes will provide optimized design using concrete masonry,  optimized reinforcement schedules, options for connections, pricing for each prototype and a range of expected scheduling for construction. These prototypes will be easy to understand tools which can be used by masonry sales personnel, mason contractors, and designers to gain CMU storm shelter construction market share and simplify the design of CMU storm shelters.

The development of these prototypes will be facilitated through a summit in St. Louis, hosted by the Masonry Institute of St. Louis (MISL). Out-of-town and local structural engineering experts and masons will be invited that will participate in a day and a half workshop. Following this workshop, tasks will be assigned to summit participants to take these prototypes from concept through to final design. The final prototypes will be delivered through NCMA, MISL and other industry communications channels.