Dulles Aims for World-Class Status With Expansion of Int'l Arrivals Building

Nicole Nelson
Published in: 

Metropolitain Washington Airports Authority

While traffic at most U.S. airports has generally declined, Washington Dulles International Airport has seen a continuing increase in international traffic - including significant gains throughout the recession.

Today, more than one quarter of passengers at Dulles is traveling in or out on international flights, reports Chris Browne, the airport's manager and vice president. With about 27% international traffic, Dulles ranks with New York's John F. Kennedy Airport and Miami International for international traffic, he adds.

"It provides our region with a very robust international connectivity and service," says Browne.

Several years ago, he notes, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) foresaw the need to help accommodate growing international airline activity and moved quickly to expand Dulles' International Arrivals Building (IAB). In 1991, it opened a new state-of-the-art facility to serve the airport's annual 1.4 million international passengers. By the end of 2007, international traffic had increased to 6 million passengers per year.

Facts & Figures

Project: International Arrivals Building Expansion

Airport: Washington Dulles International Airport

Airport Authority: Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

Phase I: $77 million expansion of arrivals hall & primary inspection positions

Phase II: Expansion of baggage claim hall & facilities

Phase III: Baggage claim device replacement & restroom renovations

Design Team

Lead Architect: PGAL - Pierce Goodwin Alexander & Linville

Baggage Handling System Design Subcontractor: BNP Associates

Civil Engineering Design Subcontractor: Urban Engineers

Structural Engineering Design Subcontractor: Ammann & Whitney Consulting Engineers, PC

Mechanical & Plumbing Engineering Design Subcontractor: Burns Engineering

Local Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Subcontractors

Structural Engineering Design: Woods-Peacock Engineering Consultants

Electrical Engineering Design: HC Yu and Associates

Fire Protection Engineering Design: The Protection Engineering Group, PC

Signage & Graphics Design: Apple Designs

Cost Estimating Services Design: Construction Consultants

Special Systems Design for Telecom, Security & PA Systems: Big Sky

Architecture Specification Design Support: Heller & Metzger, PC

Construction Team

Program Manager: Parsons Management Consultants

Construction Contractor: Clark Construction Group, LLC

Baggage Handling System Contractor: Siemens Industry

Mechanical & Plumbing Subcontractor: Joshua Construction

Electrical Subcontractor: M.C. Dean

Civil Sitework & Excavating Subcontractor:Atlantic Construction & Material Company

Building Steel Manufacturer & Erector Subcontractor: Straight Steel and E.E. Marr Erectors

Interior Building Finishes Subcontractor: Manganaro Mid-Atlantic, LLC

Passenger Information System Team

Systems Integrator: International Display Systems

LEDs: Daktronics


Mounts: Peerless

Audio Amps & Video Distribution: Extron

Speakers: Tannoy

Plenum Boxes: Nigel B Design

Digital Video Media Players: Alcorn-McBride

The current three-phase expansion will effectively double the overall physical size of the IAB to meet current demand and the future growth that MWAA projects will continue in the years ahead.

First of All

The $77 million Phase I, which opened to the public last September, is the first part of the facility seen and experienced by arriving passengers.

"It is very much the entrance mat or doorstep to Dulles for these passengers, because they will have just gotten off an aircraft and proceeded onto one of our mobile lounges that move them directly to this building," Browne explains. "It is an upgraded building aesthetically, and in appearance it is very inviting."

Architect of record PGAL was tasked with extruding the west end of the original IAB. To do so, the building was moved slightly southwest and the mobile lounge dock system was reconfigured to remain subservient to the main terminal's iconic architecture, which was originally designed by Eero Saarinen. The strategy was not only a show of design respect; a memorandum of agreement between the airports authority and the state preservation office required it. PGAL was, however, allowed to raise the portion of the building that was moved beyond the south end of the main terminal to two stories.

"The two-story structure really opened up that whole sense of being compressed after a long flight from another country," explains PGAL project manager Dennis Comiskey. "Now, the mobile lounge picks up international arrivals from other concourses or directly from their aircraft, depending on where they are parking, then brings them to the facility. The passengers walk into the IAB on the mezzanine level and basically become acclimated to where they are and understand how and where they are supposed to go. The biggest part of the design is giving the passengers a sense of arrival and making the facility more intuitive as well as increasing the capacity."

PGAL did more than design the exterior of the building not to compete with the Saarinen main terminal, Comiskey notes. Inside, a large curtain wall system highlights the historic architecture as passengers arrive at the expanded IAB and travel down one of its three escalators.

"It is a very open and inviting space, and once you get down these escalators, you have a very large area where Customs and Border Protection will differentiate between arriving U.S. passengers and non-U.S. passengers, or those passengers processing through Global Entry," Browne explains.

The previous facility's 19,800-square-foot queuing area for CBP processing was almost insufficient, recalls Browne. It's now more than twice as large, with 41,400 square feet of space. The facility also has 50 primary inspection agent positions, vs. its former 38. New information counters and larger new restrooms add the kind of aesthetics passengers expect at a "world-class international airport," Browne says.


Phase II, slated for completion later this year, will nearly double the baggage claim presentation area. Twenty-four additional skylights, each 16 feet square, will be installed to add a sense of openness to the facility.

As passengers exit the primary inspection area, they will collect their bags off of new, larger baggage carousels that have been sized to accommodate loads from the A-380s Air France is expected to bring to Dulles next spring. Expanding the linear length of the carousels, Browne explains, will alleviate the buildup of passengers, sometimes three to four people deep, waiting to collect their bags.

Siemens will provide four new carousels with an updated slope plate design and stainless-steel finish. Two will be 147 feet long; two will be 107 feet long. All are 23 feet wide. "The carousels will be powered by energy-efficient electric motors," notes Siemens project manager Matthew Caruso. "Additionally, all four carousels will be fed by an all-new energy-efficient Siemens baggage handling conveyor system, almost a quarter of a mile in length."


The third and final phase will begin when Phase II opens in late 2010, and will update the current legacy baggage carousels with larger new baggage carousels, again providing greater linear length. When Phase III is complete in late 2011, Siemens will have installed a new line for odd and oversized items as well as six new inclined plate claim carousels with associated remote feeds.

The two Phase III carousels will be 35 feet wide and 130 feet long. A new line to deliver odd-sized items to the carousel level will have a 5-foot-wide conveying surface clad in stainless steel to mimic the carousels.

"At the end of this process, we will have greatly expanded our baggage delivery system," Browne summarizes. "Our goal with several of our key signature projects, the IAB expansion among them, is to have elements that project Dulles into the realm of what I consider to be world-class airports. Dulles is the kind of international facility people expect when traveling through major cities across the globe."

Designers included a window wall where passengers disembark Dulles’ mobile lounges to open the space and help provide them with a “sense of place” in relation to the ramp and tower outside.


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