Alternative Funding Facilitates New Terminal at MBS Intl

Mike Bernos
Published in: 

One of the nation's newest terminals - MBS International in Freeland, MI - began serving passengers in October, nearly a year earlier than anticipated.

The airport's previous terminal had become badly outdated, relates Airport Manager Jeff Nagel, AAE. "It was simply not sufficient to meet our future needs," he explains. "The decision was totally independent of passenger traffic."

The airport's HVAC, boarding bridges, electrical vault and other key components were on the verge of obsolescence, adds Nagel. A 2003 airport study by Peckham Engineering documented such shortcomings.


Project: New Terminal

Location: MBS Int'l Airport in Freeland, MI

Size: 75,000 sq. ft.

Cost: $54 million

Funding: $13 million in stimulus funds; state & local gov't grants; $5 million cash & in-kind donations from private entities

Architect: RS&H

Acoustic Consultant: Coffeen, Fricke & Associates

Airport Study: Peckham Engineering

Flight Information Display System: Infax

Related Projects: New entrance & in-bound roadways; passenger parking facility & revenue control system operated by Standard Parking; rental car & employee parking lots; ground run-up enclosure; expandable aircraft apron

Project Challenge: Scheduling 14 phases to coincide with available funding

Noteworthy Detail: Airport is owned by 3 municipalities but receives tax revenue from none of them.

After weighing the pros and cons of remodeling its existing facilities, the airport commission voted in 2006 to construct a new terminal on the north side of the airport. Although the project received partial funding in 2007, planning for the $54 million terminal didn't take off until the airport received $13 million of stimulus funds in 2008.

"Our objective was to provide a facility that could take this region into the next 40 years," Nagel recalls. MBS officials also focused on maintaining the convenience passengers were accustomed to in its previous single- story facility.

The airport's new 75,000-square-foot terminal opened at a very opportune time, he says. Deplanements at MBS increased from 134,189 in 2011 to 134,646 in 2012. With service from United Express and Delta Air Lines, Nagel says airport officials are confident that future capacity will hold steady.

Nagel is pleased with the terminal that architectural consultant RS&H created for the airport. "It is a great overall design and a vast improvement from the old facility," he notes. "It is much more welcoming, user-friendly and has been positively received by the traveling public."

Unpredictable Bankroll

In an unusual arrangement, MBS is owned by three different municipalities - Midland, Bay City, and Saginaw - but doesn't receive tax revenue from any of the communities whose initials form its name. "We are self-sufficient, except for the federal monies we receive for capital improvements," explains Nagel.

Mark Wilcer, RS&H project manager, considers the airport's new terminal a prime example of vision, patience and creative funding.

"The project delivery method required a great deal of flexibility to produce bid packages to meet the available funding levels," Wilcer relates. Capital for the project's 14 different phases came from multiple sources, including the FAA, state and local governments and private entities.

"When we first started the project in 2006, FAA funding was tight," he recalls, noting that the firm developed a flexible project schedule to allow for financial uncertainties. Detailed coordination meetings with the airport, tenants, funding agencies and contractors were key, he adds.

According to Wilcer, RS&H is especially adept at identifying opportunities for FAA funding, guiding airports' expectations and planning project frameworks, because it employs former FAA personnel.

At MBS, the firm suggested alternative funding sources that resulted in over $5 million of cash and in-kind contributions, he notes. "The monies we received in 2012 allowed us to open the terminal a year early," he adds.

"RS&H proved to be an excellent partner in this project," Nagel agrees, noting the firm's contributions from preliminary design work through funding and construction administration. "They were able to meet the challenges of this complex project and deliver a quality product and allow us to open early."

Along with the new terminal, the project included a new entrance and in-bound roadways, an 800-space passenger parking facility, complete with a new revenue control system, and parking areas for rental cars and employees.

New Terminal, New Look

Nagel considers the terminal's open design and wrap-around floor-to-ceiling glass windows that allow visitors to observe arriving and departing flights two of its most distinguishing features.

Designers incorporated wave-like clerestory windows facing north to maximize natural light, showcase the surrounding native landscaping materials and enable daylight harvesting, notes Martin Wander, RS&H's lead architect for the project.

"The result was a terminal that is energy-efficient, sustainable and adaptable," he explains.

Other project elements included an "architectural themed blast wall," with a block construct that matches the terminal and a new aircraft apron designed to accommodate six gated aircraft simultaneously.

"In today's ever-increasing competition to provide a cost-efficient operating environment for airlines and concessionaires, tenant spaces have been right-sized for efficiency, and the apron was designed to allow 'power out' operations and reduce airline staffing requirements," Wander relates. "The entire campus is designed for flexibility and future expansion."

As the home airport for Nexteer Automotive, Hemlock Semiconductor and several other multinational companies headquartered in the area, officials knew it was important for the new terminal to serve as an appropriate first impression and gateway. RS&H consequently incorporated a number of historic features and natural materials from the surrounding region. In a nod to the airport's military past, for instance, the Morse Code symbols for "MBS" are etched into the passenger exit lane and elsewhere throughout the building.

"Our architects design terminals that incorporate the signature of the community, not the firm," stresses Bill Sandifer, RS&H's national aviation director.

Audio Matters

Like many other airports, MBS strives to minimize the usual din of terminal and concourse noise while facilitating communication among passengers and airport personnel.

Coffeen, Fricke & Associates, an acoustics and audio/visual communications consultant, was hired to design the airport's paging system and optimize sound properties throughout the terminal.

Edouard Charland, the firm's vice president, notes that the open and airy nature of MBS' modern design creates more volume, which increases the need for greater sound absorption. Coffeen, Fricke & Associates' other recent airport projects include Terminal 3 at Las Vegas McCarran International and Terminal B at Sacramento International.

"We look at room acoustics - controlling the reverberation time, which is a function of absorption and volume of the space," he explains. "Usually, most of the absorption can be achieved in the ceiling. Thus, it is important to work with the architect to create a space that satisfies both the acoustical and aesthetic requirements."

The acoustic and audio/visual communications consulting firm strives to ensure that an airport's building envelope minimizes objectionable noise outside the terminal. Another regular focus is recommending interior partitions that will keep noisy operations from negatively affecting customers.

Once the acoustics are correct, Charland notes, his firm then designs the paging system by mapping the terminal's functional zones to determine appropriate loudspeaker types and strategic locations. Placing microphone paging stations at the necessary gates, ticketing lobby and baggage claim, and other locations is also important.

Accommodating Growth

Beyond the search for additional funding, the MBS project was also challenging because of the airport's need for expandable terminals - an increasingly popular trend in the industry, reports Wilcer.

"We design airports with the future in mind," he says, noting that MBS' terminal can grow by fully 50% without any major structural complications. The four passenger bridge locations, for example, can be increased to six without much difficulty, he relates.

The aircraft apron was designed to expand without intruding into the airfield, and primary infrastructure, water lines, sanitary sewers and storm drainage, can also serve greater capacity. Even nonstructural design elements such as the exterior glass wall will be easy to dismantle for future expansion, Wilcer adds.

"We projected 'what if' scenarios to plan for future needs: If storm water increases by 'x' percent, how would the systems handle it?" he explains.

Building on a Greenfield site eased such challenges by allowing planners to set aside space for subsequent growth.

"At MBS, we are able to look at the 'big picture' and plan with the future in mind," Wilcer concludes.


Featured Video

FREE Webinars

RFID technology for tracking baggage

RFID Baggage Solutions: Let's Talk About the Facts and the Best Way Forward

RECORDED: Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 at 10:00 am EDT

Use of RFID technology for tracking baggage has evolved steadily during the past four years, deployed system-wide by a major legacy US airline, adoption at more airports, and a resounding vote of confidence at the recent IATA AGM in June, 2019. RFID was selected as the ideal technology by the IATA membership for future bag tags because it has been demonstrated to improve read rates which lead to large reductions in baggage mishandling, thereby removing lost baggage and its associated costs.

This seminar sets the record straight regarding RFID bag tags. What's true, what's not true, what are the best ways to deploy the technology, and what components are necessary. These are the issues which deserve additional clarity, and the webinar panel will address the assumptions that have been in place for years, and leave the attendee with the facts.

Mark Summers from Avery Dennison and Tom Gebler from SICK, Inc. will tackle these questions and others in: RFID Baggage Solutions: Let's Talk About the Facts and the Best Way Forward.

View an archived version of this session in its entirety:

View full webinar:
RFID Baggage Solutions: Let's Talk About the Facts and the Best Way Forward - (MP4 video)

Listen as Podcast:
RFID Baggage Solutions: Let's Talk About the Facts and the Best Way Forward - (MP3 audio)

Featured Video

# # #

# # #