Construction is currently underway on a complete recladding of the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, the final phase in a $200 million renovation of the massive sports and exhibition facility by Baton Rouge–based Trahan Architects. Designed by local firm Curtis and Davis, and opened to the public in 1975, the Superdome became a symbol of national distress thirty years later when it served as a shelter for thousands of residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That same storm also damaged nearly 20 percent of the building’s anodized aluminum panels, necessitating the facade’s replacement, which is scheduled for completion in 2010.
The State of Louisiana, which commissioned the renovation, gave Trahan the option of aesthetically altering the Superdome’s exterior, but the architects decided to preserve the existing look while updating the system’s components. “Most people believed we should have looked at a painted-steel system,” Trey Trahan, principal of Trahan architects, told AN. “I felt painted steel would take the variety out of the skin and create a dead finish, instead of mimicking the variety of the original. Anodized aluminum has a beautifully diverse look.”
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The Trahan-designed system comprises 16,000 12-inch-high by 25-foot-long aluminum panels—approximately 400,000 square feet of surface area—finished with an architectural Class 1 anodized finish and a custom, light-bronze color.
While the redressed Superdome will appear just as it has for the past 35 years, the new cladding system possesses the advantages of current technology. The original panels were riveted together and secured to the dome’s structure. If one panel was damaged, every panel above it had to be removed to replace it. The new system employs clips, allowing individual panels to be removed without disturbing their neighbors.
The new system also greatly increases insulation values, from an existing R-value of about 2 to 4 to an improved R-value of 16 to 18. While the original system had gaskets and caulking at the exterior, which quickly degraded from direct exposure to the elements and resulted in air and water infiltration, the new system is a rain screen. An outer leaf sheds most of the water, and beneath that is a sheltered inner system that serves as the final weather barrier. The new cladding also improves the skin’s structural capabilities, and was subjected to a series of rigorous wind and rain testing protocols to meet contemporary building codes.
In the previous two phases of the renovation, Trahan replaced the nearly ten-acre roof, and removed 4,000 tons of debris, 800,000 square feet of dry wall, and 600,000 square feet of ceiling tile. The architects also updated all of the suites, club level lounges and concourses, and concession stands.