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ENR Dubs HOK-Designed Canopies “Crown Jewel of Atlanta Airport Upgrade”

Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport Canopy
Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport Aerial Night

As part of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s capital improvement program, HOK is leading the joint venture team for improving the airport’s domestic passenger terminal.

Excerpted from ENR:

When completed in 2020, 3,500 tons of intricately shaped steel will soar over eight lanes of traffic on the northern and southern sides of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Clad in a synthetic, translucent material, the pair of canopies will both protect passengers from the elements while also creating an iconic gateway for the city of Atlanta.

A HOK-led joint venture team for the terminal modernization developed a range of options, with HOK architects and engineers working in collaboration, says Ripley Rasmus, HOK senior design principal. “We fell in love with the proposal for a protective enclosure that would create shelter and make a kind of primary space for the airport.”

Matt Breidenthal, HOK regional leader of engineering, says using an in-house suite of software tools helped speed up design and increase owner and contractor confidence. “These are parametric software programs we coded ourselves, paired with geometry and engineering analysis and an evolutionary algorithm on top of that,” he says. “The technology leverages virtual and augmented reality, using those not just as ways to show off but to inform construction decisions.”

One crucial decision was to let the existing terminal support the trusses. “The trusses are shaped to optimize for constant radius. They have to go that high for car access and to get the bridges over, and to land on the terminal. Landing on the terminal is the most important aspect,” says Breidenthal. “A lot of versions provided new canopies but introduced a new line of vertical framing along the face of the terminal. That had an impact on operations and costs.”

Using the software tools, “right off the bat we knew we could drop the foundation work in half,” says Breidenthal. “The design tools helped us determine this within days, not weeks. That wasn’t possible even a few years ago.”

“Now the owner could eliminate the columns, drop this big structure onto the existing building and eliminate any obstructions to passenger views and access,” says Rasmus. “We were able to have a conversation about the functional aspects of this thing and the aesthetic values we wanted to obtain while optimizing the actual weight and size of the structure.”

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