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HOK’s Aviation + Transportation Leaders Talk Sustainable and Resilient Airport Design

LaGuardia Airport Terminal B HOK

Green Building and Design Magazine interviewed Robert Chicas and Sean Quinn about sustainable design strategies for Sea-Tac’s new Concourse D Annex and LaGuardia Airport’s New Terminal B.

Excerpted from Green Building and Design:

Airport terminals are likely not the place you’d imagine going to feel calm, but that was a primary goal for Sean QuinnHOK’s regional sustainable design leader for the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Concourse D Annex. Sustainable airport design is quite different from designing a relatively sedentary home or office space, as airport terminals generally see 30,000 to 50,000 people per day. For Quinn, creating a sustainable building for such a large volume of visitors means far more than just building a sound structure. “It’s about creating a calming environment that’s a good experience for both the seasoned traveler getting on their fifth flight of the week and the nervous traveler who has never flown before,” he says.

The 32,400-sq.-ft. Concourse D Annex opens six new terminal gates at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Quinn’s specialty is in performance design or, as he explains, “the integration of science into the design process.” His role in Sea-Tac’s Concourse D Annex project covers the general sustainable management of the project, which ensures Sea-Tac’s LEED certification goals are met and also maintains a close collaboration with HOK’s architectural team.

The Annex is expected to relieve peak airport congestion while highlighting the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Quinn’s sustainable design strategies include everything from the shaping of the roof to handle wind loads and air intake to a daylighting system that not only lights the terminal but also the building’s interior plants. Quinn worked in close coordination with HOK’s structural engineers to advance the building’s superstructure from that of a typical airport to a hybrid timber and steel system. The innovative design uses a glue-laminated (glulam) timber truss system that crosses over the roof of the building and connects to steel columns.

The new Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport.

But it’s not just Sea-Tac pushing the limits of modern airport design. In December 2018, LaGuardia Airport opened the first 11 gates in its new Terminal B concourse. The concourse is more than 1.3 million square feet and is the first stage in a multi-phase construction plan for an airport overhaul. The renovated Queens airport, which sees 30 million passengers a year, will enhance the passenger experience and achieve impressive LEED certification.

“LaGuardia Airport’s New Terminal B is designed to achieve a minimum of LEED Silver certification and is one of just a few airports of its scale to seek the more stringent LEED v4 distinction,” says Robert Chicas, director of aviation and transportation at HOK. “Sustainable design strategies focus on ensuring optimal building orientation, providing flexibility for change, using natural and locally sourced materials, and making the terminal resilient to major storm events by placing critical systems above flood levels.”

The design plan also includes an operation to reach 80% greenhouse gas reduction by 2050, an overhaul on LGA’s baggage handling system that will use magnetic motors to save at least 37% of energy compared to traditional baggage carousels, and new EPA plumbing fixtures to achieve a 42% reduction in potable water use.

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