Trends In Facility Design

May 28, 2012
From planning for technology to keeping sustainability top-of-mind, airport terminal structures are evolving into environmentally responsible travel and information hubs

Jonathan Massey, principle at Corgan Associates, is an aviation architect and planner with more than 19 years of experience in the development and production of aviation-related facilities. His range of project experience includes airport master planning, passenger terminal planning and design, and airport/airline support facility design and operational planning.

In addition to terminal design, Massey has worked extensively in the area of terminal modernization, renovation, and expansion in active operational environments; he holds two degrees in architecture and is LEED-Accredited.

Recent projects include the new new 19-gate concourse and Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport (SMF) and a terminal renovation at Dallas Love Field (DAL)

At Sacramento, unique features included a replacement terminal, a significant rework of roadways, an impact on operations, and the addition of a people-mover system. There were significant operational implementation challenges, relates Massey. A LEED-Silver certified project, a primary goal at SMF was to create a distinct sense of place to evoke a particular regional feel. To that end, Corgan incorporated regional materials into the building design, such as reclaimed Redwood.

At Dallas Love Field, which was actually Corgan’s first terminal project in 1958, and currently home of Southwest Airlines, the project involved a partial tear-down of three existing concourses and the rebuilding of a single concourse, and heavy renovation of the terminal building.

Planned to be a LEED-Silver structure, the Love Field facility was designed with several sustainable elements in mind, says Massey. Corgan sourced wood locally, and with regard to the energy model, much effort was put into the energy management function of the facilities.

The BIM Advantage

In terms of passenger flow and simulation modeling, Massey says the technology to present a true graphical representation of terminal interior models, and how passengers use the facility has gotten much better in recent years. "Simulation modeling is a tried and true tool we continue to use," he comments.

The real advantage these days relates to BIM (building information modeling), says Massey. BIM allows building drawings and specifications to be modeled and reviewed in three dimensions.

"We’ve found that BIM has been extremely helpful in terminal buildings from a conflict resolution standpoint," he adds. "In the past, many things had to be resolved in the field … now that we use BIM — and the many designers and engineers can put all of their drawings in 3-D — we can do that conflict-resolution in a conference room on a screen before construction happens.

"This allows us to see where problems may exist before we get to that point in construction; it drives costs down and makes the process go along much easier."

BIM has also changed how architects, engineers, and contractors work together by requiring more communication between stakeholders, explains Massey. 

The construction procurement method can have a significant impact over how the modeling and coordination process goes, he says. "We have done a lot of projects where the client brings on a construction manager during design — we have found that to be very beneficial. We believe in overlap with the contractor and the design team is a good thing.

"In general, the best way to implement the terminal is to have the same set of eyes follow the process from planning all the way to opening day — that ensures the best continuity and execution of the original ideas."

Planning For Technology

The evolution of the technology industry has certainly had an effect on airport terminal buildings, relates Massey.

He remarks, "At Love Field, when we started to tear into the building and renovate it, we went into the basement and found ‘spaghetti’ of conduits and wires … everything from copper that had been there for 30 years to new fiber that somebody put in last year.

"Nothing was labeled and it was all going everywhere. There’s all different types of wiring that can be difficult to manage over the years because they are put in by different entities at different times."

The good thing is the industry is getting to a point where everything is pretty much fiber optics, and everybody rides on the fiber-backbone, says Massey. "Airports can now provide that backbone and manage it just as it provides the roadway out front of the facility.

"It’s easier now because it’s mostly fiber … most airports are getting to the point where they have management and staff that support that fiber backbone."

The challenge today is designing the facilities in a way that the technology is easily accessible, and not in the way of something that might need to be done to the physical infrastructure of the building in the future, explains Massey.

"There are a couple of very technology-intensive areas like ticketing halls and security checkpoints where everything needs an IP (internet protocol) address — it needs to be an adaptable network that you can get to and manage," he comments.

"Particularly in the ticketing halls, there are certain layouts of equipment that you can reasonably expect in many facilities. We try to create right-of-ways beneath the floor that correspond to those equipment ‘zones’. 

"The biggest thing we have found we can do with regard to IT is try to be as preemptive as we can about defining the logical locations for future needs, and then reserving those spaces."

Massey says Corgan typically includes a technology consultant as part of the design team. The consultant designs the IT backbone and the security system; what Massey's calls 'low-voltage' systems.

Defining Space; Wayfinding

The ticketing halls are getting to be a third of the size they used to be, relates Massey. "Probably within the next ten years I would think the ticketing hall size will reach equilibrium where it has become right-sized and where the baggage function will be the area’s primary function."

The security checkpoing is one of the most difficult parts of the building to deal with, says Massey. "The best practices that we’ve found is to provide flexible infrastructure below the floor — you have to be able to get to the floor below the checkpoint so it is easier to run cable and move outlets as the equipment layouts change," he adds.

"Another trend at the checkpoint is to put ‘soft’ space on either side. By soft space, I mean offices or elements that can be relocated and moved around in case the checkpoint needs to be expanded."

The intuitive wayfinding concept is an architectural idea, explains Massey. "Particularly, it is related to the departures process, and it goes to the level of service.

"What you want the building to do is make the departures process for a passenger as simple and stress-free as possible ... that is done by creating space that tells people what to do next with the intelligent use of light and volume.

"Tall ceilings, bright lights, and clear views in the direction we want people to go; that’s the basic premise of intuitive wayfinding."

Concessions; Retail

Most everything is post-security these days, except in places where there are larger meet and greet markets, says Massey.

He remarks, "Concessions are getting more and more important; concessions planners are telling us they need more space. The airport is using the concessions program as part of the branding of the airport and its region; we are doing a lot to integrate local flavor into the facility with regard to the retail and concession vendors."


Corgan has many LEED-accredited professionals in the practice, says Massey. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a system meant to get designers and owners thinking sustainably, he continues.

"Many of the terminal projects have been certified LEED-Silver; that seems to be the appropriate level for airports that utilize LEED guidance," comments Massey.

"We spend a lot of time analyzing the passenger population over time so we can determine the heat load, and right-size all of the systems in order to optimize the energy-saving potential of the building’s various operational systems."

Looking for opportunistic innovation with regard to sustainability has paid off for Corgan, explains Massey. For example, the company reused Redwood from an old bridge for the Sacramento project.

In Dallas, Corgan found a natural underground spring — an ongoing problem for the airport and keeping its basement dry. "We saw it as an opportunity," says Massey. "We captured the water and used it for the building’s cooling systems."

"We like looking for unique aspects of different projects, and capitalizing on them in a sustainable way."

With regard to building materials in general, "In recent years, we have gone away from the exposed steel structures in big spaces; it has gotten expensive in the past several years," says Massey.

"In terms of exterior materials, the metals and glasses have been pretty tried and true. Probably what's evolving most is glass material. Glass is becoming more energy efficient and you can do a lot with patterns and design."

Future Trends

"The biggest area of change will be landside facilities such as the ticket hall, the roadways, and the parking garage … those are in a rapid state of development," remarks Massey. "How you get people and baggage out of cars and through security qucikly and efficiently is an area ripe for immense innovation in the next 10-20 years."

About the Author

Brad McAllister | Editor