Orlando International Airport Embarks on $4.1B Expansion
Experiential Expansion: Orlando International Airport Adds New South Terminal to Keep Up with the Growing Amount of Passengers
With increasing numbers of passengers passing through its gates, Orlando International Airport has embarked on a $4.1 billion capital expansion, including a new South Terminal estimated to cost $3.1 billion.
“We are growing, and we are close to capacity in the North Terminal complex,” says Phil Brown, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA). “We are already operating above the optimal capacity for the landside terminal and the four airside terminals in our North Terminal Complex.”
Orlando International Airport remains the busiest airport in Florida and one of the busiest in the country, with about 50 million annual passengers. It generates more than $41 billion in annual economic impact for the local economy, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
“We are blessed, because we are a world-recognized leisure destination,” Brown says. “Central Florida is also increasingly recognized for our business opportunities, particularly in technology and health. We have over 150 non-stop international and domestic destinations that provide efficient connectivity for business, as well as leisure travelers, and we are on course to increase that number.”
The North Terminal opened in 1981, with a goal of creating an airport for people and not airplanes. It was designed to handle 24 million passengers. GOAA has made multiple improvements to expand capacity.
However, the North Terminal lacks sufficient gates to meet the demand for airlines wanting to fly to and from Orlando, particularly discount air carriers, Brown says. With all of the new growth, GOAA decided to build a new terminal complex. The current 2.2-million-square-foot project includes the terminal and parking garage. The project will add 19 boarding piers, creating 27 aircraft positions. Some boarding piers feature multiple ramp positions. Additionally, there are remote stands that remain overnight, for cleaning and catering.
The airport has a robust small business participation program.
“We’ve worked hard on outreach and putting together a team of professionals that includes small businesses as well as large businesses,” Brown says.
Many members of the design and construction team praised the teamwork and collaboration.
“We are set up as a collaborative village,” says William G. Brooks, Senior Program Director for HNTB, Architect of Record on the South Terminal C. “Everyone is rowing in the same direction and as one team.”
Paul O’Donnell, Operations Manager for Hensel Phelps, adds that coordination meetings and an interproject scheduling tool has helped with collaboration, but most importantly, everyone has worked well together.
“An endeavor as large as the South Terminal has to have teamwork or it does not get executed properly,” Brown says. “HNTB has taken the vision and is making it workable.”
Orlando Experience and Innovation
“The Orlando experience is to provide passengers with an experience they would not get anywhere else, something emblematic of coming to Central Florida,” Brown said.
The North Terminal features palm trees, skylights and water features. The new South Terminal will include all of that with additional technology features.
“With the help of HNTB, we have brought it into the 21st century,” Brown says.
Screening at the Transportation Security Administration will go faster with additional lanes and updated technology.
The landside features “the Portal,” a large structure with LED video screens with photographs of Central Florida themes. In baggage claim, a wall that appears to be water but is in reality glass will create a beautiful and calming influence.
Cameras in an operation center will control taxing aircraft to the gate, with a docking system, rather than a person in the tower directing the airplanes’ ground movement.
The airside features the “Palm Court,” with palm trees and plants and electronic media features, with three video screens and camera system that will place passengers into Florida images. A glass atrium, with panels and infill glass panes between the panels, covers the area.
“Installation of the glass skylight went fabulously,” O’Donnell says. “We completed the glazing in about five weeks.’
Skylights also bring light into the landside terminal, along the arrivals hall. The airside also will feature “Windows on Orlando,” a 110 feet long and 27 feet high LED video screen covering one wall with images of Central Florida landscapes.
Several gates will be able to simultaneously handle international and domestic passenger arrivals, on the same boarding pier. International and domestic will stay on separate levels and corridors. Control systems were included in the design to allow this functionality.
“This will be the first gates in the United States to allow such arrivals,” reports JC Arteaga, the Architect of Record with HNTB.
International arrivals will pick up their bags once, rather than twice as in the North Terminal. All international flights will have facial recognition technology.
Vanderlande Industries, of The Netherlands, has designed and will install its high-speed TubTrax Individual Carrier System for baggage handling, the first such terminal-wide system in the United States. Each bag receives an RFID tag, which allows the luggage to be tracked. If a passenger does not get on the airplane, neither does his or her baggage. The system also enables baggage to be elevated to arrive on the top level of the terminal.
“It will be a much more efficient operation,” Brown says.
The new terminal fully integrates with an intercity Intermodal Terminal Facility, which will serve Brightline/Virgin Trains USA. A passenger bridge will connect the terminal and intermodal facility. An automated people mover, already constructed, will help passengers move between the two terminals.
“We started focusing on the human element of customer service,” Brown says. “We’re providing customers the ‘wow moment’ to reduce their anxiety.”
The airport authority selected two construction managers at risk, due to the magnitude of the program, Brooks explains. Turner Kiewit, a joint venture, is handling the landside terminal and Hensel Phelps the airside terminal. Both have offices at the airport.
More than 1,000 trade workers and 300 managers are on site. Finding and keeping enough skilled workers may present challenges, especially once workers need to pass higher security clearances than needed for the exterior work.
On the new terminal, 3 million cubic yards of dirt have been moved, 120,000 cubic yards of concrete and 9,000 tons of reinforcing steel have been placed, as have 17,000 structural steel pieces. The structural steel and concrete terminal sits on about 4,000 pilings. Vertical construction began in 2018.
“A real success story of the project is BIM and the coordination done in advance of ever going into the field,” O’Donnell says. “We’ve built the project virtually on the computer and now it’s a matter of executing it in the field.”
Due to the detail in the model, components have been prefabricated off site, including rough-in components and panels for the skylight, which improves quality and safety and helps minimize the on-site labor force needed in a community with multiple huge projects under way.
Hensel Phelps is using weekly laser scanning for reality capture and imports it into the model to show what work has been installed. The company also flies drones every two weeks to obtain aerial photography of the progress.
The design and construction teams are aiming for LEED v4 Campus Program for Existing Building and New Construction Campus status. Both campuses will make Orlando the first airport to achieve these benchmarks. Energy consumption will be 25 percent less than in traditional airports. A building management system, LED lighting, low-flow water fixtures, and use of refurbished materials will help the airport achieve that status, Arteaga explains. The South Terminal should open in 2022.
“This is the most exciting project in my career,” Brooks says. “We are blessed to have the resources in this community to pull this off in an organized and quality manner.”