Duluth Terminal Takes Off

Duluth International Airport’s new $78 million terminal was more than a decade in the making. But the new terminal’s wow factor makes it well worth the wait


Werner adds, “This was a 10-year process, design plus construction — a big project.” Given the airport’s small staff of 21, they decided it best to hire a consulting firm with experience in erecting commercial buildings to manage the project. They ultimately decided upon Kraus-Anderson Construction, a Minn.-based firm with more than a century of experience managing commercial construction. “Kraus-Anderson’s Mike Dosan, the senior project manager, was with us day to day, handling the construction plus the administrative hoops,” Werner says.

“One of the best things we did was hire Kraus-Anderson (in nearby Bemidji),” says Ryks. “I didn’t have the staff for a project — we had an airport that we had to keep running. [Kraus-Anderson] ensured that we got good bid prices.”

Also key to the project’s success was keeping the FAA involved and informed, from the start. “In Minneapolis, Chicago, and D.C., they were up to date. They understood our frustrations; and they were very helpful in keeping this program rolling along,” Ryks says.

Beyond Borders

All of DLH’s international flights are unscheduled; the airport’s “international” segment is on-demand. And, the old terminal’s international space was unworkable.

The airport’s new international space utilizes flexible floor planning to meet fluctuating international demand, an idea that came from Minneapolis International Airport (MSP). Ryks was connecting through MSP and noticed “they had walls that dropped from the ceiling, for those times when there were [international] flights. That’s when I got the idea [of flexible space].”

The entire terminal now handles domestic passengers and reserves a gate on the end, to serve as a part-time international/customs facility. With the remodel, this section can be partitioned with a metal curtain for international arrivals. “This positions us well to airlines’ international requirements,” Werner says.

John E. Hippchen, project engineer and architect at Reynolds, Smith and Hills Inc., a national facilities, infrastructure, and aviation consulting firm, says, “The new terminal is roughly the same square footage as the old, but much more efficient. The federal inspection station was separate; now, it’s behind movable partition walls, so that when there is no international flight, we can use the space for normal operations. The international baggage carousel is also thus available.”

Going Green

The Reynolds, Smith & Hills-designed terminal is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified because of the green features it incorporates. “We embraced ‘green’ construction,” says Werner. “We’re LEED Silver certified. We looked at a lot of long-lasting innovations.”

The goal, however, wasn’t necessarily to be “green,” though that certainly is a nice benefit. The goal was to make as much use of everything available naturally. During construction, they used regionally made products and recycled materials as much as possible and 75 percent of the construction waste was diverted from the landfill.

To create a geothermal heating and cooling system, crews drilled 80 wells, 500 feet deep and 10 inches in diameter into a geothermal water table, where water is 54 degrees Fahrenheit and thus can be used for both heating and cooling. The $5.2 million geothermal system is predicted to save the airport $30,000 in annual utility costs. But it is unknown at this point what the actual savings will be since the system has only been in use since January.

“Using natural thermal resources frees up money we can use to improve the customer experience,” says Werner. “The geothermal system will handle the entire cooling load in the summer, and ‘a significant portion’ of winter’s heat load.”

A 40-foot window facade in front allows natural light to flood the area, which reduces the airport’s power requirements for artificial lighting. Heated walkways also save money by lessening the need for snow removal and reducing the potential for slips and fall accidents, says Ryks.

Parking Headaches

According to Hippchen, the new build was “challenging because of the location of the terminal — we needed the new parking before we could start building the terminal; and we had to maintain full access during construction. Phasing the construction and maintaining convenience for passengers was a bit of a logistical challenge.”

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