Prioritizing innovation, collaboration and sustainability at Portland International Airport

In Portland, Oregon, our team is helping bring more Pacific Northwest-inspired architecture, local restaurants and shops, inclusive design and carbon footprint-reducing technology to Portland International Airport (PDX).

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1 / 2 Photo credit: Courtesy of Port of Portland/ZGF
Large Soil Freeze Pit at Gate C4 - 12-15-20
2 / 2 Early November 2020: The start of the soil freezing process at our PDX Terminal Core Redevelopment project.

Last summer, we reached a huge milestone that gave locals and visitors a sneak peek of what the new PDX will look like when it opens in 2025: the opening of the Concourse E extension. For the next phase of the project, which includes the redevelopment of the main terminal, our team is collaborating with our colleagues across the U.S. to solve complex challenges, including freezing soil 35 feet below ground.

This phase of the project includes the 860,000 square foot renovation and expansion of the main terminal, a new 9-acre, long-span roofing system over the entire terminal core complex, and the reconstruction of Concourse B.

Cross-team collaboration to leverage best practices

A few months ago, our team was preparing to bore pipes into the soil in several locations throughout the site. However, due to a high water table next to the site, which is located on the Columbia River, deep excavations and shoring proved difficult. After studying the soil conditions—which consists of dredged sand fill and native silt and sand—and comparing different shoring alternatives, we decided that the soil was a good candidate for soil freezing.

This is a unique method for vertical soil retention, so our Portland team consulted with the soils engineer of record for some insight into the process. They also visited a project in California where this technique was used and spent time with the installation subcontractor to learn soil freezing best practices.

Soil freezing consists of drilling pipes into the ground around the perimeter of the excavation. Those pipes are then hooked up to a system that pumps calcium chloride brine, which freezes at – 60 degrees F, into the soil. Over time, it freezes the soil. The soil acts as a structural sound barrier for the water table and makes excavating possible. There are various benefits to soil freezing over traditional excavation methods, including less noise and vibration, and the requirement of a smaller work area. These factors are important considering PDX is an active airport.

To ensure best practices were leveraged throughout construction of the project, Skanska teams in Seattle and New York—including aviation experts who have worked on projects at San Francisco International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Los Angeles International Airport—provided different perspectives on how best to deliver the project, from logistics to estimates for steel erection.

Our ability to connect with Skanska colleagues across the U.S. is a valuable benefit for both our team and customers. By collaborating and sharing best practices, we can better manage risk, come to the table with innovative solutions for any type of challenge and deliver efficient, high quality work.

A sustainable airport that reflects Oregon’s natural beauty

PDX is highly regarded as one of the best airports in the country, and this project, which will pursue LEED® Gold certification, is going to expand the airport’s ability to showcase the beauty of the Northwest with various sustainable features.

One highlight of the new terminal will undoubtedly be the iconic wood roof that our team is constructing from regional wood. Timber will be locally sourced for the roof, which is just one example of how this project will provide various opportunities for businesses throughout the Portland region over the next four years.

The roof’s design mimics daylight filtering through forest canopies as well as the ripples and currents of Portland’s rivers. This standout feature will complement the natural light, living trees and native Oregon foliage that will be incorporated into the new terminal.

Once this project is completed in 2025, passengers will enjoy more space to ensure their safety and wellbeing along with an earthquake-resilient main terminal that is flexible enough to adapt to new technology. With the addition of post-security concessions and the renovation of the passenger entry terminal, which will double the size of the current ticketing and lobby area, PDX will soon have sufficient capacity for future passenger demand.

Last updated: 1/28/2021