Hensel Phelps/CBIC JV – Houston Hobby International Terminal Project

When Southwest Airlines completes the new Houston Hobby International Terminal, including five gates and a new Federal Inspection Services (FIS) facility, in late 2015, both international and domestic fliers will have something to celebrate.

The project includes a two-story building with five “swing gates,” able to direct passengers arriving from outside of the United States to a new FIS facility for U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the first floor. These specially designed gates can also accommodate domestic arrivals by steering passengers to the appropriate area. 

Other features of the $156 million terminal will include a renovated lobby; an additional 16,000 square feet for concessions; an expanded and reconfigured security screening checkpoint; relocation of several Houston Airport System offices; and a new wing for Southwest Airlines ticketing that passengers will access from a new $55 million parking garage the Houston Airport System is building next to the terminal.

“To help passengers move easily from the existing terminal to the new international terminal, we have created a secure corridor from the existing gates to the new gates,” Project Manager Denise McElroy points out. Construction of the two-story, 280,000-square-foot international terminal began last September and is scheduled for completion in October 2015. Designed by lead architect Corgan Associates using building information modeling software, the terminal expansion is primarily concrete and steel.

Joint Venture

The construction manager at risk for the Houston Hobby Airport International Terminal Project is a joint venture of Hensel Phelps and CBIC, which teamed up before pursuing the project. “We have a very strong interest in doing as much business in Houston as we can on this project,” McElroy says. “Hensel Phelps has a Houston office and a solid background in aviation construction. Southwest also has experience with them through our Love Field Modernization Project that we are just wrapping up in Dallas.

“CBIC is a Houston company with a lot of experience working at Houston Intercontinental and Houston Hobby,” she continues. “Hensel Phelps and CBIC teamed together to go after this project. When we interviewed them, they were a very strong team with the right experience and local and regional connections that we knew would combine to make this project a great success. It was truly a quality-based selection.

“We anticipate this project will generate 400 full-time jobs directly for the duration of the project,” McElroy continues. A 2012 study commissioned by the Houston Airport System indicated that the new terminal and resulting competition to near-international destinations would generate more than 10,000 jobs across the Greater Houston metropolitan area. 

 “We are adhering to the ‘Hire Houston First’ program when bidding the work for this project,” she says. “These jobs will primarily go to Houston firms or firms that meet the ‘Hire Houston First’ criteria. In fact, a vast majority of companies working with us on the project are locally-owned.”

Eighty percent of the joint venture’s management team is Hensel Phelps employees and 20 percent is CBIC employees. Southwest Airlines has set specific project goals to create opportunities for minority, women-owned and small business enterprises. For the design portion of the project, the goal is 25 percent participation by minority and women-owned business enterprises, and for the construction portion of the project, the goal is for 25 percent participation by minority and women-owned business enterprises and 3 percent by small businesses. “We are currently on track to meet those goals,” McElroy declares.

Multiple Projects

The new international terminal is being built on a site that was mostly vacant except for a small building on it used by Houston Airport System, the Transportation Security Administration and the Houston Police Department. Four feet of select fill was put down to prepare the site. The new terminal expansion will require approximately 200 auger cast-in-place piles, 75 feet deep. 

“There’s a lot of clay in the soil here and a lot of water,” McElroy says. “We have a dewatering system that runs around the clock because the water table is so high here. Houston is quite close to sea level.”

An additional challenge are the multiple projects occurring simultaneously at and around Hobby Airport. “The airport has other projects going on adjacent to this one,” McElroy points out. “They are building a new garage and reworking the roadway around that garage and a new satellite utility plant immediately adjacent to our project. We are working closely with the Houston Airport System to coordinate our efforts and build a new terminal that fits seamlessly with their designs.”

The new international terminal will flow into the existing lobby of Hobby Airport. As the new terminal is being built, a temporary wall separates the existing terminal from the active construction site. “It’s always a challenge when you work at an airport to keep the operation going while you work in and around the construction,” McElroy concedes. “There will be a time when we can take the wall down, and reveal the brand new facility.” 

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