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SAFETY & SECURITY Last modified on November 26, 2015

Safe and secure

Skanska USA’s Dwight Pullen offers his thoughts on how airports can maintain security during the construction of major new facilities.

The number of airports around the world undergoing renovations and expansions is growing as airports look to upgrade the passenger experience, maximise efficiency and improve operations and, without doubt, safety is a major factor shaping these upgrades. 

Indeed, security at airports is a key consideration that contractors face when undertaking new airport construction projects. 

This means that thinking about airport security must begin before stepping foot on the construction site, as parties look to address security concerns during pre-construction. 

Those security issues include the use of technology, including for paperless job sites that digitise collaboration. 

Below are some of the ways to maintain the secure environment that airports and their stakeholders expect.


Engage stakeholders during pre-construction

Contractors on aviation construction projects should communicate with stakeholders from day one. On projects in the US, this means that both the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are brought into the conversation from the beginning to ensure regulatory compliance. Following these protocols will prevent project delays. 

Since each airport also has its own specific sensitivities, contractors should work to put together contingency plans and create emergency response procedures they can refer to for the duration of the project. 

These planning documents are essential to maintaining security as they provide a plan of action to address security issues both small and large, from dealing with fire to the role of police officers and TSA agents in the airport to how to address an unexpected threat to security such as an act of terrorism. 

Even the smallest incident would mean locking down the construction site – including situations that have nothing to do with construction. Getting the TSA and DHS involved early on will facilitate a smoother, more collaborative approach to security that helps maintain a safe environment. 

Contingency plans are also important for preventing vulnerabilities on the job site, putting contractors in a position to be part of a preventative solution to any security issues that may arise day to day in the airport. 

These plans set forth guidelines around deliveries and access while ensuring that staff and sub-contractors are badged according to secure standards. 

Learning the specific sensitivities around an airport is part of the job because – beyond security concerns – engineers, designers and project managers are working together to ensure that construction will not disrupt revenue streams or negatively impact
the passenger experience.

Skanska USA was part of the collaborative effort to erect a new bridge structure at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) where the team spent six months planning and coordinating in advance of the erection of a 91,000-pound, 100ft long pre-assembled baggage conveyor bridge over the main airport departure road. 

This included a plan for any repairs needed due to temperature changes and flexing caused by the lifting as we undertook the project overnight. 

Contingency plans were vital due to the complicated nature of the project, which included a temporary blacktop road for emergency response vehicles to use since the construction required closing the departures road. 

The temporary blacktop allowed airport officials an option if an airport emergency occurred. Ultimately, the project went smoothly and took our team less than eight hours to complete. 

An effective contingency plan manages the concerns of all stakeholders during pre-construction and keeps the project on track, under budget and above all, safe and secure.



Keeping operability on track

Concern for the safety of travellers informs how we take on these plans at the project level, because contractors are tasked with maintaining a secure environment without detracting from an airport’s operability. 

Upgrades and renovations are generally intended to improve the passenger experience, which extends to the way the construction site is run and operated. 

Skanska’s work on the main terminal and airport concession redevelopment programme at Tampa International Airport (TPA), for example, will ultimately expand the terminal’s floor plate and improve ticket and baggage claim wayfinding. 

The programme involves renovating all of the airport’s existing concessions space. Part of our work involves ensuring that shops and restaurants continue to function despite this ongoing work, so we have developed a very elaborate and intricate phasing plan. 

Our plan is sensitive to the importance of the overall passenger experience and will only shut down a venue if a suitable alternative is up-and-running. 

For instance, before we temporarily close down Carrabba’s and TGI Friday’s, PF Chang’s and the Hard Rock Café will have opened for business. Successful aviation construction projects look at operability early on, bringing in the contractor as a key team member along with architects and engineers while conducting threat and constructability assessments. 

A design-build method is particularly helpful in maintaining operability, as having design and construction work in co-ordination helps streamline the process and aligns the stakeholders.

One of our goals in the renovations at TPA is to ensure operability while maintaining security. The $131 million project will result in the expansion and redevelopment of the Main Terminal and Airsides A, C, E and F. 

On the transfer level, the 50,000-square-foot expansion includes relocation to the shuttle car lobbies, while the 200,000-square-foot renovations of the Main Terminal and Airside buildings will improve ticket and baggage claim wayfinding and seating, along with the redevelopment of airport concessions and other functional improvements. 

Since the improvements to TPA will involve construction in highly travelled areas for passengers, operability and security are inherently connected to the steps taken by our team working to redevelop and improve the airport. 

We use steps like these in order to find a balance between maintaining security while ensuring operability and facilitating an environment where revenue streams remain uninterrupted. Contractors are in a position to maintain operability while effectively securing the environment.


Looking to technology

Construction sites have historically been places where huge amounts of documents are created, which has always been done with lots of paper. 

The rise of technology on the job site allows us to cut down on this paper, sharing plans and blueprints digitally and therefore more efficiently. However, technology can bring some risk, and there is a tremendous need for security in cyberspace.

Also, we must consider protecting the plans for baggage handling and explosive detection systems to ensure that the documents cannot be accessed by outside parties. 

While under construction, these documents will be shared with multiple stakeholders as drafts are revised and approved. Teams must use management systems for content and documents that take steps to secure sensitive information like these documents, providing secure documentation to owners and other parties. 

A secure system is now often a necessity as projects get underway and this requirement might even be as early as the proposal process for locations where security risks are heightened.

Security in airports can encompass many different angles, but how you secure information and records is one of the most basic ways teams can create a secure environment and prevent plans from becoming accessible beyond the people on the project team. 


Minimising risk and enabling a secure environment

The need for renovations in airports will not be slowing down any time soon, which means maintaining a secure environment will continue to be an important consideration for project teams. 

Construction simply must not create vulnerabilities in an airport’s security system. Rather, contractors have to partner with owners to plan effectively, co-ordinating with the TSA, airport operations and other stakeholders to maintain operability and be secure on all fronts, starting with the technology we use on the job site.

Creating and sticking to contingency plans during pre-construction will keep travellers, airport employees and the construction crew safe from day one so that everyone can enjoy a more secure airport.

About the author
Dwight Pullen is Skanska USA’s senior vice president and national director of aviation.

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