Years of heavy traffic from forklifts, pallets, and more than eleven million conventioneers left New Orleans with $39.12 billion in economic impact, but also left the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s concrete exhibit hall floors scratched, pitted and scarred.
On the eve of the Convention Center’s upcoming 25th anniversary, the floors in Exhibit Halls D and E (comprising 231,000 sq.ft. of the building’s 1.1 million of exhibit hall space) have received a luxurious diamond polishing and their youthful glow has been restored. The floor makeover is part of a building-wide “facelift” that includes more than $12 million in improvements. Other improvements this year include a freshly painted exterior, landscaping, renovated ballrooms, 10-GIG internet upgrade, flat screen video monitors in lobbies, and digital signage and keycard access for all 140 meeting rooms.
The new high-gloss finish gives the floors the appearance of polished marble and provides a more finished look. The diamond polishing process used by the Convention Center, called RetroPlate Concrete Polishing System,TM delivers a highly abrasion resistant, dust-proof floor with increased impact resistance. In addition to being more aesthetically pleasing, the polished floors will reduce the Convention Center’s maintenance costs: according to Advanced Floor Products, creators of the RetroPlate Concrete Polishing System,TM concrete polishing has the lowest ten-year life cycle cost of any floor treatments including vinyl tile, carpet and deck paint.
The new surface also is more environmentally friendly. The diamond polishing process increases the floors’ light reflectivity by up to 30% — so overhead lighting can be reduced, resulting in an energy savings.
The concrete polishing company, TMAC, began their prep work by sealing off 257 utility floor boxes. Then, heavy-grit diamonds were used to remove a thin slice of the floor surface, to eliminate any existing finishes.
Next, metal bond diamonds were used to grind the floor to a smooth surface using increasingly finer diamond pads. The polishing process is actually “a lot more sophisticated than polishing your kitchen floors with ‘Mop-N-Glo’,” said Bryan Hayden, the Convention Center’s vice president of operations. “But afterwards, the maintenance is very simple – only a damp mop is needed to keep the floors in optimum condition.” Because diamond polishing leaves concrete floors more durable and much easier to maintain, no harsh chemicals are needed to keep it clean. No topical coating is applied, so the surface won’t peel, chip, or flake.
Hayden said that the polishing process is environmentally sound. “All materials used in the process are odorless, non-toxic, non-flammable, and ‘green.’ Even the water used in the cutting process is recycled. It’s a ‘wet’ process which doesn’t kick up any dust. TMAC collects the ‘slurry’ (the dust and the water), squeezes out the water, then compacts the dust into a cube for easy disposal. And, each grinder is only as loud as a vacuum cleaner,” added Hayden.
After the metal bond cuts, a densifier is applied to harden the concrete, increase its overall strength, and increase its resistance to scratching and breaking due to dropped pallets and heavy equipment. The densifier chemically bonds the surface of the concrete together and increases its impact strength by up to 21%. The final step in the process is to buff the floor surface to the desired sheen.
The entire process took ten days per exhibit hall. Next year, the Convention Center plans to tackle the remaining 769,000 sq. ft. of concrete floors. By 2011, all twelve halls in the facility, totaling 1.1 million sq.ft., will be polished to a sparkling sheen.
About the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
With 1.1 million square feet of contiguous exhibit space, an award winning staff and first class amenities, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is the sixth largest convention center in the nation and a consistent Top 10 host of the largest number of conventions and tradeshows annually. A leading rainmaker of the city’s hospitality industry, MCCNO event activity has produced $39.12 billion in economic impact since its 1985 opening, including $2.19 billion in new tax revenue.