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AIRPORT DESIGN Last modified on April 14, 2016

Project Watch - Salt Lake City International Airport

New $1.8 billion terminal and concourse to transform Utah’s gateway to the world. 

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Important developments: New terminal and South Concourse
Scheduled completion: 2020
Principal companies involved: HOK, HDJV Construction (Holder Construction/Big-D Construction)
Total investment: $1.8 billion


Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) has unveiled the designs of its new showpiece terminal and South Concourse, the two key projects of its $1.8 billion development programme. 

Scheduled to open in 2020 and located west of the existing terminals, the three-storey, 1.7 million square foot terminal will be equipped to handle up to 23 million passengers per annum.

According to project architect HOK, the terminal will provide a new “uplifting travel experience” for passengers and a more flexible and operationally efficient facility for hub carrier Delta Air Lines to support the region’s growth.

It says that the design of the terminal will celebrate Utah’s natural beauty and reputation as an outdoor recreation hub as well as being built to last and withstand earthquakes.

Floor-to-ceiling glass is expected to provide expansive views of the airfield and iconic mountains in a move designed to create “an uplifting, cheerful ambiance”. 

“One of the best things about coming into Salt Lake City is flying through the valley between the mountain ranges as you approach the airport,” says Robert Chicas, director of HOK’s Aviation + Transportation practice. 

“By bringing the beauty of the environment into the facility and incorporating sustainable design strategies that create a healthy, pleasant atmosphere, the terminal becomes an extension of that experience.”

A soaring interior space called the Canyon will form the heart of the building and house the facility’s security screening, shopping and dining areas.

This open space, says HOK, will be a visual anchor that organises the terminal. It will certainly be unique as a large-scale sculpture by award-winning artist, Gordon Huether, is expected to run along the Canyon walls and reflect natural Utah elements such as red rock canyons, alpine peaks, moving water and cottony white clouds.

The terminal will also have a large, separate meet-and-greet space for accommodating the groups that often welcome returning Latter-day Saints missionaries and feature a sizeable selection of artworks from local artists.

As you would expect from a project seeking LEED Gold certification, it will have high-performance glazing systems designed to draw in daylight while preventing heat gain and a series of energy-efficient mechanical and lighting systems. 

The airport is certainly confident that the impressive new showpiece terminal and 4,000ft long concourse, which will equip SLC with 74 gates, will help make the Utah gateway more “convenient, inspiring and sustainable”.

“We are supporting the city’s goal of creating one of the world’s premier airports with an inspirational design that celebrates our region and provides an immediate sense of place,” says SLC’s executive director, Maureen Riley. 

“At the same time, developing a completely new terminal allows us to support the needs of our airport’s guests and the airlines as efficiently as possible.” 

Former Salt Lake City Mayor, Ralph Becker, claims that the long awaited upgrade will make “huge improvements” to the gateway, and Riley agrees, stating that the airport needs the new terminal to help meet regional demand and raise customer service levels.

She says: “We need more space as the existing facilities, some of which opened 50 years ago, were built for 10 million passengers per annum but are now handling over 20 million, so everything is constrained.

“Our concession programme, for example, is half the size it should be for an airport handling 20 million passengers, and this is definitely something we plan addressing in the new terminal.”

How would she describe the design of the terminal? “Contemporary,” is the reply. “We want it to incorporate the future and we want the terminal to be customer friendly and easy to use for passengers. We also want it to include cutting edge environmental technology.”

Remarkably, when completed, Salt Lake City International Airport will have 12 fewer gates than the 86 it has today.

Crucially though, each will have an airbridge and be bigger and more flexible in terms of accommodating different types of aircraft. 

This, admits Riley, will make a significant difference for operational efficiency and passenger comfort, as summer temperatures in Salt Lake City can hit 90oF and plummet to below freezing in winter when the airport gets an annual average of 65 inches of snow.

HOK notes that the terminal’s “future-proof” design provides flexibility that will enable specific areas to be easily modified and reconfigured as the airport’s needs change over time. 

Airport officials estimate that the construction will create more 2,000 jobs – including an estimated 1,500 on-site – and generate about $1 billion in wages. 

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