The reconstruction following Hurricane Katrina may provide guidence for Sandy-impacted and other regions hit by recent devastating storms. Earlier this month, I read an article in Today's Facility Manager, "The Calm Before the Storm," about how facilities can become more resilient and recover more swiftly from the disastrous impacts of severe weather events in the future. The article outlines how teams of experts have created many specific recommendations for critical facilities planning. These are all very important reports and recommendations when managing "critical" facilities defined as hospitals, police and fire stations, data centers, evacuation shelters, and buildings, or portions of buildings that provide essential support to them.
I also contend that "non-critical" businesses should evaluate their own "critical" systems and prepare for resiliency. I was reminded again about how efforts taken by a long-time customer in Biloxi, MS could be used as a model for future planning your own businesses critical systems, especially those that consider operable partitions as business critical - convention centers, hotels and multi-purpose facilities.
Many of our customers have been afftected by the floods and hurricanes of these two regions and as the businesses in New Jersey, New York and others continue to rebuild, I believe they could learn from the post-Katrina rebuilding that Hufcor did with some customers like the Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center in Biloxi, MS (shown above days after Katrina.) Hufcor provided a fast, customized solution for the 400,000 sq. ft. facility to rebuild after Katrina flooding that would help eliminate or minimize damage from future storms to the operable partitions installed in the facility. In this case, like all convention centers, the movable walls are "critical" to the facility.
Hufcor designed and installed unique replacement walls at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center (MCCC) in Biloxi after Katrina's storm surge forced about six feet of water throughout the lower level of the nearly half-million square foot facility. All 650+ of the operable partition panels within this section of the building had to be discarded and replaced due to massive water infiltration and the extent the panels sat submerged in flood waters. The panels were flooded up to the 6' level, yet the top portion of the panels were not affected by the storm. So more than two-thirds of the panels were simply tossed into landfills even though they were potentially unphased by the effects of Katrina.
Hufcor believes some simple planning and product precautions need to be taken against future moisture damage to operable walls, and that such precautions are inexpensive and have been developed already because of Katrina. Much of the reason standard operable partitions need to be replaced after a water penetrating event, such as a flood, is due to the moisture that penetrates into the gypsum and mineral wool acoustical barriers inside the panel. These substrates become a breeding ground for mold and mildew and must be replaced.
To guard against this, Hufcor supplied MCCC a construction that increased the thickness of the steel face skin to maintain the acoustical properties of the wall system and eliminated the acoustical backers that absorb moisture. Other noteworthy features Hufcor applied to MCCC replacement panels and offers advise for facilities along the eastern shore areas affected by super storm Sandy:
1. The thicker steel faces were pre-painted, providing an extra layer of protection against moisture and potential rusting.
2. Bottom seal mechanisms were plated with specialized zinc, and carriers were made with stainless steel, rendering both components water resistant.
3. The panels were factory finished with high performance woven fabrics that have infused antimicrobial elements to fight mold and bacteria. In addition, these finishes are highly abrasion resistent and made with high levels of pre-consumer recyled materials.
4. For panel constructions over 16’ tall in low lying flood or storm surge regions, install a two-piece panel so in the event the facility sustains flooding, the lower portion of the panel can be removed and retrofitted lowering the costs involved with replacing the entire panel.
5. The unique aspect of MCCC’s replacement walls is that the bottom eight feet contains bagged insulation held inside protective bags, sealing the insulation from penetrating moisture. The bagged insulation could potentially be resistent to a smaller flood and "protect" the panels from replacement.
After Hurricane Katrina had pummeled the Gulf Coast, our distributor and engineering teams swept in to assist with the replacement of 689 flood-damaged wall systems–all the while working within guidelines established by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) concerning mitigation. Hufcor then provided 186 additional state-of-the-art movable walls for its second phase of new construction to the addition to the facility in 2009.
After thinking about the parallels between Katrina and Sandy, I actually contacted Bill Holmes, the Executive Director of the MCCC. Here's what he said about our team, “We owe a lot of thanks to Hufcor for standing behind their product, designing custom solutions that meet both our and FEMA recovery requirements and keeping our wall systems in top condition.” I can only thank both Bill Holmes and Hufcor's Mississippi representative, Scott Goza for forging such a strong relationship and loyalty to Hufcor and our products.
These innovations and Hufcor’s track record have not escaped the attention of businesses impacted by Hurricane Sandy last year. Ron Saraco of Metrofold, a Hufcor distributor in Oceanside, New York (on the south shore of Long Island), says that even though many people are still waiting for insurance money and government assistance, some have already decided to install Hufcor operable partitions. The applications have included funeral homes, schools, a restaurant, and various office spaces along the south shore of New York.
“I believe more rebuilding and recovery activity is on the horizon once the insurance and government money finally arrives,” says Saraco. “Facilities planning to rebuild should look at implementing these simple product modifications to reduce the risk and cost of replacement in the event a repeat super storm happens. The costs to upgrade to this design are minimal and helps facilities like hotels, convention centers, schools and restaurants to be up and running faster and with less costs.”
For those facilities looking for assistance in designing movable wall systems more resilient to future severe weather events like those Hufcor installed at MCCC, please contact your Hufcor local distributors.
The Katrina rebuild process took years as will the Sandy disaster. Some are just starting to recover from the tornados throughout the Midwest and the floods in Colorado. For those looking to assist relief efforts, please visit the RED CROSS.