Now Testing: Materials for the Airport of the Future

xBridge Innovation Center allows staff to install, evaluate products for new facility

By Alyson Walls

Published September 20, 2021

Read Time: 3 mins


Famed inventor Thomas Edison said, “There’s a way to do it better – find it.”

At Pittsburgh International Airport’s xBridge Innovation Center, airport employees and community partners are doing just that.

In addition to being a real-time research and development lab for major universities including Carnegie Mellon, global corporations like Honeywell, and local tech firms such as Carnegie Robotics, PIT’s xBridge – a 10,000-square-foot-space at the end of Concourse B – now includes a testing area for products and materials that could be used in PIT’s new terminal project.

The Terminal Modernization Project mock-up area inside the xBridge allows airport staff to install and test materials including flooring, paint, fixtures, furniture and more for potential use in the new 700,000 square-foot terminal and multi-modal transportation complex now in the early stages of construction.

A central feature in the mock-up area is a sample support column which is being painted to determine just the right color of copper to resemble the design team’s vision for incorporating trees and nature into the new facilities.

In other areas, crews are testing wear and tear on materials including how paints and coatings hold up when banged with luggage and carts.

“From the beginning, we envisioned a space where the TMP design team and airport employees could have a hands-on experience with the potential materials,” said Erik Harless, Architectural Project Manager. “It’s amazing to see it all coming together.”

Thus far, eight companies have provided, and in some cases donated, materials including nearly 10,000 square feet of various types of flooring and 1,000 square feet of paint and coatings, all of which are being tried and tested by airport employees to evaluate long-term performance and viability for use in the new facilities expected to open in early 2025.

“Ultimately, the goal of the mock-up area is to allow our frontline employees – those who will be using and cleaning and repairing these materials on a daily basis – to become familiar with them and to help inform decisions about purchase and installation,” said Paul Hoback, Chief Development Officer.

Local Trades Workers Install Test Materials

Matt Allanson, Project Manager with Independence Excavating, the contractor for early site work on the TMP, is supervising set-up of the space. Through August, the mock-up room has involved several local trade sub-contractors and 35 to 40 workers including laborers, carpenters, cement finishers and others.

“I think it’s important to have a space like this for this large of a project,” Allanson said. “With a little bit of effort and minimal dollars, you can actually see what you are going to select and know how it’s all going to work together.”

Working in tandem with other companies on initiatives including new technologies, cleaning and real-time condition monitoring to improve the airport environment is central to the xBridge’s ongoing success.

Rege Koslof and Greg Ulmer with cleaning vendor ISS were recently testing the airport’s now-famous aviation-themed robot scrubbers on the new types of flooring in the mock-up space.

“It’s helpful to see the materials that are being considered and how they might impact the equipment and procedures we already have in place,” Koslof said.

Mark Usenicnik, facilities maintenance supervisor, oversees the airport’s carpenter shop, tile shop, roofers, painters and plumbers. He said it’s beneficial for airport trades workers to see the products up close and to see the installation procedures in action.

“At the end of the day, the employees are the ones who are going to be making the repairs and working with these materials, so the goal of this mock-up area is to familiarize everyone with them.”

The next phase of the mock-up area will include material for wood ceilings to be built over the new terminal’s departures curb and acoustic and metal ceilings specified for the arrivals level in the meeter/greeter and baggage claim areas. An actual workspace studio room will also be outfitted.

The Airport Authority encourages submission of materials that align with the TMP’s commitment to sustainable construction and operation, including locally and regionally sourced materials and materials that reduce energy, emissions, water and waste.

For more information on submitting materials for consideration, visit:

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