Canadian Consulting Engineer

Pearson International: Thinking Big

In October, four years of hectic construction activity at Toronto Pearson International Airport will culminate with the opening of the new terminal building. But this striking structure is just one co...

August 1, 2003   Canadian Consulting Engineer

In October, four years of hectic construction activity at Toronto Pearson International Airport will culminate with the opening of the new terminal building. But this striking structure is just one component of a massive reconfiguration of the entire site that has become the largest construction project in Canada. Overall, the redevelopment is taking 10 years to complete at an estimated cost of $4.4 billion.

Besides the new terminal curving around a parking garage with space for 12,500 vehicles, the redevelopment includes three major components: airside development, infield development, and the utilities and airport support program. Only a few of these components are included in this overview. Featured are: the structural, mechanical and electrical engineering of the new terminal, the new road infrastructure, new cargo and hangar buildings, the materials handling system and a stormwater management system.

The ability to manage and design a project on this scale and with this complexity shows the excellent skills of engineers and others in the Canadian construction industry. The upheaval and rescrambling of almost the entire airport site was done while up to 26 million passengers a year and 392,000 tonnes of cargo continued to fly in and out. The only sad note is that once the new terminal building is open, the old Terminal 1 will be demolished. Its “Aeroquay” concept was a milestone when it was designed in the 1960s. The terminal has served as the welcoming port for numerous new Canadians over the past 40 years.

The new terminal arc-shaped “processor” has check in and baggage areas below a main hall that has a 60-metre clear span and is 18 metres high. A system of skylights allows daylight to penetrate to the lower levels. The first building phase includes two piers extending outward, and one more pier is planned. The larger international pier ends in a crescent shaped “hammerhead” containing retail and food outlets.

Pearson is an important economic engine for the entire Greater Toronto Area. The size of a small city, the airport employs abot 70,000 people. In 2001 it was estimated to generate $14 billion in revenue for local businesses, $3.9 billion in personal income, and $2.8 billion in tax revenue.

Project credits

Scores of engineering firms are involved in different aspects of this huge redevelopment, making it impossible to mention them all. We have tried to include the key players for the particular components featured. The client in all cases is the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.

The program management consultant for the new terminal building and responsible for coordination with other airport redevelopment elements, was MGP, a joint venture of Marshall Macklin Monaghan (Frank Edamura, P.Eng.) and Giffels Associates of Toronto, and Parsons of the U.S. The architect of the new terminal is Airport Architects Canada, a joint venture of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Moshe Safdie and Associates of the U.S., and Adamson Associates of Toronto.


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