New Construction Awards 2001- Flying into the Future

Oct. 8, 2001
Reinventing JFK International Airport, one terminal at a time

Ever since the airplane advanced from glider to turbojet airliner, commercial air travel has been busy building, rebuilding, modifying, and renovating airports. To keep pace with the advancements, the professionals involved with airport facilities search for better ways to accommodate passengers in the most efficient ways possible. When John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica, NY, began its transformation into a future-ready facility, a newly constructed Terminal 4 was in order.

Public/Government Winner:
John F. Kennedy International Airport, Terminal 4, Jamaica, NYThe new design of Terminal 4 increased efficiency at JFK by providing different roadways and entrances for departures and arrivals.

Built in 1956 before the jet age, the former International Arrivals Building (IAB) did not provide separate arrivals and departures roadways, lacked efficiency, and could not accommodate the heavy traffic of daily passengers. "At the time it was developed, it was designed for propeller aircraft, and then was expanded in the late 1960s and early '70s to handle jumbo jets, but it really did not function very well as a large, 6-million-passenger-a-year facility," explains David Sigman, development general manager, JFK IAT. The new Terminal 4 would change all this, reorganizing the space with a three-level, U-shaped design.

A first of its kind, the terminal represents one of the largest public/private partnerships ever, and was developed and operated by a private consortium comprised of Schiphol USA, an affiliate of the Schiphol Group (operator of the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol); LCOR Inc., a real estate developer; and Lehman Brothers, investment bankers. JFK International Air Terminal (JFK IAT) LLC operated the existing IAB facility for the four-year period of construction, and will lease and operate Terminal 4 from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for the next 25 years.

Constructing the 1.5 million-square-foot facility on the same 165-acre plot as the IAB required excellent communication and intricate phasing. The existing building had to remain operational during construction, maintaining the functions of over 50 airlines and terminal tenants, while accommodating the large number of passengers using the terminal. A minimum of 10 contact gates were kept working at all times. The Construction Manager/Alliance Partner, AMEC Construction Management Inc., found an innovative way to keep on schedule during work on the interior of the departure hall. "We constructed a rolling scaffold that allowed us to work on the overhead finish ceiling work and associated electrical, mechanical, and architectural components while, at the same time, working safely underneath those spaces finishing the ticketing kiosks, flooring, and information counters," explains John Babieracki, executive vice president, AMEC, New York City.

Terminal 4 is comprised of three main components: a glass-walled central building and two concourses, containing a total of 16 gates. Eleven gates are currently in use, and the additional five gates will be opened following demolition of the remaining IAB in April 2002. The new terminal has been designed to accommodate future growth, and can be easily expanded with minimal interruption to airport operations.

Located on the top level, the 500- by 400-foot Departures lobby contains four check-in islands with a total of 144 check-in positions. Time between connections has never been as enjoyable as it is today, with shopping at the terminal's retail concourse located on the middle level. The expansive "street" of shops extends the length of four Manhattan city blocks and offers passengers an assortment of eating places and stores like H. Stern Jewelers and DKNY apparel. The lowest level of the central building, or headhouse, houses baggage claim, and arrivals, as well as areas for 52 INS and 20 U.S. Customs positions.

A relatively new concept for U.S. airport facilities, much of Terminal 4 is common use, enabling greater efficiency for airlines and their passengers. "There are very few spaces that are dedicated to one airline's use - we can reuse check-in desks, gates, and baggage claim devices based on flight schedules, not based on an airline leasing those areas," explains Sigman.

Inside its stone, steel, and glass façade, the terminal greets individuals with an environment filled with natural light and inventive artwork. "They're bright, durable spaces and address the needs of a working facility, but do it with a lot of style," says Babieracki.

Nearly completed, the new Terminal 4 has people buzzing about the reinvention of one of the city's legendary airports. Plans for further renovation and new construction are already in the works. A proposed expansion for Delta Air Lines will double the size of the terminal, and conclude in mid-2005. Together with the recent renovation of Terminal 1, JFK International Airport is beginning to provide travelers with a 21st century experience that not only makes getting where you're going easier - but also more enjoyable.

Jana J. Madsen ([email protected]) is senior associate editor at Buildings magazine.

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