Eighty-five million travelers annually, plus 55,000 employees adds up to extreme wear and tear for flooring. As one of the world's busiest airports, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is designed to accommodate the needs of its guests, while still standing up to the excessive abuse its interior spaces must endure. With rolling and walking traffic coming in and out of nearly 180 gates, electric carts, endless spills and dirt, this space requires commercial carpet that brings a whole new meaning to the word "durability."
In 1996, Atlanta's airport went to great lengths to put its best foot forward for its Centennial Olympic Games visitors. As part of the airport makeover, the carpet in most of the concourses was replaced. It went from a basic, drab gray carpet to a custom-made blue design created by Milliken. The carpet's Comfort Plus® Cushioned Backing, which is made with polyurethane technology from The Dow Chemical Company, helps boost the flooring's appearance and durability. Even with such extreme usage, the old carpet lasted about 11 years. When it came time to select the new carpet, the choice once again was Milliken with the cushioned backing made with DOW™ ENHANCER™ Technology.
"We needed a carpet that would be very durable and provide extended lifecycles," said Kevin Walls, principal architect, City of Atlanta — Department of Aviation. "So we selected a heavy, 26 ounce modular carpet with a quality cushioned backing system. This carpet, especially its pattern, is designed to help hide spills, and the polyurethane backing was chosen over other options due to its durability."
With approximately 50,000 yards of carpet, this project was a huge investment for the airport, so it needed to last. "If you get 11 years out of your carpet, rather than five, you double the return on your investment," said Donald Hooper, Milliken aviation market manager. "That's a high expectation for such an extraordinarily busy environment, but one we knew we could help achieve by offering a high-performance carpet and backing."
The cushioned polyurethane backing system, made with DOW™ ENHANCER™ Technology, helps the carpet withstand high traffic, while providing sound absorption and comfort underfoot. ENHANCER™ Technology creates a distinct molecular structure, forming a polymeric bond between the primary and secondary backing. The result is a unified composite material that helps improve the performance of carpet.
Especially with the emergence of longer security wait times, the cushioned support of backing made with ENHANCER™ Technology offers exceptional comfort for weary travelers' tired feet. It helps reduce heel-strike force and leg muscle response, two prime causes of standing and walking fatigue. This is a key benefit not only for passengers, but also for airport employees who are on their feet for long periods of time.
With so much hustle and bustle, the Atlanta airport is also an extremely noisy environment — it's a cacophony of conversations, cell phones, intercom announcements, televisions and beeping electric carts. The carpet's cushioned backing helps reduce ambient noise by absorbing the sounds of foot traffic and airborne noise.
The cushioned backing system is also made to absorb the wear and tear dealt to the face of the carpet. "This backing is like the shock absorbers on a car," said Hooper. "Imagine riding in a car without shock absorbers - you'd feel every bump and dip in the road, and it would take a major toll on the vehicle."
The cushioned backing contributes to the carpet's improved appearance retention. Polyurethane helps the carpet and backing to absorb the pounding motion of foot traffic and support the weight of furniture, without bottoming out. Plus, its strong adhesion properties allow the carpet yarn to maximize the tuft bind for the life of the carpet. This helps minimize edge ravel, disfiguring snags and pulls, and pilling and fuzzing. It also reduces the likelihood of delamination, a common problem in settings like the airport where heavy rolling traffic is commonplace. Especially effective for the airport's high traffic areas including gate entrances and concourse walkways, the backing system is designed to reduce pile crushing and matting over time.
To further extend the appearance and life of the carpet, the backing system allows for easy and effective cleaning. When cleaning machines vibrate on the cushioned backing, it helps loosen dirt. Plus, the functional liquid barrier in the backing system helps impede spills and dirt from penetrating the subfloor and allows for aggressive maintenance programs, including hot water extraction.
With its advanced performance and design attributes, this carpet is right in step with the Hartsfield-Jackson Development Program. To maintain the airport's global leadership role, this 10-year program's goal is to modernize and expand the airport facilities to accommodate current and future traffic, which is projected to increase to about 121 million passengers by the year 2015. With an emphasis on high quality and functionality, both the airport and its carpet are set to keep pace with the ever-increasing demand for air travel.