U.S airports serve more than two million passengers every day and congestion is growing. 24 of the top 30 major airports may soon experience, “Thanksgiving-peak traffic volume,” at least one day every week. And, while the aviation industry is marked by technological advancements in aircraft, on-the-ground the associated infrastructure is not keeping up. With a federally mandated cap on how much airports can charge passengers for facility expansion and renovation, airports struggle to keep up with investment needs, creating a $42 billion funding gap between 2016 and 2025.
In its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) graded the nation’s aviation infrastructure as a “D.” The report finds that “…progress at the nation’s airports and in the air traffic control system is slow, as investment has been consistently lagging in the past 18 years, unable to keep up with demands of increased traffic and new technologies.”
Infrastructure woes aside, much of the challenges in streamlining airport expansion and supporting critical facilities management can be achieved with Building Information Modeling (BIM). One such use case is Denver International Airport’s airport expansion which primed a push towards BIM for facility management.
BIM Breaks the Back of Denver International Airport’s Infrastructure Woes
One of the nation’s largest airports in terms of square miles (53 total) and the fifth busiest in the U.S., Denver International Airport (DIA) has a lot of assets to manage and maintain. Mark Hughes, BIM Manager at AECOM for DIA explained, “53 million passengers pass through the airport on a yearly basis, and about half of those passengers are origination/destination passengers, which means they’re coming and going from the airport. That’s a lot of wear and tear on roads and infrastructure.”
DIA’s move towards BIM was spurred by the Denver Hotel and Transit Center Program, an ambitious project that combines a commuter rail transit center and a 519-room Westin hotel to create a new gateway to the main terminal that incorporates sustainability goals. The BIM process employed for the design and construction of the Hotel and Transit Center Program at DIA is a unique and forward thinking effort that kicks off an even more ambitious airport-wide BIM conversion that will greatly improve ongoing facility management and maintenance.
Airport projects pose unique challenges given the need for added security, the need to report precise building location for the oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the need to minimize inconvenience to travelers. DIA’s BIM model-based approach aids a faster construction pace with coordinated project timelines and impressive collaboration around a central model, but this project is just the start for the airport’s broader vision.
The airport expansion with the Hotel and Transit center provided a great test project for a fully integrated BIM effort. Both the airport and program-based BIM managers and design and construction teams worked together to aggregate and integrate the model with other core systems.
BIM as Strategy
DIA is now nearing 20 years in age which means the facility has increasing maintenance needs. Noting the benefits of BIM on the Hotel and Transit Center Program, DIA moved to implement BIM for use in the day-to-day asset management of the entire airport facility. When fully implemented, DIA hopes the BIM system will make maintenance of the airport infrastructure more efficient, which in turn saves time and money, and improves quality.
“For DIA, it was really about reducing redundancy and carrying the building model throughout the whole lifecycle of the project,” said Eddy Krygiel, AIA, LEED AP, Director of Design Technology, HNTB (who compiled the virtual composite model for the project). “I know that sounds so cliché, because everyone says it, but they want to do it, and they’re actually doing it.”
The push to BIM for DIA’s long-term facility maintenance needs was strategic. The construction project was the first step in converting the entire airport into a BIM model. This allows DIA personnel to access critical information via the model on item purchase dates, the costs, location, installation date, maintenance schedule, and other important facilities information. The model will also be used for maintaining critical systems such as MEP and security.
One of the benefits ongoing is the ability to do detailed feasibility studies with the model. You can quickly design and scope a new element, based on a detailed model of what is currently there. If the project is approved, then the early conceptual feasibility work helps to jump-start the design. Having the model to do the study eliminates the need to survey and measure and capture what’s there. Avoiding lengthy and expensive consultant time on feasibility studies adds up to big savings over time.
To learn more about the advantaged and benefits of BIM for government organizations, and what he future of making things for the government looks like, attend the upcoming event, “The Future of Making Things,” with Global Technical Evangelist, Lynn Allen.
To learn more about DIA’s BIM initiative, click here or watch the video below.