Kingwood High School to transform into ‘inverse aquarium’ to prevent future flooding

Kingwood High School flood barriers
The initial design concepts for Kingwood High School's flood-mitigation project show protective flood barriers that would rise up to cover entrances and windows during heavy rainfall events but would otherwise be underground. (Rendering courtesy Humble ISD)

The initial design concepts for Kingwood High School's flood-mitigation project show protective flood barriers that would rise up to cover entrances and windows during heavy rainfall events but would otherwise be underground. (Rendering courtesy Humble ISD)

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The initial design concepts for Kingwood High School's flood-mitigation project show protective flood barriers that would rise up to cover entrances and windows during heavy rainfall events but would otherwise be underground. (Rendering courtesy Humble ISD)
Humble ISD aims to protect Kingwood High School from future flood events with a flood mitigation project that will in theory turn the campus into an “inverted aquarium,” officials said. At the Nov. 12 school board meeting, architectural firm PBK Architects presented the initial design concept for the $30 million flood barrier project.

The campus, located off Kingwood Drive near West Lake Houston Parkway, received some water inside athletic areas of the campus during Tropical Depression Imelda on Sept. 19, officials said after the storm.

However, Kingwood High School received the most damage during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, as the campus took on more than 6 feet of water and had to close for roughly six months to undergo more than $74 million in repairs, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

HISD Chief Financial Officer Mike Seale said the district has been working with consultants, architects and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for roughly a year to figure out a flood-mitigation project for the campus.

“You can never say or assure that we’ll never have damage at Kingwood High School again, but it will dramatically ... reduce the likelihood that we will have a disastrous flood at Kingwood High School in the future,” he said.


The project, which could take 2 1/2 years to complete, would create protective flood barriers at Kingwood High School that would rise up to cover entrances and windows during heavy rainfall events but would otherwise be underground, PBK Senior Project Manager Jeff Chapman said.

The initial design concept is similar to flood-protection mechanisms at MD Anderson Cancer Center and UT Health Center in downtown Houston, Chapman said. While the gates at other facilities require manual automation, Kingwood High School’s 8-foot flood gates would rise automatically in storm events, Chapman said.

He said the self-rising flood barrier would activate when floodwaters fill a chamber below the ground surface, raising the barrier in place. The project would also involve waterproofing the campus’s brick walls and adding back-flow preventers to keep sewer water from entering the school via plumbing.

However, Chapman said the project will not completely prevent water from entering the building in extreme storm events.

“I’m just telling you right now, there will be some water getting in; it will not be a perfect system,” he said. “But we’re talking about gallons of water, not hundreds of thousands of gallons of water.”

Trustee Lorie Twomey asked if the barriers could pose any potential threat to the surrounding community by diverting runoff. Chapman said because the project would be flush with the school's exterior walls, he does not believe that it will impact the surrounding area.

“If we were creating a giant wall all the way around the entire perimeter of the property, we would be drastically increasing the amount of water that was not able to come into the site by acres, whereas what we’re doing is by feet,” he said.

Chapman said they are still waiting on final approval from FEMA on the initial design concept before further engineering on the project can begin. The agency is set to pay 90% of the total construction cost of $30 million, and the district will pay the remaining 10%, which equates to about $2.8 to $3 million.

HISD will also be responsible to fully pay any needed changes to the interior of the school, because FEMA will not provide additional funds to change what the agency repaired after Harvey, Chapman said.
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By Kelly Schafler

Editor, Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood

Kelly Schafler is the editor for the Lake Houston, Humble and Kingwood edition of Community Impact Newspaper, covering public education, city government, development, businesses, local events and all things community-related. Before she became editor, she was the reporter for the Conroe and Montgomery edition for a year and a half.



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