Superdome Reflections: Creating a ‘Hurricane Proof Roof’

hurricane proof roofDid you know that one of the U.S.’ most high profile stories about spray foam roofing centers around the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans – after the deadly Hurricane Katrina tore through the high-profile sports venue in 2005?

The facility is one of a small number of structures capable of hosting the Super Bowl and NCAA final four events, and is home to the New Orleans Saints and the Tulane University Football Team.

Here is a bit of the facility’s roofing history:

  • Originally Roof Had Polyurethane Foam. The Superdome officially opened in 1975 and was originally constructed with a polyurethane foam roof. At the time, the best foam coating was very brittle. In the late 1970s, a massive hail storm caused small dents in the foam, which resulted in small, narrow circles of exposed foam (1mm wide). Thankfully, the damaged roof did not leak. However, over the next 12 years, more than $750,000 was spent on research to deal with the small circles of exposed foam. It was eventually decided to recoat the foam at a cost of $250,000. The roof continued to waterproof and insulate the Superdome.
  • Foam Replaced with EPDM, a.k.a., Single Ply Roofing. In 2003, as experts believed the foam roof was ‘old,’ the polyurethane foam was removed and replaced with what was referred to as ‘state of the art’ EPDM rubber roofing (single ply roofing). Unfortunately, because of this misinformation, the stadium owners believed that EPDM was a superior roofing material. In fact, the manufacturer guaranteed the new roof to withstand winds up to 130mph. But when Katrina struck, sub 100mph winds completely blew off most of the EPDM roof membrane. The single ply EPDM membrane failed after just two years at wind speeds substantially less than promised.
  • Louisiana Hit By Hurricane Katrina. In 2005, Katrina struck with devastating force, causing an estimated $81 billion dollars in damage. New Orleans was flooded, wiping out 80 percent of the city, as well as causing extensive damage to the roof of the Superdome.
  • Failed Single Ply Roof Replaced with Spray Foam Roofing. Stadium owners next decided to re-roof with sprayed polyurethane foam. While EPDM failed around 130mph in a wind tunnel, polyurethane foam did not fail at any speed. In fact, polyurethane foam withstood 200mph winds with flying colors. In fact, the result of spray foam is a superior, self-adhering, waterproof, insulating membrane. It is the only insulation material available on the market today that does not soak up water.

This new foam roof received a 10-year warranty against leaks, and it comes with a guarantee that the roof will not blow off, even in a Category V hurricane.

At Intech Equipment and Supply, we believe in the power of spray foam insulation. Contact us today for information about commercial roofing equipment and supplies.