LaGuardia Airport Unveils a Brighter, More Accessible Terminal

LaGuardia Airport introduced its new Terminal B concourse to the public on Dec. 1. WSP USA has played multiple key roles on the project to achieve this milestone.

For many years, New York City’s LaGuardia Airport Terminal B endured a reputation as a dark and dingy place that had outgrown its ability to comfortably accommodate the eight million airline passengers passing through its gates every year. Add to that the need to improve security and upgrade amenities, and it became critical to overhaul the terminal, which was built in 1964.

The new 243,000-square-foot Concourse B that opened this month is the first phase of a $8 billion rebuild of the airport that addresses all of those needs and more, and is going a long way to radically improve the perceptions of travelers entering and leaving LaGuardia.

The first 11 of 18 total gates, located in the eastern concourse of Terminal B, are now open, serving Air Canada, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines flights. Next year, United Airlines will also operate from the new concourse. The remaining seven gates are scheduled to open in 2020.

The $4 billion replacement of Terminal B includes design and construction of the new headhouse, concourses A & B, Central Hall, central heating and refrigeration plant (CHRP), the West Parking Garage, airside development, and roadway and bridge infrastructure.

When the LaGuardia Terminal B project is completed in 2022, the new facility will have the capacity to handle 17 million passengers a year, and include modern baggage, check-in and security systems.


The first 11 gates, located in the eastern concourse of Terminal B, are now open to passengers. The remaining seven will open in 2020.

LaGuardia Partnerships

The design-build project is being executed by LaGuardia Gateway Partners as a public-private partnership on behalf of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. WSP leads a design joint venture with HOK that is serving as the engineer and architect of record, respectively, through completion of construction, and working in collaboration with Skanska–Walsh, the construction joint venture.

WSP has been performing multiple design and engineering roles on the project across several markets since design work began in 2015, and construction began July 2016. The project’s overall efforts are led by WSP’s Ulrich Lemcke, the design joint venture Project Director.

WSP-led services include the design of the West Parking Garage, CHRP and roadway and bridge infrastructure improvements where design services include civil/highway engineering, landscaping, drainage, utilities, roadway bridges, retaining walls, environmental, geotechnical foundations, pavement, commissioning assistance, building mechanical/electrical services and airside infrastructure (apron, fuel pits, lighting, passenger boarding bridges, and the aircraft maneuvering plan).

The WSP buildings team, with Ciarán Smyth as project manager, is responsible for the design of the mechanical heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and electrical services within both concourses, two pedestrian bridges and the headhouse. Additionally, he is the technical lead for the mechanical HVAC design.

The firm’s energy team, led by project managers Rebecca Ashton and Mitchell Jordan, is providing detailed design, construction administration, and commissioning support for the delivery of the 65,000-square-foot CHRP and final cooling tower.

“The CHRP facility is critical to both occupant comfort and life safety of the entire new LGA Central Terminal Redevelopment,” Jordan said. “It provides heating, cooling and fire protection to the new facility while also supporting phased demolition of the existing facility over two years.”

WSP’s water and environment group is providing drainage and storm water management design and construction services on the airside portion of the design-build project.

“This work is being done to ensure compliance with both Port Authority and Federal Aviation Administration design standards,” said Darren Delenick, WSP’s airside drainage and storm water lead. “The design included a series of trench drains and manholes that discharge to a series of manufactured treatment devices before discharging to the existing storm sewer system.”


The open, brighter concourse includes many family-friendly features, such as an airport-themed children’s play area.

Stunning Features

On Nov. 29, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted a grand-opening celebration for Terminal B, taking a first look at the stunning new features in the once-maligned airport.

“Travelers will notice the higher ceilings, better sightlines, natural and better lighting, spacious and well-appointed bathrooms, more amenities adjacent to the gate, and wider circulation aisles,” Lemcke said.

“The new terminal looks fantastic, and will be a remarkable improvement for everyone who travels through or works at the airport,” said Ciarán Smyth, one of WSP’s project managers for the LaGuardia project.

Once an enclosed dual pedestrian bridge is complete, passengers will be able to walk to their concourse and view the planes below.

“The western pedestrian bridge and its views of the Manhattan skyline will be a crown jewel of this project,” said Smyth, whose buildings team is designing the bridge’s mechanical and electrical systems. “I think we will see a lot of postcards featuring photos taken from that spot … and a lot of selfies, too.”

The new concourse provides more than a dozen new concessions, including several dining options and an FAO Schwarz toy store, as well as an airport-themed children’s play area that features a 16-foot interactive display.

In February, the new Terminal B parking garage opened, providing 3,100 parking spaces, as well as a dedicated level with loading areas for car services, where passengers can meet their drivers inside, protected from the elements.


The new concourse provides more than a dozen new concessions, including several dining options and a FAO Schwarz toy story.

Sustainable Goals

Although the contractual goal is to hit Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver with the U.S. Green Building Council, LaGuardia Gateway Partners have set their sights even higher, approaching the project with a target set on LEED Gold.

“The project is recycling demolition materials, using locally available materials for new construction,” Lemcke said. “The new concourse will also improve access to transit, reduce heat island effects, and implement energy conservation measures.”

They are enhancing indoor air quality through the controlled use of outside air and the use of low-emitting building materials.

“The improved air quality inside Terminal B will be noticeable,” Smyth added. “It will be one of those details that people may not always think about, but will certainly appreciate.”


LaGuardia Gateway Partners have set their sights on designing and building LaGuardia Airport to achieve LEED Gold certification.

Moving Forward

Projects of this size are not without their share of challenges. But from those challenges often emerged opportunities to collaborate and use “outside-the-box” thinking to keep the project moving forward.

“This is an extremely challenging project, largely due to the need to maintain service at LaGuardia while the entire Terminal B area is rebuilt and the airport roadway system is reconfigured,” Lemcke said. “The project team is extremely proud of the work that has been done to accomplish this goal, and it is particularly gratifying to see positive reviews from the public as new components of the project are brought on line.”

Smyth echoed that sentiment, as the design-build approach required his team to often work with what were effectively existing conditions, requiring much more detailed and focused coordination.

“It was an incredibly accelerated schedule,” he said. “The building structural design was so far ahead of us that the steel was out for fabrication while we were in early construction documentation design. So we had to develop our mechanical and electrical systems to fit within those parameters.”

That created some unexpected conditions, such as reduced plant room space for their systems. Using the latest building information modeling (BIM) technology to assess, adjust and coordinate services to space requirements was one tool they used that turned a hurdle into an opportunity to improve the overall project.

“When a project moves this quickly, trust is everything,” Smyth said. “When you are continually engaged with everyone—the architect, the structural engineer, the contractor, multiple other trades—you are able to overcome challenges and get things done quickly and correctly. It was that coordination—working parallel to one-another—that resulted in its success.”

Delenick said the biggest challenge for his team was tying the proposed drainage system into the undersized existing drainage system.

“We did not anticipate the existing system to have as little capacity as it did,” he said. “As a result, our solution to the problem was to oversize the proposed system, which provided capacity that ultimately prevented surcharging within the lease limit.”

Requirements for the cooling tower installation created challenges for the energy team, as they needed to find a way to maintain operations during demolition and construction.

“The construction phasing plan called for demolition of the existing CHRP that served the existing Central Terminal B as part of the first phase,” said Chris Tso, WSP lead mechanical engineer. “The challenge was to find a way to provide heating and cooling for the existing terminal without using the existing CHRP.”

The result was a three-phase approach that included the creation of an interim cooling tower that is currently in operation. Eventually, the final cooling tower will be constructed to accommodate the new concourse.


When completed, Central Terminal B will feature two pedestrian walking bridges to the gates, where passengers will have an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline.

A Great Group

The WSP team shared a great sense of satisfaction and pride having the opportunity to work on such an important and visible project.

“LaGuardia is a very high-profile project, so I personally feel a sense of pride with being involved in the project,” Tso said.

“The fast-paced nature of this design-build job allowed me to take part in all aspects of the job from design to construction and see the results of my work in a short amount time,” Delenick added. “I was able to gain some valuable experience with drainage design on an aviation project and work with a great group of people from not only WSP but our subconsultants and the contractors.”

“It is particularly gratifying to see positive reviews from the public as new components of the project are brought on line,” Lemcke said. “The project team is extremely proud of the work that has been done to accomplish this goal.”

“Often we walk away from our projects and never see them again,” Jordan said. “So being part of a project with WSP’s name attached that I will use numerous times a year means a lot to me, and will be a constant reminder of the good work that our company does.”

“The grand opening was amazing, and everyone there seemed to be quite pleased with the results,” Smyth said. “It was a very proud day for us.”

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