By Jack Stubbs
Sea-Tac Airport has in recent months been expanding in order to further streamline its operations, and a new design-build project on the way is set to transform Concourse D of the airport.
Seattle-based design, architecture, engineering and planning firm HOK was selected in April 2017 as the design-builder by Port of Seattle to transform Concourse D at Sea-Tac Airport. The hope is that Sea-Tac Hardstand project—a 32,400 square foot passenger facility scheduled to open for operation in October 2018—will allow the Port to handle more passenger traffic throughout the concourse, according to Alan Bright, senior design principal out of the firm’s San Francisco office. “Sea-Tac is constantly growing, changing and adjusting, and this project was brought on board to allow [the airport] to flex gates and allow for more passengers to move in and out of the overall campus at Sea-Tac, and to allow for other construction to occur,” he said.
The design-build team includes The Walsh Group as the design-builder and HOK as the lead architect, along with Lund Opsahl LLC, Osborn Consulting, Inc., Hart Crowser, Casne Engineering and Notkin Mechanical Engineers.
The two-story, $24 million project is a hardstand building, meaning that no aircraft are actually attached to the building. Passengers will deplane from shuttles and be dropped off on the south end of the drive to a walkway, which will allow travelers to get to baggage claim and the terminal for connections more quickly. “There are buses that will come to the facility to allow passengers to go to where the D gates are currently in the terminal,” said Bright. “This will allow a whole bunch of people to get into one position to allow for the airport to expand and contract and adjust as Sea-Tac builds new buildings.”
The facility will include up to six gates for transport to the hardstand, and the hope is that the project will ease pressure throughout the rest of Sea-Tac Airport, according to AJ Taaca, project designer with HOK. “Currently, when you go through Sea-Tac, there’s just so much compression everywhere you go; when you check-in, go through security or go through gates,” he said. The facility will include circulation areas, minor concessions, restrooms and vertical circulation with sloped walkways and stairs.
One of the unique features of the Concourse D Holdroom Building is that, both throughout the construction and design process, the team looked to incorporate technology into the building to facilitate more efficient circulate and movement throughout the concourse—a series of static and dynamic signage and way-finding elements will help members of the public to travel throughout the facility.
Throughout the design process which was begun in March 2017 , the implementation of technology also allowed the design team at HOK to show its client—the Port of Seattle—how the space would ultimately function in relation to the rest of the facilities at Sea-Tac Airport, according to Ken Miller, associate at HOK. “When we were designing the project, rather than going through the traditional process of doing sketches, we were able to go through building these 3D models into the space to immediately understand how people would flow through from other parts of the airport to this new project,” he said.
More broadly, the design team’s implementation of technologies like virtual reality through the design process allowed a better understanding of how the hardstand project would evolve from its inception to completion, according to Taaca. “As part of the design process, we integrated a lot of new technologies, using virtual reality as one of our design tools. We tested a lot of our design thinking and organization of the project…with that technology, we created a model where we were able to walk our clients through the actual space,” he said.
In terms of allowing for expanded operations at Sea-Tac Airport, the implementation of technology in the project not only streamlined the design process for the in-the-works project, but also represented new territory in terms how the the Port of Seattle might approach infrastructure projects in the future. “This is Sea-Tac’s first design-build ground-up project. Particularly with the way that projects are being delivered right now, I think they are actually seeing the power of efficiency that you can achieve with this technology,” Taaca said. “With future projects that will be implemented, I think Sea-Tac will demand this type of tool in order to make critical decisions that they need to be making immediately…currently at the Port, the decision-making process is quite slow to get through the different departments and approvals. But using this technology can be quite useful to hit our deadlines,” he said.
And while in terms of the the wider context of growth occurring at Sea-Tac Airport the hardstand building will allow the Port of Seattle to streamline its day-to-day operations at the airport, the project was undertaken out of necessity more than anything else. “One of the great parts about the project is that we’re doing a lot of ‘firsts’ on this building, which is great for the Port,” Miller said. “In terms of the building itself, I think it’s a well-designed space and the Port is basically at capacity with the gates that they have.”