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Home | Spray Foam Insulation | Sky-High Seal: Spray Foam Provides an Air Barrier to a Rotunda’s Roofdeck Inside Charleston International Airport

Sky-High Seal: Spray Foam Provides an Air Barrier to a Rotunda’s Roofdeck Inside Charleston International Airport

Imagine yourself as an operator of an airport that is in dire need of structural renovations and you are well aware the building is being affected by air leakage and infiltration. Do you want air, moisture, or insects to continually get into the building and cause damage? Do you want the noisy sound of jet engines to emanate throughout the airport and annoy passengers, many of whom are already stressed? You definitely don’t want faulty insulation generating subpar indoor climates and hiking up the energy consumption, right? For all intents and purposes,
you would need to make sure your airport is airsealed to avoid these scenarios.

Such was the case of the Charleston International Airport, where air-sealing became a priority during the building’s long-needed renovations. The airport operators put their faith in Energy One America (EOA), whose insulation and air-sealing expertise was vital to create an airtight structure.

Although some areas of the airport warranted traditional methods for proper air-sealing, the most challenging aspect of the project for EOA came when addressing the roofdeck of the 1,300 sq. ft. rotunda that connected two terminals of the airport. EOA was able to utilize rigid foam

throughout most of the project, but there was only one type of material that could effectively air-seal the rotunda’s roofdeck with ease: spray polyurethane foam insulation.

“The dome-shaped roofdeck was in a dead-center focal point of the airport,” said EOA’s Jason Pluchinsky. “Because of its odd shape, we decided on spray foam insulation, which we knew would seal and insulate the area properly.”

Pluchinsky, along with EOA crewmembers Jason Villanueva and Parker Moore, handled the SPF application. Applying SPF inside an airport was certainly not a walk in the park. The EOA crew found themselves working between the hours of 2 and 5 AM, when regular foot traffic wasn’t an issue. They operated four 12-inch forced-air duct fans during the foam application to prevent hazardous fumes from lingering. Building access was limited, so EOA parked their rig in front of the airport’s main terminal and from there guided to the rotunda 300 feet of hose that connected to their Gusmer H-20/35 hydraulic proportioner. Pluchinsky noted that getting their hose to the work area proved to be a difficult task: the hose had to be elevated via scaffolding over walkways for 50 feet into the building to get to the rotunda, in order to keep the terminal clear.

“The only way to get to the rotunda area was to go through a hallway that travelers used and couldn’t be closed for any period of time, even during the early hours in which we worked,” said Pluchinsky. “We needed to elevate the hose about 25 feet off of the ground on both sides of the hall and place a scaffold walkboard across the two scaffolds. Basically, we needed to build a bridge for the hose to lay on as it crossed over the hallway, away from people’s heads.”

According to Pluchinsky, three of the five days that EOA spent on site focused on prep work alone. The EOA crew masked off much of the rotunda, particularly the windows that encircled the rotunda, the tops of which formed the base of the roofdeck.

“We covered everything we saw,” said Pluchinsky. “Given the angles in which we sprayed the foam, we knew there would be significant overspray and we didn’t want to risk damaging anything.”

The EOA crew was outfitted with PPE consisting of full-face respirators, polypropylene coveralls, and boots. They also wore safety harnesses while operating a telescoping boom lift to get to the underside of the rotunda rotunda’s peak, which was 54 feet off the ground.

Pluchinsky said that utilizing a primer was not necessary for the foam application because a subcontracting crew had cleaned the roofdeck’s metal substrate with a degreaser solution to facilitate foam adhesion prior to EOA’s arrival.

“There was no oil residue on the surface and the substrate was completely dry before we began applying the foam,” said Pluchinsky.
With a Graco Fusion AP gun, the crew applied to the substrate 2.5 inches of InsulBlock, a 2 lb. closed-cell spray polyurethane foam formulated by NCFI. The crew applied one set of foam in two lifts.

“Spray foam provided a smooth, monolithic coat with zero gaps over an arched, corrugated surface,” said Pluchinsky. “This is just one of many examples in which spray polyurethane foam air-seals difficult structures and provides optimal insulation at the same time.”

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