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Behind the Project: LaGuardia Airport

LaGuardia Airport in New York, USA, is undergoing a major redevelopment and Entuitive is playing a key role. Recently, we sat down with Vice President, Building Envelope, Christopher Johnson and Building Envelope Specialist Marcos Maldonado Rigau to learn more about our contributions to the project.

Thanks for sitting down with us today, Chris and Marcos. Can you tell us a bit about the project?

Chris: This project is specific to a new Delta Terminal and we got the job through a connection we had at Delta Airlines. The design had already been completed but Delta required a special inspector, so we bid on the project and eventually won the contract.

Marcos: The “Head House” is where you get dropped off by your taxi and check in for your flight. It connects to Concourse E, which is part of Terminal C. It’s a whole new terminal that’s sub-divided into different buildings.

Chris: We’re working on a couple phases for this project but at the moment the “Head House” is under construction. Our role is the Special Inspector for the Building Envelope. There are laws in New York that require certain components of buildings to undergo a special inspection by a third party. Because LaGuardia is under the jurisdiction of the Port Authority of New York, it’s not required to actually comply with that New York law specifically, but the airport is conducting the same level of inspections as would be required by the City anyway.

Marcos has been doing the on-site inspections of the envelope components that are going up. It’s a curtain wall building, so that’s mainly what he’s been inspecting.

You mentioned there are a few phases to this project. What else is to come?

Chris: The “Head House” is the main portal and construction for that is underway right now. There’s a second component for Concourse E, and then there are a couple connectors between the “Head House” and Concourse E that we are also doing the special inspections on.

Marcos: Even though they’re part of the same project, Concourse E and the “Head House” have different design architects. Concourse E is designed by Gensler while the “Head House” is designed by Corgan Architects. Although it’s all the same development, you see a difference in teams and in the design procedures. It’s a pretty big project with large teams. It’s fun to work and collaborate with all these players.

Sounds like a fascinating project. Have you encountered any challenges so far and, if so, how have you solved them?

Chris: Marcos, I’m sure you have a more comprehensive response, but I’d say the largest challenge – aside from the scale and vastness itself – is probably coordinating between all the different teams. There are two architects between the main components as Marcos noted, each of those has a design consultant for Building Envelope, and then there are other subcontractors and subconsultants that are responsible for the envelope as a whole.

Marcos: That’s definitely true. The team and project are huge. The first challenge that I needed to solve was identifying the players and who to come to with various issues or things that need to be addressed. It’s important to get everyone together and communicate your information really clearly, ensuring everything gets captured.

Other than that, it’s a curtain wall project but there are multiple types of walls that are going into this project, so the learning curve in terms of methods of construction for the envelope has also been really high.

When this project was designed, the intent was to optimize construction. Everything was being designed in the shop with high levels of quality control, and the expectation was that everything will then come to the site and be dropped in for quick installation. So, one thing I’ve seen after over a year on the project is that while this sounds good when you’re designing, there are inevitable instances where the geometry has been a bit more complex than initially visualized, so this has required a solutions-based approach on site.

While I’ve noticed this, we haven’t gotten involved in a formal capacity in problem solving. Our role as special inspectors is to observe and assure the City that the project is being built to the specifications outlined in the design and project documents. As an Architect, I’m always willing to share advice and if there are more informal conversations on site I’m happy to provide some informal input.

What has been your favourite part of the project so far?

Chris: First, the new design of the Terminals is fantastic and provides a taste of how the whole thing is going to look. For me, the project signifies our first major foray into special inspecting as a discipline and we couldn’t have asked for a better project to service that goal. Since special inspections are mandated in New York City, we are getting involved in a huge segment of the market that can only be good for our growth.

Marcos: I agree with that. I see the business side of it but, also as an Architect, I am grateful for the opportunity to be involved in such a massive project. The scale of this project and being exposed to something so different than the typical smaller NYC construction project that is limited by the typical constraints of the site has been amazing to be part of. This is a huge footprint project and one of my favourite things is being exposed to the traffic flow and day-to-day energy of the airport. Just heading out every day and being on site is exciting.

Any final thoughts on the project?

Chris: It really does represent a nice foray into this corner of the building envelope market in New York. I think it’s giving us so much opportunity as a firm. Working with Delta can bring us opportunities for Structures and Fire and many other service offerings.

Marcos: I agree. It’s provided our relatively new office some great exposure. What I’ve seen is every major office in New York has some sort of presence on this project and it’s an honour to be part of it.


Thanks for sitting down with us today. We learned a lot and we’re excited to watch the progress at LaGuardia!


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