Canadian Consulting Engineer


October 1, 2014
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

MMM Group was prime consultant for the Phase 1 development of the New Quito International Airport located in Ecuador, South America.

MMM Group was prime consultant for the Phase 1 development of the New Quito International Airport located in Ecuador, South America.

The original airport was in the heart of the city of Quito, nestled in the valley of surrounding mountains, and engulfed by existing urban development. The site constraints made expanding the existing facilities virtually impossible, so it was decided to build a new world-class international airport. The goals were for it to have the highest global standards for design and construction, to provide economic and social benefits, and to minimize the environmental impacts.

Located on a 1,400-hectare plateau sitting 350 metres above surrounding rivers, high within the Andes Mountains and in one of the most seismically active areas in the world, the new international airport project presented design challenges. The new site location was recommended for its size, orientation with respect to prevailing winds, proximity to the city of Quito, and potential for future expansion.

MMM undertook all of the engineering design, with the exception of the architectural and geotechnical design, for the project’s initial phase. This work included a 38,000 m2 four-level passenger terminal, as well as landside and airside infrastructure, an air traffic control tower, and airport and airline support facilities. A stormwater management facility, and water treatment and sanitary treatment plants were also part of this phase.

The airport was designed to the International Building Code (IBC 2000) and other codes that were not generally followed in Ecuador but were mandated by the contract. The strict adherence to these codes created a high-quality facility, designed and built to North American standards. The project also helped to educate local affiliates and construction personnel on these best practices for future projects.

High seismic loads and poor soils

One challenge was to orientate the primary runway so that its length could be maximized to take advantage of the prevailing wind conditions and to accommodate take-offs and landings that “shoot the gaps” between existing volcanoes. With the site located in one of the highest-risk seismic zones in the world, extensive architectural and engineering measures were required to ensure that the development is safe. The structures were designed using a combination of steel braced frames and reinforced concrete moment frames.

The plateau on which the new airport is situated comprises layers of volcanic ash. The existing soil in its natural state was loose, weak and not suitable for construction, so a rigorous testing process was undertaken to establish the best solution. The addition of water and load causes the soil to collapse; however, adding water to disturbed soil and placing it as engineered fill turned the soil into what has been described as “water resistant concrete.” Several trials were undertaken to determine the optimum process and materials composition. This was a solution unique to this site.

Benefits to the people of Ecuador

Early on in the construction a significant archaeological find was discovered. The design-build team worked quickly and cooperatively with the archaeology team that was brought in to extract artifacts that were buried beneath the terminal and groundside parking areas. The artifacts were catalogued and returned to the government of Ecuador.

With an increased capacity of more than 1.2 million annual passengers over that of the existing airport and an expansion capability for 3.8 million more, the new international airport provides a variety of economic benefits for the city of Quito and Ecuador. Besides opening a new era for the progress of air transportation, tourism and urban development in the region, it created numerous employment opportunities and has generated development in the surrounding areas. Safety within Quito’s city centre has also improved with the existing airport now decommissioned.

At the onset of the project, the team embraced an environmental policy to mitigate the impacts of the airport’s operations. The design and construction complied with international environmental impact assessment and environmental management plans. These included guidelines relating to aviation operations, the natural environment, archaeology and heritage, and social factors. The end design was a durable, energy-efficient facility that incorporates local and recycled materials and one that was recognized by CIFAL (a branch of the United Nations) for its superior environmental responsibility.

The airport has won several international environmental, corporate responsibility, and airport design awards.cce

Project name: New Quito

International Airport, Ecuador

Award-winning firm

(prime consultant): MMM Group,

Thornhill, Ont. (Janine Turner, P.Eng.,

Hank Edamura, P.Eng., Kim Gurney, CET, Dan Butler, P.Eng., Carmine Bello, P.Eng., Slavek Strzemieczny, P.Eng., Ian Waymann, P.Eng., Mark Boone, P.Eng., Bill Longden, Brian Derich)

Owner: Aecon Constructors

Client: Aecon/Andrade Gutierrez

Constructores S.A.

Other key players: McMillan Associates (architect); Vecttor Projetos SC and Peto MacCallum (geotechnical),

Aecon (contractor)


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