Atlanta Int'l Premieres $1.4 Billion International Terminal

Jodi Richards
Published in: 

Expectations are high for the new international terminal that opened at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) on May 16.

"We want to become not only the gateway to Atlanta and the state of Georgia, we really want to be the gateway to the world," says ATL General Manager Louis Miller. "And the way to accomplish that is through this new international terminal complex, and continually getting carriers to serve here and expand their service. It opens up the economic opportunities for the greater Atlanta metropolitan area."

The new $1.4 billion, 1.2-million-square-foot Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal, Miller references is the latest portion of ATL's $6 billion capital improvement program, which also includes an extension of the airport's automated people mover, additional parking structures, road work, airfield paving and new highway signage. The completed project creates a new 40-gate international terminal complex, making it one of the largest in the country and providing for growth well into the future, and expands the airport's current total gate total to 210.

The move also adds additional domestic capacity for the airport, Miller notes. Previously, when gates on Concourse E were full, some of the international departures spilled over into other concourses. Eight additional security checkpoint lanes for international arrivals bring the total TSA checkpoint lanes to 40, which aids the overall screening process as well.

Poised for Growth

Last year, more than 10% of ATL's 92.5+ million passengers was international traffic, Miller reports. And the airport expects that figure to increase - especially as the economy recovers. The new terminal, he adds, will equip ATL to meet that growing demand.


Project: New International Terminal

Location: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Int'l Airport

Terminal & Concourse Size:
1.2 million sq. ft.

Gates: 12

Cost: $1.4 billion

Original Budget: $1.7 million

Overall Capital Improvement Program Elements: New Int'l Terminal, Hold Baggage Screening Rooms, Runway 10/28, Rental Car Center, People Mover Extension, Associated Roadwork & Parking Facilities

Capital Improvement Program Cost:
$6 billion

Program Mgt. for Capital Improvement Program: Int'l Aviation Consultants, an LLC of PTG, URS, Rosser Int'l, Turner Associates & H.J. Russell

Design of Terminal Bldg., Concourse F, People Mover Tunnel Extension & New Parking Structure: Atlanta Gateway Designers, a joint venture between Gresham, Smith & Partners, Duckett Design Group

Terminal Architectural Design, Planning & Programming: Corgan Associates

Design of New Park-Ride Parking Structure, Commercial Vehicle Hold Lot & Elevated Roadway System: Ascend, a joint venture of Atkins, Prime Engineering, Delon Hampton & Associates, Street Smarts

Design of Ground-level Roadway System, Apron Paving & Light, Fuel Systems: AIS, a joint venture of Pond & Co., LPA Group & Long Engineering

Interstate Signage Design: Hartsfield-Jackson Transportation Group, a joint venture of Jacobs Engineering Group, Edwards & Kelcey, BenchMark Management LLC

Construction Mgt. for Terminal: Holder, Manhattan, C.D. Moody, Hunt joint venture

Construction & Installation of Interstate Signage: C.W. Matthews Contracting Co.

Automated People Mover Extension: Bombardier

Check-In Baggage Scales: Rice Lake Aviation Scales

Baggage System Belt Curves: Transnorm

Signage & Wayfinding: Infax

Geotechnical Engineering for Terminal: ATC Associates

Low Voltage Special Systems Design: Big Sky

Architectural Design for Connector: Brown Design Group

Airside Civil Engineering:
Burns & McDonnell

Baggage Handling System Design: CAGE

Waterproofing Consultant:
Construction Moisture Consulting

Surveying: Corporate Environmental Risk Management, Patterson & Dewar Engineers

Curtainwall Consultants: Curtainwall Design & Consulting, Heitmann & Associates

Architectural Lighting Design:
Domingo Gonzales Associates

Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing & Fire Protection Engineering for Parking Structure: Engineering Design Technologies

Door Hardware Consulting: Erbschloe Consulting Services, Ingersoll Rand Security

Structural Engineer for Connector: Harrington Engineers

Scheduling & Estimating: Hill Int'l

Concessions Consulting: ICF Int'l

Structural Engineering for Terminal: KSi/Structural Engineers

Automated People Mover Design & Consulting: Lea+Elliott

Vertical Transportation Consulting: Lerch Bates

Interior Design for Terminal: LeVino Jones Medical Interiors

Specifications Writing: Marshall & Company Architects

Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing & Fire Protection Engineering for Terminal: Neil Engineering

Architectural Design for Parking Structure: Paul Cheeks Architects, LLC

Code Consultant: Rolf Jensen & Associates

Commissioning: Sebesta Blomberg

Structural Engineering for Concourse E & Connector: Stanley D. Lindsay & Associates

Structural Engineering for Parking Structure: Sykes Consulting

Architectural Design for Concourse E & Connector: The Architecture Group

Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing & Fire Protection Engineering for Terminal: Thompson Company, Simulation & Modeling TransSolutions, LLC

Geotechnical Engineering for Parking Structure: Willmer Engineering

Advertising & Wayfinding Signs: Four Winds Interactive

55-inch Displays: NEC Display Solutions

Passenger Boarding Bridges: JBT

Terminal F Conveyor Removal & Reinstallation, FIS Equipment; Terminal E Sortation Project: Vanderlande Industries

Entrance/Exit, Parking Garage, Airside Ramp Info & Baggage Handling Displays; Taxi Hold Lot & Curbside Signs: Daktronics

Delta Airlines Kiosks: SITA

Conveyor & Conveyor Motors for Baggage System, Control System: WEBB

ATL currently provides nonstop service to about 56 markets in 40 different countries, as well as nonstop service to 155 domestic markets. With 80% of the U.S. population located within a two-hour flight from Atlanta, ATL is positioned to continue serving as a hub for airlines like Delta and Southwest, while also growing the opportunity for international traffic as well, Miller explains.

The airport has an estimated economic impact on the region of $32 billion and directly employs approximately 58,000 people.

Miller, who arrived less than two years ago when the new facility was about 50% complete, is pleased with the overall project and its success. "It took a huge cooperative effort with all of the airlines, the TSA, Customs and Border Protection, all of our concessionaires and everybody at the airport to make this happen," he notes.

Mike Williams, ATL's assistant director for the international terminal project, explains that shortly after the airport's most current master plan was approved in 1999, planning started on various concepts for a new terminal building. The current project design began in September 2006, and deep foundation work began in July 2008.

Prior to that, around 2003-04, the airport completed a series of enabling projects, such as relocating older facilities and bringing in roughly 2.7 million cubic yards of fill.

Efficiency & Customer Convenience

The majority of construction management for the international terminal complex was provided under a construction manager at risk agreement with the joint venture of Holder, Manhattan, C.D. Moody, Hunt. A joint venture of Gresham Smith & Partners (GS&P) and Duckett Design Group provided architecture and engineering services for the new facility and its associated short-term parking structure.

Not only was the new terminal built to prepare ATL for additional growth, it was also designed to improve efficiencies and provide a better overall passenger experience, notes GS&P Project Manager Tom Hellwig. "Hartsfield is known for its efficiency," Hellwig explains. "They recognized they had inefficiencies in their current terminal that could be solved with a new terminal."

GS&P has had an on-call contract with the city of Atlanta since May 2003 and was assigned to the international terminal project in September 2006.

"[The airport] really wanted something that properly represented Atlanta," adds Al Pramuk, GS&P's executive VP, aviation. ATL's new international terminal provides a higher level of customer service through improved efficiencies, new concessions and improved comfort features, he explains.

The major issue with the design of the previous facility was that arriving international passengers were saddled with an inefficient, extensive and confusing check and re-check process, Hellwig explains. Such passengers would deplane, pick up their checked luggage and go through customs, and then return their luggage to the airline, which would recheck it before sending it down to the main terminal where passengers could reclaim it.

The former system, notes Miller, could add 45 minutes to an hour to the international arrival process. "That's all gone now," he says. "As soon as the destination passenger to Atlanta is through customs and immigration, they go out the front door and they're finished." The new procedure speeds up the process for everybody, he adds.

Intuitive Design

Williams describes the design of the terminal as simple and clean, with subtle exterior and interior architectural curves to provide the feeling of flight.

Functionally, the building is all about intuitive wayfinding, specifies Hellwig. "You always have a sense of where you are and where you're going," he says. From the parking garage, passengers can see to the curbside. Inside the ticketing hall, a high, curved ceiling and angled ticketing counters direct ticketed travelers toward the security checkpoint, which features a glass wall looking onto the airfield.

After clearing the security checkpoint, travelers are led into the transition hall, an open, two-story space with a curved ceiling. The large space includes two gates to the right, ten to the left and a giant window with views of Concourse E. "If you're one of the people headed there, you can see how far away it is and which direction you're headed," Hellwig explains. "People do better with a sense of intuitive wayfinding - they have a sense of where they are, where they're going and how long it's going to take them to get there."

Before passengers reach the holdrooms, there's an open area, with cushioned seating, a large planter and a collection of retail shops. The mezzanine level above includes the airline clubs and a food court with a sit-down restaurant, tapas bar and Starbucks, among others. "It's really set up so that the whole atrium could be an area where you could spend some time and comfortably wait for your flight," he adds.

According to Hellwig, the terminal project included 54 acres of apron paving. The terminal building itself contains 56,000 cubic yards of concrete, 19,000 tons of reinforcing steel and more than 4,000 tons of structural steel. On the airside alone, the building is clad with 140,000 square feet of metal panels and about 100,000 square feet of glass. The terminal interior is equipped with almost five miles of baggage conveyor, more than 500 miles of data cables, 900+ doors, 40 staircases, 27 elevators and 21 escalators.

Silvery Green

The Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal was also built with sustainability in mind, per Atlanta's policy that all new construction pursue Silver certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). "The city and the airport are committed to sustainability and doing the right things for the environment," notes Williams, adding that green design and LEED elements enhance the efficiency of building operation and maintenance.

Inside the terminal, passengers will notice items such as low water use fixtures and waterless urinals, but there are also many unseen items that add to the terminal's sustainability, relates Hellwig. A large cistern on the lower level of the building collects rainwater from the roof and slowly meters it into the drainage system to avoid overtaxing the surrounding system.

There were also several instances when the design team worked to preserve the "spirit of LEED" even when elements would not qualify for LEED points, he adds. For example, the terminal has abundant natural daylight on the upper floors, but designers could not daylight 50% of the building - per USGBC guidelines - because half the building is underground.

"We couldn't meet that requirement," Hellwig explains, "but we put in as much daylight as we could." Even the underground two-story passport control area includes daylighting, he notes: "The third level is aboveground, so we were able to put some clear story in there and actually brought some daylight to an underground space ... it makes it a little less like you're underground."

ATL submitted its design for LEED certification at the end of 2009 and is preparing to submit the construction phase this summer.

Getting There

New highway signage was a major aspect of ATL's international terminal project. The airport partnered closely with the Georgia Department of Transportation to execute a $9 million highway signage project that directs travelers to the domestic terminal via I-85 and the international terminal via I-75.

More than 100 locations received new sign panels or signs along the interstate, notes Williams. The airport coordinated with state personnel to ensure that the new signs were in place and ready for unveiling the morning of May 16.

Dig That!

According to Williams, the most challenging aspect of the project was extending the automated people mover from Concourse E to Concourse F. The train system, which previously stopped at the center point of Concourse E, had to be extended underneath one wing of Concourse E as well as under the taxiway and airfield. "It was quite challenging to design and construct," he relates.

The tunnel also includes a passenger walkway and baggage tunnel with two high-speed belts running in each direction between concourses E and F. Ten new vehicles were procured to support the extension, and an auxiliary maintenance and storage facility was added.

Lea+Elliott provided design and consulting support for many aspects of the automated people mover extension, including support system planning, facility design and integration, and overseeing the installation, testing and commissioning of new elements.

The airfield portion of the extension project involved an open-cut tunnel design. A north-south taxiway - the main avenue to move planes across the airfield - was temporarily closed to allow the construction of the tunnel as an open cut.

Fortunately, work underneath Concourse E didn't require the airport to close the concourse. A few gates were reconfigured to remain in service, but all others remained fully operational, Williams notes.

The underground work required sensitive monitoring equipment to ensure no settling occurred while crews were constructing the tunnel. Williams says the airport has experience with other underground work, but not to this extent. "This was definitely the most unique," he relates. "There were actually pits that had to be dug by hand to support the existing foundations and (crews) put in some additional foundation structure to support that building as they were digging underneath." Transfer beams then picked up the load from the existing column and transferred it to new columns.

"Quite a bit of structural gymnastics was required," Hellwig notes. To make it even trickier, several columns were in the path of the automated people mover extension, so the loads also had to be distributed to other supports. "It was quite a challenge from the engineering side," he recalls.

Challenges aside, the underground tunnels were not exempt from the aesthetic standards established for the new terminal. Designers made the tunnels feel and appear more open with lighting and a cloud-like curved ceiling structure. "It doesn't fool you into thinking you're not underground, but it gives the feeling of daylight above you," Hellwig explains. Artwork decorates the corridors to offer visual appeal as passengers move through the walkway.

According to Williams, the roadway system project provided special challenges because it was rebuilt from a service road used by the technical operations center for Delta, the FAA tower and cargo facilities. During roadway system construction, the team scheduled work involving lane closures and other disruptions around shift changes. "All of those folks were still trying to get to work while we were rebuilding the roadway system," he notes.

Budget Changes

Another challenge came when the project budget was reduced mid-construction, Pramuk recalls. "All the parties stepped up to the challenge of making some significant value engineering changes and still maintaining the project schedule to be open on time," he notes. "It was a collaborative effort between the Department of Aviation, contractor, program manager, architects and engineers."

Once the airlines and Department of Aviation agreed that the cost of the facility needed to be reduced, teams were established to evaluate all aspects of the project, explains Williams. "Over an eight-week period, we evaluated all of the different things that could be done to maintain the passenger experience, the functionality of the facility and not compromise the operation, but yet deliver a project that was within the cost parameters," he relates.

With input from the design and construction teams as well as the Department of Aviation, the budget reduction was managed as a "subproject within the project," Williams recalls. "Of course, we didn't want to lose a lot of time on the overall schedule, because the facility really was needed for the spring of 2012," he adds.

The building was roughly 70% designed when the budget was cut, Pramuk explains, and much of the construction had already begun as well. "Our challenge there was to come up with ideas and save what was a really large percentage of the project that late in the game," he says.

Changes to Atlanta Gateway Designers' portion of the project amounted to about $100 million, estimates Hellwig. They included swapping thinset tiles for terrazzo flooring, a change to the material of a glass canopy at the front of the building and modifications to the mechanical and electrical systems.

In the end, the new international terminal with an original project budget of $1.7 billion came in at $1.4 billion.



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