New Terminal Façade Fares Well Against Mother Nature

Exterior walls, windows blasted with water, wind, more to test durability

By Oscar Rzodkiewicz

Published October 13, 2022

Read Time: 2 mins


A year ago, Pittsburgh International Airport broke ground on its new terminal.

Fast forward to October 2022, and testing is underway on the façade that will soon make up the walls of that terminal.

An Allegheny County Airport Authority team recently traveled to Molimo Architectural Product Testing in York, Pa., to visit a scale mockup of the exterior of the new terminal, which is scheduled to open in 2025.

About 58 feet tall and 60 feet wide, the mockup occupies four bays at the company’s site, allowing for rigorous environmental testing that includes water resistance, wind resistance and temperature fluctuation to identify issues ahead of the build in Pittsburgh.

“We want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to understand what we have to do to make it serve the community well for years and years,” said ACAA CEO Christina Cassotis, who watched the testing firsthand.

The water and wind resistance were tested concurrently, with winds of 65 miles per hour being blasted at the mockup along with 8,000 of gallons of water per test, according to Nick Suchta, project manager with PJ Dick, a prime contractor on the Terminal Modernization Program.

The mockup will test all materials used for the new terminal, from windows to exterior walls to roofing, to evaluate each for leaks and general performance under strenuous weather conditions.

How did it perform?

“It went remarkably well,” Suchta said.

PIT officials wanted the mockup to closely emulate the final build to find any issues before they could appear on the new terminal, and the tests revealed very few problems.

In the coming weeks, frontline workers on the TMP will travel to see the mockup.

“Those foremen are really learning how to do the installation with safety, first and foremost, in mind,” said Paul Hoback, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer. “But then also with quality in mind, so that they can replicate those procedures in the field.”

Still to come for the mockup are temperature control tests, where the exterior of the mockup will be heated to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and then cooled to zero degrees. Devices inside the prototype wall will measure performance, expansion and shrinkage during the test.

Members of the ACAA team shared the same sentiments about observing the mockup and its testing: confidence and peace of mind.

“What people can feel good about is that this building was designed well, it has tested well, and when it’s built, it’s going to perform well,” Cassotis said.

“That’s really important for the traveling public, our airline partners and all of the people who are going to work in it to maintain it. It’s Pittsburgh’s airport being built by Pittsburghers, tested by Pennsylvanians.”

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