LAX Completes $723 MillionRenovation in March

Kathy Hamilton
Published in: 

International travelers arriving in Los Angeles expect a little pizzazz in the land of movie stars and endless beaches. But until recently, the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) greeted them with cramped spaces, dark and dingy corridors and outdated infrastructure.

Facts & Figures

Project: Terminal Renovation

Location: Tom Bradley International Terminal Los Angeles International Airport

Cost: $723 million

Owner: Los Angeles World Airports

Primary Contractor: Clark/McCarthy Joint Venture

Program/Construction Manager: Parsons

Design Architect & Architect of Record: LEO A DALY

Baggage Handling System: Siemens Infrastructure Logistics

Benefits: Improved aesthetics and customer experience; ability to accommodate A-380s; addition of environmentally sustainable features.

"An extreme case of deferred maintenance" is how LAX executive director Gina Marie Lindsey describes it.

"TBIT hadn't been touched since it was built for the Olympics in 1984, and the facilities had significantly deteriorated," explains Lindsey. "The time had come to spruce up and provide a real LA welcome for international passengers."

Funding capital improvements, she concedes, is easier when air traffic is up. But TBIT's long-deferred needs finally rose above current passenger trends. LAX hasn't seen its former double-digit growth for several years.

Although the multi-phase improvement plan includes flexibility for future growth, Lindsey emphasizes it is not a speculative project.

Billion-Dollar Production

The TBIT "spruce-up" represents the single largest construction project in LA history. Self-funded by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the plan includes $723 million of interior improvements slated for final completion in March followed by construction of a new $1.5 billion Bradley West core area.

Recently completed or pending improvements include a new baggage handling and inline screening system, two new gates capable of accommodating the mega-sized A380 aircraft, interior renovations and upgraded infrastructure.

The Bradley West phase, which began in February and is scheduled for completion in December 2012, will include 18 new gates. Existing concourses will be demolished and replaced, and a 100,000-square-foot piazza Lindsey envisions as a "neighborhood and gathering place" will be added. The piazza will include LA staples such as eateries, Rodeo Drive shops, ethnic neighborhoods, Hollywood glam, beach elements, art and possibly even entertainment. "When I call it 'the scene,' I really mean that," says Lindsey.

She'll know the piazza is a success when travelers are actually glad for flight delays.

Other scheduled improvements include an elevated walkway that provides international passengers with views of the now open, airy terminal. The walkway will also lead them past the piazza on their way to Customs - a marked improvement over the previous dingy underground tunnel, notes Lindsey.

Cast of Thousands

The task of completing $723 million of work in an international terminal that serves more than 10 million annual passengers required the cooperation and collaboration of dozens of stakeholders. Delivering it on time, on budget and with an excellent safety record further raised the stakes.

Lou Palandrani, project principal for primary contractor Clark/McCarthy, attributes the design-bid-build project's success to extraordinary teamwork. "None of the contractors could have pulled this off individually," says Palandrani. "With our collective resources, we were able to fulfill our ultimate responsibility, which was to provide the upgrades LAWA contracted for while keeping TBIT 100% operational."

Frank Clark, executive director of LAX's international airline consortium, recognizes and appreciates the team's efforts to accommodate the needs of TBIT's 29 airline tenants throughout the 3 1/2-year project. In particular, Clark praises the project management team and contractor for taking into account the peaks and valleys of the industry, including international holidays such as Chinese New Year.

"Through it all, the airlines were able to maintain full operations with nominal impact to their schedules, and in a completely safe manner," he reports.

According to Palandrani, the team replaced the international terminal's baggage handling system "without a hiccup."

Siemens Infrastructure Logistics was responsible for renovating the system, including the incorporation of 13 inline screening machines, new larger carousels, an early bag storage system, increased sort pier capacity and modern controls. Tim Little, Siemens Infrastructure Logistics program manager, explains the company's "divide and conquer" approach: "First we evaluate the existing system to discern the best way to divide the project into a number of work areas. We attack one area at a time - get it up and running before moving to the next."

Keith Mason

According to Mark Skjervem, Parsons project director for LAWA program/construction management, "over-communication" was key. As construction manager/program manager, Parsons held weekly stakeholder meetings. "During particularly difficult work phases, we had micro-phase meetings for the affected stakeholders, where we would determine precisely how to take over an operation or space, complete renovations and commission it," Skjervem recalls.

Completing the mega-construction project in an active terminal was a major challenge that required a carefully orchestrated phasing plan. For example, approximately every three months, one airline would temporarily move its ticketing operations to make way for construction. At the same time, another airline would return to renovated ticketing counters, where its staff would be trained on new, upgraded common-use equipment. Each airline was consequently affected only once.

Clark considers the information technology upgrades to be "state-of-the-art enhancements that will lead to a better experience for the traveling public."

Keith Mawson, corporate director of Aviation Programs for LEO A DALY, equates the TBIT construction to performing a heart transplant on a runner, while he's running.

Derek Bustos

As the architect of record, LEO A DALY provided architectural and structural design services for the entire project, which had been on the table since 1998. "One of the greatest difficulties was keeping consistent leadership of all parties throughout the project," says Derek Bustos, project architect in LEO A DALY's LA office. The original design was put on hold, re-evaluated and reworked to address security issues following 9/11, and design work began again in earnest in 2004. Construction on the first A380 gate, which was added to the project after the design was already in progress, began in 2005. Construction for the interior improvements and baggage system began in February 2007.

Mawson acknowledges that industry competition to receive the first domestic landing of a commercial A380 may have expedited construction of at least one of the A380 gates. In the end, Kennedy International Airport beat LAX by just 12 minutes. "I like to say that TBIT is the first on the West Coast," Bustos quips.

Striving for Silver

According to Mawson, the renovated TBIT may become the first aviation facility to qualify for a Silver LEED rating. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system rates construction on six elements: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation in design and regional priority. "Silver" is one level above the basic "certified" rating.

"It's been quite a challenge to transform an aging structure into a sterling example of sustainable construction without demolishing and rebuilding it," says Mawson. "We were limited as to where we could install new systems because we had to use the existing skeleton."

The renovation used materials with 70% recycled content where possible. Terrazzo floors, wall materials and carpeting all made the green grade. In addition, 70% of the demolition materials were either salvaged or recycled. Other environmental features include more efficient lighting, electrical controls and heating/air conditioning systems. "We were able to reduce electrical demand by 20% and water use by 20% to 30%," reports Mawson.

The Payoff

Airport visitors and airline tenants alike acknowledge the terminal's brighter, more expansive spaces, updated décor and upgraded facilities.

"We're very proud of the TBIT facelift," notes Lindsey. "Just wait until you see what's coming," she adds, alluding to the Bradley West expansion already in process.


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