From Realtà Mapei n° 34 - 10/4/2021

Renovating an Icon

MAPEI helps enhance breathtaking view from world-famous building
Overview: The sleek art deco silhouette of the Empire State Building is unmistakable in New York City’s internationally recognized skyline. At the time of its completion in 1931, the Empire State Building was the world’s tallest skyscraper reaching 102 stories and 1,454 feet (443 m), which includes the spire and the antenna. Among the building’s most striking features are the observatories on the 86th and 102nd floors. It is from the 102nd floor that visitors have access to a newly renovated, floor-to-ceiling observation deck that provides a 360-degree view of Manhattan, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and beyond. MAPEI’s waterproofing products, grouts, mortars and sealant helped complete the deck renovation.

New York City’s Empire State Building attracts more than 4 million visitors a year. It is currently the 4th tallest building in New York City, the 6th tallest in the United States and the 43rd tallest in the world. However, it may well be one of the most, if not the most, famous building in the world. Featured in movies, books, songs – the skyscraper has become emblematic of New York City – joining the Statue of Liberty and a “Big Apple” as an instant identifier of place. And, it is no wonder because from the building’s 102nd-floor observation deck, the city spreads out below in a vast scene of bustle and opportunity. It is a breathtaking panorama unlike any other.

To reach this uppermost deck, visitors journey to the top by way of custom-made, state-of-the-art glass elevators with stops along the way. Each distinctive stop features lobbies full of immersive and historic experiences, including a museum gallery documenting the history of the building and its use in films such as “King Kong,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Spiderman” and many others. You travel through time and history as you travel upwards. Millions of visitors have been drawn to the Empire State Building through the years. And, all of those guests had taken a toll. A bit world-weary and worn, the icon needed a refresher.

The job of bringing the landmark 102nd-floor observation deck into the 21st century was awarded to a leading New York City-based construction company, Navillus. Experts in renovation, Navillus had been using another setting material for years, but by 2019 had converted to using MAPEI products for its superstructure projects.


MAPEI on the job

The biggest challenge that the contractor’s crew faced on the project was establishing a method for transporting all the necessary materials to the 102nd floor from the first floor. There is no direct elevator from the ground to the 102nd floor because there are five distinct levels within the building; therefore, the crews had to rely on a different strategy to stage the jobsite. A relay system – consisting of multiple crews riding separate elevators in order to bring the materials to the 102nd floor – was eventually used.

Because the observation deck is a high-traffic area, a suitable tile and stone installation was specified to provide a durable, long-lasting floor.

Modified Mortar Bed was chosen for its exceptional bond strength as well as for the fact that it is pre-blended, which meant no jobsite blending of powders or any additional additives to worry about mixing. Ultraflex LFT mortar was used for the large-and-heavy-tile installation.

To grout the intricate compass-design tile, Ultracolor Plus FA was used for its rapid-setting ability and the added benefit of color consistency, stain resistance and nonshrinking characteristics. Mapesil T 100%-silicone sealant was then used to complete the flooring installation.

For several months, crews worked in a suspended “cocoon” – a circular scaffolding structure – in order to complete the work without impacting guests visiting the 86th-floor observation deck. That’s right. Although the very top of the building was closed, visitors were still able to look out at the world-famous view – just from a slightly lower vantage point. After all, this is New York City, the “City That Never Sleeps,” and there is no sleeping on this view.

The 102nd-floor renovation, however, is now completed. The observation deck is open to the public, and safety measures are in place due to COVID-19 restrictions. MAPEI is proud to have been a part of this project at one of the world’s most renowned and distinguished buildings. The next time you visit the Empire State Building, don’t forget to look down at the floor while you are looking out. We happen to think that both views are pretty spectacular.


Technical data

Empire State Building Observation Deck (102nd floor) – New York City, NY, USA
Year of renovation construction: 2019
Year of MAPEI involvement: 2019
MAPEI coordinator: Darin Shocker
Project owner: Empire State Realty Trust
General contractor: Navillus
Installer: Navillus
Project manager: Kate Clancy
Photographer: Virtual360NY
Challenges: Crews had to bring materials up to the 102nd floor in elevators, stopping on five floors along the way on each trip. Although the 102nd floor was closed off, the building itself and the elevators remained open to the public during the renovation.
Where MAPEI products were used: Premixed and tenaciously strong, Modified Mortar Bed was used throughout to install tiles. Ultraflex LFT mortar was used for large and heavy tiles. Ultracolor Plus FA grout was chosen, especially for use on an intricate compass design, due to its nonshrinking, color-consistent and rapid-setting characteristics. Mapesil T was used to seal the joints on the entire floor.

Products mentioned in the article

Mapesil T
Mapesil T
100%-Silicone Sealant for Heavy Traffic and Movement Joints Mapesil T is a professional-grade, 100%-silicone sealant for use on multiple…
Modified Mortar Bed
Modified Mortar Bed
Polymer-Modified Thick-Bed and Render Mortar Modified Mortar Bed is a pre-blended, cement-based, polymer-modified thick-bed and render…
Ultracolor Plus FA
Ultracolor Plus FA
Rapid-Setting, “All-in-One” Grout Replacement for Sanded and Unsanded Grouts Ultracolor Plus FA with DropEffect™…
Ultraflex LFT
Ultraflex LFT
Premium, Large-and-Heavy-Tile Mortar with Polymer Ultraflex LFT is a premium, non-sag, large-and-heavy-tile mortar and thin-set mortar…

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