Blue Grass Airport Builds New Equipment Storage/Maintenance Facility

Mike Schwanz
Published in: 

Getting a new facility approved, funded and built is typically a daunting task. But every now and then, things just seem to fall into place. That was the case for Mark Day, director of engineering and maintenance at Blue Grass Airport (LEX). 

After working out of an old, cramped building for years, Day and his crew recently rode the wave of progress at the Kentucky airport into a new facility that is twice the size of their previous space.     

Project: Equipment Storage/Maintenance Facility
Location: Blue Grass Airport — Lexington, KY
Annual Passenger Volume: 1.2 million
Annual Operations: 29,000
Facility Size: 63,000 sq. ft. 
Total Budget: $15.5 million 
Design & Construction Administration: $2.1 million 
Funding: FAA (89%); airport’s capital improvement budget (11%)
Consulting Firm: WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff
Portable Truck Lifts: Rotary
Key Benefits: More total space; increased efficiency for vehicle storage & maintenance; roomier office & sleeping quarters for staff; increased equipment storage

Building a new facility to store and maintain maintenance vehicles near the main runway was a preliminary step LEX needed to take before crews could begin taxiway enhancements detailed in the airport’s 2013 master plan. The taxiway program was needed to bolster operational safety and improve the efficiency of aircraft movement, and the airport’s existing Maintenance/Snow Removal Equipment Complex and Public Safety Building were literally standing in the way. In order to realign the airport’s main taxiway from the terminal area to the primary runway, engineers had to relocate both facilities. 

For Day, this was a boon. “Our staff was working out of an outdated, small maintenance building, and to meet future operational needs, the airport really needed a much larger, more efficient facility,” he explains. “Relocating this facility was a priority, since the other steps in the master plan depended on our old maintenance facility being torn down, and a new one [being built] at a different site.”

Planners located the new maintenance building on the south central portion of the property, approximately 1,000 feet from the main runway (R-22).

Since it was paramount to get this project done first, Day had no trouble securing funds for a new facility, which is rare at most airports. Fully 89% of the $15.5 million project was funded by the FAA, while the rest of the money came from the airport’s capital improvement budget. 

Once the budget was approved in mid-2013, Day and his staff started the planning process. “Prior to hiring a consulting firm, several members of my staff and I visited other airports to learn about best practices in some recently constructed maintenance buildings. That allowed us to take advantage of some lessons learned by others,” Day notes.

Building Scope & Site Selection
Additional square footage quickly rose to the top of everyone’s most wanted list. “We needed a much larger space than we had, and room to safely park and maneuver all of our snowplows, pickup trucks, mowers and other maintenance vehicles,” explains Day. “We also needed a distinct garage area with lifts for vehicle maintenance.” 

During the programming phase of the project, LEX personnel detailed requirements for warehouse space and loading dock capabilities. They also outlined needs for offices and staff support areas such as kitchen facilities and sleeping quarters for crews during sustained snowstorms. 

In fall 2013, Day and his staff began reviewing proposals from several engineering consulting firms. By late September, they selected WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff as the primary consultant, which teamed with local partners such as Hanson Professional Services to tackle the work. WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff provided project management, construction administration, architecture, mechanical/electrical/plumbing engineering, and quality oversight services. Collectively, the full team delivered the remaining services: civil engineering, geotechnical engineering, commissioning and material testing.

One of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s first major responsibilities was validating the location for the new building, which was specified in LEX’s master plan. “We had to make sure it was in the best possible location on the property, with easy access to the airfield,” relates Jennifer Kuchinski, senior project manager for the engineering consultant. 

The airport’s topography — rolling hills with karst (limestone), underground caverns and sinkholes — made the job a challenging one. “Considering these subterranean features and their potential to drive costs skyward, our team located the most likely high point of rock using traditional soils borings, as well as geophysical mapping, to pick the bottom of our building platform,” Kuchinski explains. 

In early 2014, the firm worked with Day’s staff to publicize bidding opportunities for the project to the contracting community. Companies from as far as Michigan responded, and a primary contractor was selected in May 2014. That is when the project experienced a slight snag. “Unfortunately, the project was delayed a few months waiting for the release of funds from the FAA,” she informs. “We finally got the green light that fall, and started construction in November.”

Once work began, a construction manager and inspection personnel from WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff remained onsite throughout the process. “The airport had an engineer dedicated to overseeing the construction process as well, which streamlined decision-making and contributed significantly in keeping the project on schedule,” notes Kuchinski, who also visited the site regularly.

“We had some normal winter weather delays,” she recalls, “but once the outside structure and roof were up and sealed, it went fairly quickly.” 

Crews finished construction in October 2015, which gave Day and his staff time to move in, get settled and perform maintenance on snow removal vehicles before winter began. “We are very pleased with the building, and it has made everything we do much more efficient,” he reports. “We can comfortably park all of our snow equipment, mowers, pickup trucks, and have two stationary lifts where we can raise all of our vehicles. Portable lifts are used to raise the biggest plows and the fire trucks.”

Other amenities include a vehicle wash bay, more office space, five dorm rooms with sleeping space for up to 12 people, and a fully equipped kitchen. Areas for specialty trades such as welding, carpentry and painting were relocated; and a smaller building adjacent to the main maintenance building is dedicated to storage. 

“Our expanded loading dock has really helped,” Day comments. “We receive everything here for the whole airport: office supplies, restroom supplies, HVAC units, ceiling tiles — you name it. We now have enough storage space to accommodate the variety of materials that it takes to maintain the terminal and airfield.”

If he had to do it all over again, Day would make only one minor change: “I think we did a lot of things right, but I wish we had used 3-D modeling during the design process. This would have helped us better determine how spaces came together, and how rooms were oriented.” 

Thankful to have the turmoil of planning, constructing and moving into a new building behind him, Day looks forward to the new facility meeting the airport’s needs for at least 20 years.

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