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The Return of the Superdome
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 November 2006

The Return of the Superdome

When the Louisiana Superdome reopened in New Orleans on Sept. 25, the 70,003 spectators who watched the New Orleans Saints defeat the Atlanta Falcons might have been thinking a little bit more about the roof over their heads than they would have in the past.

Certainly, members of ASTM Subcommittee D08.06 on Spray Polyurethane Foam Roof Systems would have been thinking about it, as SPF played an integral role in the rebuilding of the Superdome. Subcommittee D08.06 is under the jurisdiction of ASTM International Committee D08 on Roofing and Waterproofing.

Although it is just over 30 years old, the Superdome already has a storied past. Construction began on the huge stadium in August 1971 and was completed, almost to the day, four years later. The sheer size and unique shape of the structure captured the public’s imagination in the mid-1970s, even inspiring a made-for-television movie thriller, simply titled Superdome, in 1978 (although, apparently, the less said about that particular movie, the better).

The Superdome has been the site of six Super Bowls, more than any other facility. A concert by the Rolling Stones attracted 87,000 fans in 1981, while Pope John Paul II addressed 80,000 children there in 1987. The Superdome also holds the attendance record for an NCAA Final Four basketball game (64,659 in 1987).

Of course, it is the recent history of the Superdome that is still prominent in most people’s minds. As Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans in late August 2005, the Superdome was opened as a refuge for thousands of evacuees, some of whom spent nearly a week inside the stadium.

Although heavily damaged by Katrina, plans for the repair and rebuilding of the Superdome began almost immediately. On Oct. 24, 2005, workers from Brazos Urethane began to install a temporary roof that was necessary to avoid further water damage. Work on this roof was completed in just 15 days.

After a remediation and recovery period within the stadium, Brazos began work on the new permanent roof on March 1 of this year.

The statistics involved in this project are nothing short of amazing. Over 10,000 pieces of metal decking were hoisted from the floor of the Superdome to be attached to the existing steel support frame. A half-million gallons (1,892,700 litres) of polyurethane foam had to be sprayed over the decking, creating a hardened layer of foam 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) thick.

Following the application of polyurethane foam, 20,000 gallons (75,708 litres) of urethane coating was spray painted in five coats (two gray primer coats and three white finish coats) to create an outer skin for the roof. By the time Brazos completed the new roof, ahead of schedule, in July, it had become the largest-ever stadium re-roofing project in the United States.

Mason Knowles, chair of Subcommittee D08.06 and technical director of the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance, says that the standards developed by the subcommittee are important to any SPF roofing project, particularly one as large as the Superdome.

During the construction of the temporary roof, ASTM standard D 6705, Guide for the Repair and Recoat of Sprayed Polyurethane Foam Roofing Systems, would have been important. According to Knowles, this guide, which was originally approved in 2001, provides the building industry with peer-reviewed procedures for inspecting and evaluating the condition of an existing SPF roof, as well as procedures to make recommendations on repair and recoat.

Another D08.06 standard, D 5469, Guide for Application of New Spray Applied Polyurethane Foam and Coated Roofing Systems, was integral to the construction of the new roof. D 5469 outlines general procedures and precautions necessary for correct and safe application of SPF roofing systems.

While the rebuilding of the Superdome is a tremendous symbol of what has been accomplished in New Orleans since Katrina hit, there is still much work to be done in the city, as well as in other cities and towns that were battered by the storm. Fortunately, the standards of many ASTM International subcommittees such as F08.06 are available to help people rebuild their homes and their lives.

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