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Spray Foam Restores Energy Efficiency in New Orleans Superdome

The Superdome’s golden perimeter walls were pierced and dulled gray by time and Hurricane Katrina. The enclosed stadium, home to the World Champion New Orleans Saints, needed a healthy dose of waterproofing and energy conservation – not to mention an aesthetic upgrade. Burtin Polymer Laboratories developed a materials solution using raw materials supplied by Bayer MaterialScience LLC for the cavernous project that encompassed nearly 400,000 square feet and is believed to be the largest perimeter wall insulating project in the world.

“Spray foam was an obvious choice due to its benefits of water resistance, thermal insulation value, air tightness and adhesive qualities,” said Henry “Scooter” Delaune, president, Burtin Polymer Laboratories, a Georgia-based supplier of polyurethane formulations used to manufacture rigid and flexible polyurethane systems for a wide range of industrial and consumer applications. “We anticipate tremendous energy savings due to the tight building envelope created by the spray foam insulation. In addition, the foam was cost effective compared with traditional materials.”

While insulating the Superdome was a unique and complex project, spray polyurethane foam is used widely for insulation in commercial and residential applications, for new construction and retro-fit of existing construction. Spray polyurethane foam insulation offers several advantages over traditional fiberglass batt insulation, including:

  • Ability to expand and fill all cracks when applied, thereby virtually sealing a structure from moisture and air leakage
  • Ability to cure within seconds, forming the foundation of a structurally strong, virtually airtight, thermal, sound and condensation barrier
  • Adding structural strength to the building. Independent tests showed spray polyurethane foam provides resistance to shearing and racking events such as hurricanes and other strong wind situations, and
  • Reducing the chance of mold growth.

The contractor of choice for this project was Calmar Corporation, which played a key role as the spray-applied fireproofing contractor during two previous Superdome renovations. Insulation work on the exterior of the building began in early 2009 and was completed in July 2010, according to Mitch Richard, president, Kenner, La.-based Calmar.

“The sheer size of the facility created challenges,” Richard said. “To access the lower Convention level, we used three 25-foot x 20-foot x 40-foot towers constructed of tube-lock scaffolding on wheels. They had to be cantilevered and counterbalanced to accommodate the slight angle of the walls.”

To meet environmental requirements, increase spray application efficiency and limit waste, the scaffolding was covered with reinforced polyethylene, and fans with filters were incorporated to provide negative air pressure within the tented structure. Accessing the upper wall of the Superdome required a custom-built scaffolding system that “flexed” with the 96 individual wall segments at a height of 120 feet, which were the same width at top and bottom but narrower at the “waist.”

“This truly was a challenging project due to the height of the facility and the exacting specifications involved,” said Delaune. “Today, the Superdome sparkles like a new building. While its exterior aesthetics are eye-catching, the improved energy efficiency resulting from the spray foam insulation is the real long-term gem of the facility. In addition, spray foam insulation being used for an undertaking as sizeable as the Superdome demonstrates it can easily be the solution for any residential or commercial insulation application, whether large or small.”

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