A Big Triumph for The Big Easy: New Terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

Nobody’s flying much these days, but when travel restrictions are lifted, the new terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport will be ready to welcome passengers – and also entertain them.

The 740,000-square-foot terminal, which opened in November of 2019, offers beautiful aesthetics, convenience, comfort, gourmet meals, and live music. Design for the terminal was developed and completed by the Crescent City Aviation Team (CCAT), a joint venture of Atkins and LEO A DALY, based on an initial concept by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. Syska, which provided such services as mechanical, building management systems (BMS), and high-performance design, is proud to be associated with such an appealing environment.

Syska’s contributions, for the most part, are imperceptible to the general public. But they nevertheless play a critical role in the passenger experience. Connections spoke with Sergiu Pelau, PE, LEED AP, Syska’s principal in charge of the project, to learn more.

Supporting High Ceilings, Sunlight, and Views

The terminal’s high ceilings convey a sense of grandness, while a 50-foot-tall curtain wall and large central skylight offer brightness and clear views. “You might assume a need for extra energy to heat and cool the vast spaces and extra cooling to absorb the heat from the sunlight, but we had some tricks up our sleeve,” says Sergiu.

He explains that the team used a stratification-type variable-air-volume (VAV) system for ventilation, which distributes supply air 10 feet above floor level. Features of the system include free-standing air columns that supply air from ductwork located at the ceiling of the level below to condition only the areas that are occupied. At the adjacent walls, linear and jet diffusers at the same elevation let the warm air above the occupied zone stratify to the high ceilings. Stratification ventilation allowed Syska to reduce the cooling load in the high-volume spaces by 12 % to 16%.

Another solution employed radiant cooling and heating in selected areas of the terminal for spaces exposed to high solar load, such as those alongside the curtain wall and below the main skylight. “These measures allowed us to maintain cool, comfortable temperatures while decreasing energy consumption,” Sergiu notes.

He adds that Syska attained further efficiencies through the use of dedicated outside air units (DOAS) with energy wheels. These units, which are situated in the mechanical rooms, precondition the air for the distribution air-handling units. All other air handlers not connected to DOAS preconditioned air have air-side economizers, which conserve energy by using 100% outside air during favorable weather conditions.

Energy savings translated into cost-savings: “We targeted ASHRAE 90.1- 2010 as a baseline and reduced the energy costs compared to the standard by approximately 7%,” Sergiu points out. “So passengers can enjoy the space and light without guilt.”

Supporting Concessions and Rest Areas

Sergiu raves about the range of restaurants, cafes, retail, and entertainment venues in the terminal. From his perspective, Syska helped to bring the concessions to life: “We integrated the cooling loads of these spaces with the load of the main terminal, and we added ventilation for enclosed retail spaces and make-up air and provisions for exhaust for kitchens. Admittedly, we engineers are not generally known for cooking or entertaining, but we like to think we made it possible for passengers to enjoy themselves.”

Other spaces that have become premium locations are the restrooms. No longer delegated to the back of the house, the restrooms in the new terminal have direct views to the airside and lots of natural light. Sergiu offers a rationale for this design: “Anytime passengers walk into a terminal, they get the impression of the surrounding town. The people leaving the city retain those impressions. Furthermore, restrooms are the first place an arriving passenger sees and last for a departing one. That’s why we provided ventilation rates well above code minimum to ensure that odors are properly controlled. Passengers and employees appreciate the good air quality.”

Supporting Growth

Success breeds success, and that’s why Syska focused on scalability throughout the project, which went through many design iterations. “From the start, we kept the potential for expansion in mind,” says Sergiu. “Initially, we designed the building systems to serve two concourses immediately and two additional concourses in the future. To this end, we made provisions in the design for a future chiller and cooling tower. As it turned out, because there were changes in airport leadership, and the projections for passenger growth were soon surpassed, the objectives shifted, and we were asked to design for the third concourse. This concourse was then rolled into the ongoing construction, and it opened at the same time as the rest of the terminal.”

He continues: “When New Orleans is ready for a fourth, the mechanical systems are already in place.”

Sergiu appreciates the terminal in its present incarnation, however. “My colleague who was in charge of construction administration, joined me there on opening day,” he recalls. “It looked awesome. And we overheard many passengers saying how much they loved the new terminal. We look forward to the days when people start traveling again so more passengers can experience the best of New Orleans from the airport, even if they’re just passing through.”


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