Concrete Rebuilds High School Destroyed by Katrina

Slidell, Louisiana, a suburb on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, was hit particularly hard by the winds and storm surge of Hurricane Katrina in the summer of 2005. The storm surge pushed over 8 feet of water through the area, all but demolishing Salmen High School.

Originally constructed in 1965, Salmen High, was the hardest hit school in the 52-school St. Tammany Parish district. The 20 buildings damaged by the hurricane encompassed a combined area of 153,984 square feet and contained multiple classrooms, administrative offices, a kitchen/cafeteria, restrooms and a gymnasium. The only building that survived was a new science building.

When Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA’s) assessment of the damage was complete, it showed more than 51 percent of the facility was destroyed beyond repair. Ultimately, it had to be demolished. Students, teachers and staff were devastated.

Even a year after Katrina, the school resembled a war zone and reeked from the smell of sewage, slimy silt and rotting animal corpses. School administrators vowed to rebuild Salmen High.

The vow to rebuild included a pledge to build a sustainable structure that could endure the harsh potential of Gulf Coast weather.

At the old school, the building would flood during heavy rains, so the first decision was to build the new school on a 14-foot elevation. At ground level, parking would be available and therefore a sound buffer was necessary.

normal_BSCO1_LA_SLIDELL_Salmen-High-School_058On the first floor, an insulating concrete form (ICF) system was chosen for its exceptional insulation benefits as well as for the additional sound reduction to the parking garages located under some of the buildings.

For the ICF floor, a 12-inch Quad-Deck floor system was built on concrete piers with an additional three inches of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam on top of the Quad-Deck to increase the beam depths for added load and span capacity.

Concrete precast panels were selected for the exterior of the building. Typical panelized foundations can be erected in four to five hours, without the need to place concrete on site. 

Combined with the Quad-Deck Floor and Roofing System, the result is a foundation that can be installed in any climate zone in one sixth of the time needed for a formed concrete wall. With plans to open the school in August, the project is on track to create a durable, sustainable and safe haven for over 500 students and over 50 teachers.