Pittsburgh’s Modernization Mission: The New 700,000 Square-Foot Terminal

Formerly known as Greater Pittsburgh International Airport, located 10 miles west of downtown, Pittsburgh Airport is the primary international airport serving Greater Pittsburgh as well as Ohio and West Virginia.

Due to its importance as a gateway to the region the airport has recently announced a new technology focused terminal development. The airport has broken ground on a new 700,000 square-foot terminal which marks it as the first terminal in the country to be built from scratch after Covid-19 struck.

The terminal’s key focus will be on public health and technology, with new facilities prioritising social distancing, clean air ventilation and outdoor spaces. Alongside the new tech focused design features the airport will also provide more than 5,000 jobs to local construction workers.


Why is the change happening?

Although the aviation industry struggled greatly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Pittsburgh Airport has stood its ground and is now making history with the development of a new 7000,000 square foot terminal project. The terminal will be the first in the US to be built from the ground up in the new post-pandemic world.

The development of the new terminal has been founded on the principles of the Pittsburgh Airport Terminal Modernization Programme: Stabilising airline costs, be Pittsburgh’s airport, be environmentally sustainable, enhance the experience for all customers and provide value to the community.

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With the airport seeing over 3,649,270 passengers pass through the terminal in 2020, modernisation upgrades will allow for a new and improved passenger experience. At present the passenger flow at the airport has been called “inefficient” due to several drop off points, three floors to navigate, and multiple TSA checkpoints which make the trip to the boarding gate a difficult process.

Credit: Gensler + HDR in association with luis vidal + architects.

Paired with this the airport’s current conveyance system which includes escalators, moving walkways and elevators are costly for the airport to maintain, with many not fully being utilised.

The design: What’s under the hood

Public health

The design of the new terminal is technology and public health centric, which will see the new terminal including clean air technology in the form of ventilation systems, large areas to allow for social distancing and a 90,000 square foot outdoor terrace area. The terminal has been designed as an elevated, three tier structure which will include a natural wood ceiling, and multi-level glass windows which have been specifically selected to allow in as much natural light for passengers as possible.

Paired with these design features Pittsburgh Airport has announced a regional partnership with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration who will work with the airport to reduce site hazards and injuries, provide an increasingly greener construction site, and increase sustainability of the project.

The technology

With technology being the second key focus area for the new terminal the airport will focus on technology to streamline passenger processing operations. Ticketing, security checkpoints, baggage claim and more will be a simple, consolidated process using technology to improve the passenger experience. The terminal itself has been designed to reduce passenger travel and processing time by 50% from drop off to airside.

The new terminal has also considered passenger experience from the moment of arrival, by developing a new multi-modal complex parking garage which will boast 3,300 spaces, rental car facilities and entrances to all roadways.

The environment

With airport terminals around the globe producing large amounts of CO2 and other harmful emissions due to the running of lights, generators and other fossil fuel burning appliances, the airport has taken the environment into consideration within the design.

Credit: Gensler + HDR in association with luis vidal + architects.

The new terminal will be powered by a microgrid which is fuelled by 10,000 solar panels as well as five natural gas generators. The design of the new terminal has been named among the most sustainable in the industry, with officials building to a standard of LEED-certified (a globally recognised symbol of sustainability and achievement) silver and upwards.

The airport has also stated that during construction a minimum of 75% of waste produced – including concrete – will be recycled or reused where possible.

The public

Alongside these impressive tech and health focused elements the airport has also been designed with the passenger experience in mind, which will see stable airline costs maintained for passengers which are reflective of the region’s economy.

The Airport Authority have also stated that a new industry lead standard will be adopted at the new terminal, to break down barriers to increase equal access and opportunities for small business and people from all ethnic backgrounds.

Construction: Tools of the trade

The construction of this new 700,000 square foot terminal will not be something that will magically appear overnight, instead the airport have estimated that construction time will see the terminal opening in early 2025.

During construction the project will provide jobs to over 5,500 local construction workers, skilled traders and suppliers which will not only see the project be built in time for the 2025 projection but also provide economic benefits to the region.

For the construction of the terminal, it has been estimated that more than 12,000 tonnes of steel, more than 354,000 square foot of wood materials and 94,000 tonnes of concrete will be needed – much of which the airport is wanting to source locally.

Speaking on the development of the terminal in a press release, Christine Cassotis, CEO of Allegheny Country Airport Authority – the authority who operate Pittsburgh International Airport – said: “As we break ground with the concrete that has been here for decades, we break ground on more than a building; we break ground on the future of travel. We are advancing a new standard for infrastructure projects that benefit our people and our communities first.”

Due to immense scale of the project and materials needed the development of the terminal is among the largest infrastructure projects that Pittsburgh has ever seen. Once constructed the Airport Authority has estimated that the terminal will generate around $2.5 billion for the economy alongside providing 14,5000 direct and indirect jobs. The airport has also calculated that the new terminal development will create $700 million in gross regional product/value for the region as well as generating around $27 million in state and local income tax.

Credit: Gensler + HDR in association with luis vidal + architects.

Speaking in a press release Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny Country Executive said: “The new terminal programme is a critical infrastructure project for the region and will deliver long-term economic benefits. This is further proof of how our region continues to grow and develop when anchored by a thriving airport that opens the door to the world.”