Calgary Airport Authority

The city of Calgary has undergone some significant changes over the last few decades; an ever-growing population, continued business and tourism growth and recognition as well as a burgeoning arts and culture scene. Another one of those changes has been continued growth in travelers who pass through Calgary International Airport (YYC). More than 15.2 million people came through the airport in 2014, whether making their way to and from the city or choosing Calgary as their connecting hub as they make their way to their next destination. This has made Calgary the third-busiest airport in Canada.

Many of those passengers used YYC as a hub to a number of the airport’s growing international destinations. The need for capacity inspired the airport to make the most sweeping changes in its history, expanding its facilities to better accommodate the surge of passengers it has experienced as well as prepare it for the growth in activity it sees in the future. 

To realize its vision for the future of YYC, The Calgary Airport Authority, which operates Calgary International Airport, embarked on the largest expansion project in its history – the Airport Development Program. This program includes the Runway Development Project (RDP) which saw construction of a new runway, Canada’s longest at 14,000 feet, which went into service in 2014. It also encompasses an International Facilities Project (IFP), which will add a new International Terminal and infrastructure connecting to the existing terminal, which will open in the fall of 2016. For the design and construction of the project the Authority enlisted the help of designers such as Dialog, and firms such as Read Jones Christoffersen, EllisDon and many more. With decades of experience in civil and transportation projects throughout the country, EllisDon, as the construction manager, has brought a mix of experience and capabilities to the expansion project at YYC – a project which will help cement Calgary’s place as a vital transportation hub in North America. 

The new terminal – as well as the new runway that accompanies it as part of the same program – was necessitated by the airport’s substantial growth in recent years. According to The Calgary Airport Authority, YYC has doubled in passenger volume since 1995, which made it necessary for the airport to undertake the more than $2 billion expansion. Marco Mejia, The Calgary Airport Authority’s vice president of planning and engineering, says the airport’s existing terminals were built in 1976, and had been stretched to accommodate the growth in passenger traffic. “We were at capacity,” Mejia says. 

Not only has the number of passengers coming through YYC increased over the years, but the needs and expectations of airline passengers and how passengers are moved through an airport terminal has evolved, as well. The new building is expected to provide passengers with the latest in passenger screening and processing features and amenities with a focus on creating a seamless and comfortable passenger experience.

Mejia says the expansion will support continued growth and success for the airport’s airline partners as well. 

Greater Efficiency

Measuring nearly 2 million square feet, YYC’s new International Terminal will more than double the size of the airport terminal facilities once it opens in late 2016, addressing the airport’s projected capacity needs for many years to come. The new terminal includes two new concourses and will feature 22 new gates for international and transborder flights to and from the United States. Once the new terminal is open, YYC’s existing terminal facilities will be configured to focus on accommodating domestic flights. 

Great emphasis has been put on ensuring that the revamped facility helps passengers make their connections as efficiently as possible. More than a third of travelers who utilize the airport are connecting passengers, and the new International Terminal has been designed to improve the experience for passengers traveling between Canada and the U.S. or overseas making connections in Calgary. 

“We need to be efficient in the way we’re connecting passengers,” Mejia explains. “And as an important connecting hub, we’ve built a number of features into the new terminal to support that efficiency.”

A major component of the International Facilities Project is the construction of a secure connections corridor that will move passengers between the existing terminal and the new International Terminal. Passengers will have three options for traveling between the two buildings – walking, utilizing moving walkways or taking the new Compact Transit System that shuttles between the terminals. 

The Compact Transit System features electric vehicles that can transport up to 10 passengers at a time. The new corridor, along with new connection processes, will allow passengers to move to their connecting flights without leaving the secure area of the terminal or having to pick up and recheck their luggage. The terminal will also feature more than 50 new retail and dining locations all centralized in two departure areas, which equates to more a more relaxing and convenient shopping and dining experience. “It’s going to be a spectacular experience for everyone in the new facility,” Mejia says. 

Unique Elements

The Calgary Airport Authority has worked with EllisDon for many years, starting with a project at YYC in 1992. EllisDon Project Director Marvin Messner says the company has been working in various capacities at the airport ever since, and adds that the company’s expertise in construction management projects of the size and scope of the new International Terminal makes it the best fit for the project. 

EllisDon’s previous work with The Calgary Airport Authority and the unique requirements of an aviation facility have been critical for construction the International Facilities Project, Messner says, especially considering many of the unique and sustainable elements of the project. 

The building’s sustainability aspirations are most evident in its exteriors, which feature triple-glazed curtainwall and double-façade walls on its south side. The double-wall façade incorporates internal venetian blinds to deflect away sunlight and help maintain the building’s internal temperature without climate control. The building also utilizes primarily radiant heating systems, with 581 geothermal wells drilled for the project. Additionally, large cisterns make it possible to collect and recycle more than 800,000 liters of rainwater each year.

Coming Together

Although undertaking such an enormous and complex project in proximity to an operating runway on one side and a functioning airport terminal on the other is challenging, the work at YYC has gone smoothly. By splitting the work into sections with dedicated teams working on each section, the project has been able to stay ahead of the demanding schedule.

As of November, crews were hard at work preparing the new International Terminal for its intended opening in late 2016. Once the new terminal opens to travelers, Mejia says, Calgary’s status as a major North American transportation hub should remain secured for the long-term. 

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