American Airlines set a new standard for GSE Facilities - LEED Silver.
Long an innovator above the clouds, American Airlines (formerly US Airways) sought to apply their innovation to the ground level and upgrade their primary maintenance facility at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). They envisioned a unique and sustainable Ground Service Equipment (GSE) facility.
What began simply as a concept to improve economic efficiency grew into a comprehensive, environmentally friendly solution contributing to PHL’s green initiative. The award-winning 57,220-SF, $22 million facility is now home to 90 mechanics, more than 2,000 equipment pieces, 16 work bays, a weld shop, wash bay, paint booth and prep area, two-level stockroom, two loading dock receiving bays, a parts storage and retrieval system, administrative and support spaces, and associated parking facilities. These elements all support 524 daily flights carrying more than 85,000 passengers. Efficient shop layout; nine in-ground high capacity lifts, including two rated at 150,000 pounds; accessible parts and fluids; and upgraded lighting and ventilation have improved operations and reduced shop turnaround times.
We provided design and project management services from conceptual design through construction administration and project closeout. The process began with study of a US Airways GSE Facility in Charlotte, NC. The team then worked closely with the Philadelphia GSE Manager to incorporate operational lessons learned throughout the airline’s history and the latest industry technology.
Our services included site/civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering design. We also guided the client through the land development process and permit procurement, capital budget preparation, and LEED design and certification phases.
During the accelerated 12-month construction period, we supplied project directors and on-site management staff, including a resident engineer and inspection personnel. The project was fast-tracked in large part because of the extensive coordination required with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Tinicum Township, and the City of Philadelphia Divison of Aviation.
Our team also worked to create and implement innovative strategies to meet and exceed the LEED rating standards. One example was specification of a concrete mix with 40% fly ash. Production of this mix emits less CO2 than concrete production. In addition, more than 30% of the built facility used recycled material. And, our MEP staff designed a plumbing system featuring efficient fixtures to decrease water usage by more than 40% of a similar base building's usage.
Faced with a tight project site, compressible subsurface conditions, and a constrained budget, the design team worked closely with the general contractor, WS Cumby, to install displacement friction piles. This streamlined installation of the 538 cast auger piles minimized production costs without compromising structural capacity. Using a proprietary software system incorporating penetration rate, KDK pressure, grout pressure, and other parameters, we determined the final tip elevation and installation effort required. Incorporating displacement piles within the proprietary software system allowed the required structural capacity of each pile to be achieved at shallower depths by creating a more densely walled shaft.
Another first for this facility and the project team was incorporation of airport terminal level security provisions into a facility located in Cargo City, to meet the latest TSA regulations. Just south of PHL’s terminal complex, Cargo City is a hub of facilities used by the airlines to support flight operations. The design team worked closely with the Department of Aviation’s security department and specialty designer ADT to develop and install a unique system featuring 17 access-controlled doors and 17 nitrogen-filled security cameras. Security protocols and standards developed will be applied to future projects, such as AOA fence details, signage design and installation standards, system connection networks, and overall logistics.
Diligent management and oversight of the construction process resulted in savings of more than 2.2% of the construction contingency and more than 2.7% of the program contingency for the owner.
The GSE Facility will reduce equipment down time and decrease baggage delivery times. But the traveling public are not the only beneficiaries of this project. The surrounding community stands to benefit from the precedent for sustinability set by this facility, which reduces demands on stormwater and sanitary sewer systems, water supplies, and energy.