Atlanta's New Terminal

Although the world’s busiest passenger airport is dominated by domestic passengers, the new terminal was built to accommodate Atlanta’s increasing international traffic. (All images – Atlanta Airport)

The world’s busiest airport opens a new international terminal; Carroll McCormick reports.

Although the world’s busiest passenger airport is dominated by domestic passengers, the new terminal was built to accommodate Atlanta’s increasing international traffic. (All images – Atlanta Airport)

On May 16 the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport opened its new 1.2 million sq ft (11,484m2) Maynard H Jackson Jr International Terminal.  The building and its Concourse F complement the existing international Concourse E with 12 new gates, bringing to 40 the total number of gates dedicated to international flights.
The additional capacity is timely, in view of the fact that the airport handled a record-setting 9.86 million international passengers last year – a 7.86% increase over 2010’s 9.14 million international travellers.  The international portion of the airport’s overall traffic – Atlanta has been the world’s number one business airport for 14 years in a row – is expected to soar to over 13 million in the next three years.
The terminal will serve four categories of passengers: (1) those whose trips begin or end in Atlanta, with some departing travellers continuing to Concourse E to catch their aircraft; (2) inbound international passengers connecting to domestic flights; (3) those whose trips begin elsewhere in the US and connect to international flights; (4) travellers participating in the US pre-cleared travel programme.
Non-stop international flights will all depart from Concourse F or E, which is located 960ft (293m) west of the new terminal.  The two concourses are connected by the Plane Train, an underground automated people mover extended to the new concourse.  Bombardier Transportation Holdings (USA) Inc provided the system and ten additional people-mover vehicles.
Atlanta Gateway Designers, a joint venture between Gresham, Smith & Partners of Atlanta and Duckett Design Group of East Point, Georgia, designed the three-level terminal, Concourse F, the Plane Train tunnel extension and the international hourly parking structure.  As many as 1,300 workers a day were on site during the four years the terminal was under construction.  Holder-Manhattan-CD Moody-Hunt, a joint venture, handled most of the construction management duties.
Building materials were chosen that do not degrade indoor air quality; for example, low-chemical-emitting paints, sealants, carpeting and adhesives as well as environmentally friendly cleaning products.

Vehicles arrive at the terminal via an elevated roadway that wraps around a parking structure directly across from the departures and arrival kerbs.  As the roadway doubles back on itself and vehicles approach the passenger pick-up and drop-off area, the terminal building’s north elevation, a vast, curving glass curtain wall, fills the sky to their right.
The parking structure has 1,100 hourly spaces.  It includes a Gold Reserve parking area on the lower level for frequent travellers that offers guaranteed parking with no waiting for tickets or searching for parking spots.  A three-minute shuttle bus ride away is a 2,400-space International Park-Ride facility.  The shuttle bus brings passengers to the international terminal’s ground transportation centre.  From here passengers can connect to hotels, downtown, convention centres and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.  The centre also includes a car rental facility and a shuttle service to other airport facilities.
Entering the terminal, passengers are immediately able to see aircraft at some of the gates through south-facing glass curtain walls.  The terminal designers strived to create a light, airy interior with good sightlines.  The extensive use of glass lets light pour in and passengers enjoy the view of the airside from many areas of the building.
Louis Miller, the airport’s Aviation General Manager, says that: “The terminal has a focus on efficiency and customer-friendly design.”
The building has three levels: The lower level is for arrivals and includes the federal inspection station, two baggage claim areas, a security checkpoint and exits to the lower kerb and parking garage.  The second level is for departures.  After passing through ticketing/check-in and then the security checkpoints, of which there are eight, passengers enter the international atrium.  Here, where the terminal and concourse meet, there is a third level – a mezzanine that extends roughly half the length of the concourse.
Albert Snedeker, the airport’s CIP Public Relations Manager, Marketing & Stakeholder Engagement, explains: “Delta Air Lines’ customer lounge and a common-use lounge are located on this level, along with a number of restaurants and retail outlets, and an interfaith chapel.”
The atrium is a vast open space with trees, planters and casual seating.  It is flooded with natural light pouring in through clerestory windows and skylights.
Ringing the base of the atrium and the mezzanine are retail and food & beverage outlets that aim to capture the spirit and vitality of the city.  More than 20 retail outlets and restaurants greeted passengers on opening day.
Mr Miller comments:  “Additional locations will open throughout the spring and summer.”
Dining choices will incorporate gourmet and health-conscious fare.  Retail offerings will include electronics and entertainment outlets.  There will also be business and personal services and rest areas.
The new terminal is on track to join an exclusive club of North American airport terminals that will achieve US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.  LEED signifies a standard of sustainability and good practices in building design, construction methods, materials and operation.
Many initiatives are contributing to the goal of achieving Silver certification.  During construction, for example, contractors used recycled and/or regionally produced construction materials and sustainable-certified wood products.
Building materials were chosen that do not degrade indoor air quality; for example, low-chemical-emitting paints, sealants, carpeting and adhesives as well as environmentally friendly cleaning products.
Water reclamation is an important component of the LEED scoring system.  The terminal is designed to collect rainwater in a 25,000 cubic ft (708m3) reservoir before filtering it and releasing it to the environment.  Low-flow restroom fixtures and efficient heating and cooling systems will save over 40,000 US gallons (151,416 litres) of water a year.
An ongoing LEED-qualifying programme is the recycling of materials, including organic substances for composting.
The new terminal is on track to join an exclusive club of North American airport terminals that will achieve US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Energy conservation measures include the use of natural light, insulated glass and efficient lighting fixtures.  At the gates, aircraft will have access to preconditioned air and 400-hertz power supplies for aircraft, eliminating the need for jet fuel-burning auxiliary power units.  Ground service equipment will have access to chargers at all of the gates.  Parking spaces are dedicated to alternative fuel vehicles, vanpools and carpools.  These measures will help to reduce the airport’s carbon footprint.
Continuing Atlanta’s long tradition of supporting public art, the new terminal will feature four signature art pieces and other works of art.  “There are many things that travellers will love about the Maynard H Jackson Jr International Terminal — its world-class concessions, the separate levels for arrivals and departures, the elimination of the baggage recheck process for Atlanta-bound passengers,” enthuses Mr Snedeker.  “But perhaps the most lasting impressions will be made by the breathtaking, large-scale installations of permanent art throughout the facility.”