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Turning 25: Growth at Denver International Airport is Taking Off

As it approaches its 25th anniversary, Denver International Airport (DEN) is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s expanding its concourses to support record-breaking passenger growth.

Denver International Airport (DEN) has reason and room to expand – and is taking advantage of both. Inhabiting 33,523 acres DEN, the fifth busiest airport in the U.S. and 20th busiest in the world (2018), continues to experience year-over-year, record-breaking passenger growth and is expanding all three of its concourses to meet current and future passenger and airline demand. 

The current $1.583B, Concourse Expansion Program (CEP) will see additions to Concourses A, B and C. Jacobs is responsible for roughly 600,000 square feet of the East side concourse expansions that will make room for 28 new aircraft gates and approximately 137,000 square yards of aircraft-rated pavement. The program also includes an outdoor room, new airlines and concessions spaces as well as “right-sizing” four existing holdrooms. 

As Architect/Engineer of record for the $630M (construction value) Concourse B and C East expansions, Jacobs delivered design packages to maximize benefits of the Construction Management At Risk (CMAR) delivery method in a highly complex operating aviation environment. “Because DEN is serving more passengers every month, we have worked diligently as an integrated team to get the new gates and holdrooms operational as quickly as possible. CMAR allows us to deliver design just ahead of construction and when properly coordinated can provide a rapid pace for project progress,” explains Jacobs People & Places Solutions Aviation Buildings Delivery Leader and Architect of Record Christine Rajpal.

More passengers mean more aircraft and aircraft movement. Keeping the existing gates operational during construction of the new gates in already congested conditions requires thoughtful planning and design to produce the most efficient concourse layout that maximizes the number of aircraft, and therefore passengers, that can be served safely. Through an integrated project delivery process, we were able to maximize value, deliver predictability and control risks to meet the short-term needs for continuous operation during construction while working towards the long-term goals for capacity, efficiency and elevated passenger experience.

 

What Can Passengers Expect? 

  • Light as a Leading Design Concept. Inspired by the mountain views and desire for maximum natural light, the concourse design features 22’ foot high exterior wall glazing with diagonal sight lines that allow glimpses of the breath-taking Rocky Mountain skyline. Another example of light-forward design can be found in the new subcores (a subcore is a focal point along the concourse including restrooms, concessions, mezzanines and vertical circulation) which we redesigned by turning the traditional design of the existing building “inside-out”.  Instead of being inwardly focused, the subcores are now open to the concourse as well as to the exterior, to offer increased views and natural light.  This approach includes the use of a central light monitor and nearly 40’ high continuous glazing along the exterior walls. 
  • Flexibility for the Future. To address tomorrow’s needs today, we designed flexibility for future expansions, including a range of options for the mezzanine spaces in Concourse C. The space, which will initially be used for offices, is designed to accommodate public spaces in the future, including the infrastructure needed for future public restrooms and escalators, along with the egress capacity and HVAC needs for additional occupant load.
  • LEED v4 Gold Level Sustainable Solutions.The design for the CEP will result in substantial gains in energy efficiency and sustainability for DEN, while allowing the airport to improve its layout, amenities and appearance. Sustainable initiatives include efficiency improvements and serviceability through specific cost-effective design enhancements such as building envelope and glazing optimization, lighting power reduction, energy recovery and on-site renewable energy. Photovoltaic arrays are included on the roof to offset an estimated 10% of the total annual energy cost of the buildings. Several strategies have been implemented to help realize DEN’s goal of being a global leader in sustainability as well as meeting the requirements of the city and county of Denver. 
  • Modern Traveler Amenities. Meeting the expectations of the modern traveler is key. The new design will provide a world class passenger experience, featuring enhanced, day-lit restrooms, deeper holdrooms with flexible and comfortable lounge seating, intuitive and digital wayfinding, and seamless access to innovative concessions offerings. In addition, DEN is leveraging something like no other airport - its picturesque outdoor views. For that reason, DEN will soon offer “outdoor rooms” which are post-security outdoor spaces with one-of-a-kind scenery. Inspired by the après ski experience, passengers will be able to take advantage of the fresh mountain air and the warmth of firepits in a rustic modern space while awaiting their boarding call. 

Jacobs Emerging Leaders Take a Lead Role 

Jacobs has been providing services at DEN since before the airport opened on February 28, 1995 – over 25 years of continued services on both the air and land side of the airport. Today we have a new generation of aviation designer and leaders, working with those who have long served DEN, to push beyond the limits of conventional airport design to deliver a new facility that serves the 21st century air traveler and helps elevate the service and profile of one of the world’s premier airports. 

To accelerate the growth of our future leaders and to meet the demands of the global aviation market, we have established a community of practice that provides our 0-10-year aviation specialists with the resources and skills to assume project leadership roles in our aviation programs worldwide. Participants in this community of practice took lead roles on the DEN CEP. We asked a few emerging leaders of our People & Places Solutions Buildings & Infrastructure Americas practice for their thoughts.

Lead Designer Craig Rangel explains “An aviation project of this scale has given me the opportunity to shape this significant project from concept through completion, directly interacting with DEN and seeing first-hand the impact I can have for the millions of passengers coming to and through my hometown of Denver.” 

Architect Hannah Kissel noted “This project gives me the opportunity to work on construction administration and provides further understanding of the CMAR delivery method. I work directly with the DEN Program Management Team and the Contractor and am enjoying the collaborative problem-solving and seeing our design come to life.” 

Architect Sean Durgee leads wayfinding efforts to bring cohesive, streamlined and intuitive signage to lead travelers to their destination in the clearest, efficient and stress-free way. “The sleek and innovative gate identification signs in Concourse C will do a lot to help passengers gain information and find their way. New eight foot by three foot, dual-sided LED signs will also allow for advertisement space to generate revenue for DEN,” said Sean. 

Jacobs provides professional services to aviation markets globally, including supporting programs for international airports such as Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Atlanta, Heathrow, Brisbane, Melbourne, Manchester and Dubai. Jacobs’ services range from strategic planning and financial consulting to planning, design, program, construction and asset management. To read more about how Jacobs designs for passenger experience in this article about Designing Airports to be Better Places for People.
 

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