There are large projects, and then there are massive projects. The West Gates at Tom Bradley International Terminal, at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the latter. Part of a multi-billion-dollar capital improvement program underway since 2007, the five-level concourse adds 1.7 million square feet of space to the airport, including 15 gates and two underground tunnels, including one for passengers to travel between terminals.
Successfully completed as a joint venture between PCL Construction and Turner Construction, the project recently received a National Award of Merit during the Design-Build Institute of America’s (DBIA) National Design-Build Project/Team Awards Ceremony. Held every year at DBIA’s national conference, the awards recognize the most exciting and innovative design-build projects of the year.
Blake Holtom, senior project manager for the project, said he is excited to have created a new gateway into the city of Los Angeles.
“An airport is your first impression of a new city,” Blake said. “The new concourse sets the tone for travelers from around the world and lets them know they've arrived in a first-class destination.”
Design-build is one the fastest growing and increasingly popular delivery methods used to deliver construction projects in the U.S. Compared to traditional project delivery where a contractor is called in after the design is completed, in a design-build project, the contractor and designer work in tandem from the beginning and both teams remain on the project from start to finish. This simplifies the project on the client side as they have only one team, one contract, one schedule – and significantly, one budget – to manage.
“Design-build reduces the risk for the client because there is a confirmed final budget before work starts,” Holtom says. The building team, Holtom explains, takes that risk on. If the project costs more than the agreed budget, the team can lose money on the job. In exchange, the building team has greater input into the design and construction process of the project.
This makes design-build projects – especially those as large as the West Gates concourse– attractive to experienced, proactive building teams confident they can deliver a project in a way that creates success for everyone.
At the West Gates project, the collaborative approach carried through the design and building process. PCL Construction and Turner Construction worked together as part of a joint venture, while the design firms Corgan and Gensler partnered to create the design for the new concourse.
The project’s charettes, or design workshops, serve as an example of the design-build process at work. Charettes are most often brainstorming sessions between a project architect and a client. The project charettes were more expansive. For the sessions on the project’s curtain walls, for example, the sub-contractors attended to contribute their expertise to the discussion.
“We had the architect, contractor and trades all in the room,” says Holtom. “We got everyone involved and it helped us nail the design—it was efficient to build offsite, helped us stay within budget, and it’s beautiful.”
Adding to the complexity of the project was the fact that all work was done on an active airfield, with jets landing and taking off throughout the day and all throughout construction.
To successfully complete the project in this challenging environment, the team laid out a detailed plan for each trade to complete its items, prioritized based on when the client planned to begin using the new space. During the actual work, accurate, clear and ample communication kept everyone coordinated. The team also used digital analytics to track progress as well as identify and eliminate bottlenecks.
Another reason the close coordination and collaborative nature of a design-build delivery method contributed to the projects now award-winning success.