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McCarthy Building Cos. Inc. Stays Safe at ATL

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The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Project featured two 900-foot-long steel canopies.

The construction industry is in a new era with the range of technologies available to builders, and McCarthy Building Cos. Inc. makes sure to stay in step with those innovations. Recently, the company employed 4-D BIM technology for its project at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). 

McCarthy — along with joint venture partners New South Construction and Synergy Development Partners — used the technology to create a model of the project and the airport. This allowed the companies — which formed the partnership NSMS — to show simulations of how the job would be built and how it would impact airport traffic flow.

“A majority of people can’t look at a construction document,” McCarthy Superintendent Anthony Gorzelnik acknowledges. “We were able to show them what they could expect at any moment in time, shift by shift.”

NSMS is currently underway on the $265.5 million project, which includes two 900-foot-long canopies over ATL’s North and South Arrival Roadways. But the canopies’ massive size is not their only impressive feature. 

“They have approximately 1,600 color-changing LED lights per side, which are used to display graphics on holidays,” McCarthy Senior Project Manager Justis Brogan describes. “They can be seen both from the air and ground.”

NSMS also will modernize the façade of ATL’s domestic terminal and 13 vestibule entrances. Work started on the project in 2017 and is aiming for completion at the end of this year.

McCarthy has enjoyed working with its partners at ATL. “We’ve had the benefit of combining three different companies,” Brogan says. 

The joint venture succeeds through effective communication, aligned cultures and an emphasis on-site on a one-NSMS-team approach. “Our client sees us as a successful partner and we’ve built a great brand here at Hartsfield,” he adds.

Beyond Normal

NSMS has incorporated unique materials and methods into the ATL project. This includes ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), a fluorine-based plastic that will be secured on top of the steel canopies. 

According to Brogan, the material is translucent, lighter than glass and watertight. “This is the largest installation of that ETFE system in the United States,” he says. The ETFE covering is approximately the area of six football fields.

The companies had to design and install a chilled-water cooling system to keep the concrete at a constant temperature as it was being poured for the piers that support the canopies. As part of the system’s design, plastic pipes were placed into each pier.

Workers then ran cold water in the pipes so that the concrete stayed cooler as it was poured and cured. This allowed the project team to “keep moving forward and not delay the future canopy construction,” Gorzelnik recalls.

In the Right Place

Maintaining the schedule for the steel canopies has been a major challenge for NSMS. According to Brogan, the project team has had to construct them during daytime and nighttime hours in an active, eight-lane elevated roadway at the airport.

This has made it critical for the project team to not have any impacts on passenger experiences or safety. To meet this challenge, NSMS has carefully sequenced its large and heavy crane picks to install the steel safely.

“Each piece had to be meticulously surveyed and put in a very specific place,” Brogan says. “They were engineered so that they were in exactly their right spot.”

Thanks to the work of NSMS’s teams, the project has enjoyed tremendous safety results. “We’re very proud of the fact that we were able to do this high-risk work with a lot of entities working in close proximity to each other,” Gorzelnik says. “Our team executed at a high level to make that happen safely.”

Keeping Busy

McCarthy will continue to stay busy even after it completes the ATL project. The company plans to take on more aviation-related projects, including new projects at Hartsfield-Jackson and one at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. 

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