Can you expand meeting area without actually adding new square footage? The Walter E. Washington Convention Center did just that by using 17 Skyfold Classic vertically folding acoustic retractable systems to capture 48,000 square feet of new flexible meeting space within the original building’s footprint. 


"They turned unrentable space into rentable space". - Byron Howard, Senior Project Manager at Forrester Construction


At this DC convention center, a retrofit renovation was the ideal alternative to a costly scheme to build an expansion across the street where estimates came in at many times the convention center’s final budget. The secret to their success? Making two large registration areas convertible as part-time meeting rooms with Skyfold vertical folding retractable walls, a gain of about 20,000 square feet each. 

“We saved millions of dollars by retrofitting within our existing center instead of building new, additional meeting space,” says Gregory O’Dell, President and CEO of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority (WCSA). “This also improves our ability to host larger simultaneous or overlapping events.” 


The Skyfold installation was part of the conversion of offices into meeting spaces outfitted with custom carpeting, upgraded lighting, and state-of-the-art electrical and sound systems. Al Gooden, Principal at Group Goetz Architects (GGA) calls it “building repositioning.” 

John Collins, Vice President of Facility Operations for the Washington Convention Center explains the repositioning as a response to the feedback from their exhibitors: “A lot of groups, such as medical associations, want more breakout and meeting space, and they are willing to pay more to get it.” According to Collins, with the repositioning “our customers have more square footage that can be better utilized.”

The convention center now has 198,000 square feet of meeting space and more than 75,000 square feet of exhibition and ballroom area. “It’s like having twice as much space, and our customers sometimes come up with new ideas on how to use the facility,” says Peter Shogren, Deputy Director for Facility Operations. 


Collins was already familiar space management solutions from his years in the hospitality industry, but horizontal sliding walls took up premium floor space and were difficult to manually operate.  Skyfold’s turn-key operation and overhead storage space were an easier solution with a better space savings. 

“The Skyfold walls actually have better acoustical properties than the conventional [operable] walls,” explains GGA Project Designer Amber Kwasniewski, “because it’s 11 inches thick with an air chamber and acoustical panels on both sides.” 


For Gooden, flexible space with Skyfold allowed for the convention center to reinvent itself: “For this massive endeavor, Skyfold gave us the opportunity to create a much more flexible interior to appeal to a whole new genre of conventioneers.” 

But at the heart of its appeal is the added functionality Skyfold provided. “The great thing about this project was that they turned unrentable space into rentable space,” says Forrester Construction’s Senior Project Manager, Byron Howard, adding that Skyfold is uniquely suited to today’s retrofit situations.


Location: Washington, DC
Architects: Group Goetz Architects
Local Supplier: Modern Door & Equipment Sales
GC: Forrester Construction Group
Model: 17 Classic™ 51
Wall Finish: Fabric, Metal, and Wood Veneer
Installation: January 2010