PDX roof mockup

The Portland International Airport is in the midst of a major expansion to its main terminal that the Port of Portland projects will result in $1.5 billion in construction spending through 2025.

“We’re taking the airport that has served the region well for the past 80 years and updating and upgrading it,” said Chief Projects Officer Vince Granato. “While the space will look and feel different, we are keeping the heart and soul of the airport that Portlanders know and love — easy to navigate; bright, open spaces; and local shops and restaurants – it will still feel like home.”

The expansion has already drawn headlines for its design. Architectural firm ZGF reportedly was inspired by the landscapes of the region around Portland in the project’s design. Architects, including ZGF managing partner Sharron van der Meulen, said they are significantly inspired by the natural spaces of the Pacific Northwest.

“The inspiration we really looked to in the beginning was of the place, the natural environment, the really unique regions that we live in,” said van der Meulen, lead interior designer for the project.

According to reports, the airport’s main terminal is getting a new roof made entirely of lumber salvaged from wildfires in Oregon and neighboring Washington. Meant to recall the natural spaces that the Pacific Northwest is known for, the space is also being constructed by joint venture Stanksa Hoffman in order to withstand any natural phenomena or disasters that may occur in the area, which can be prone to earthquakes.

“There is no steel within those particular wood beams,” noted Chief Projects Officer for Port of Portland Vince Granato. “They’re designed to absorb any energy that could come from a Cascadia subduction earthquake.”

This is not the first time architects in Oregon have gone this route for such a high-profile project, either. In summer 2021, Michael Green Architecture completed construction of two new buildings for the Oregon State University College of Forestry  — despite being impacted by the high-profile Katerra shutdown — made “almost entirely” out of locally sourced timber from Douglas first in the area surrounding Corvallis, Oregon — with a similar focus on sustainability and earthquake resilience.

Learn more: Katerra’s Abrupt Bankruptcy Leaves Construction Contractors Hanging for $73M

Recent work in airport construction has been significant nationwide

Just like with the nature of its design, the project has already drawn headlines for construction reasons. After initial work done through 2020, a joint venture between Skanska and Hoffman Construction Company has already received multiple additional contracts with the Port of Portland to continue work on the expansion.

But this isn’t the only major project in the headlines: Recent months have seen significant work done on projects around the nation, as well. In September 2021, the Maryland Board of Public works approved a construction contract totaling $135 million for the construction of a maintenance facility for Southwest Airlines at the Baltimore/ Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Shortly before this, an August 3, 2021, press release from then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an agreement between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and private group JFK Millennium Partners for the construction of a new terminal at New York City’s JFK International Airport, with the 1.2 million-square-foot development projected to cost $3.9 billion.

Similarly, an August 5, 2021 announcement from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport set out its plans for major expansion in the coming years as the airport’s board of directors approved what is likely to be a close to $140 million expansion plan in its A and C terminals.

Though airport officials are hoping that public reception will be positive, so far the Portland Airport has received a bit of negative publicity over its new construction.

 Recently, the airport was hit with a major decline in its rating from consumer opinion group J.D. Power, with a spokesperson for the company noting that the ranking was “largely due to an extensive remodel underway at Portland airport.”

“As soon as you come in the door, there’s a lot of construction,”  said spokesperson Mike Taylor. “If there’s any kind of slowdown, you don’t have as much time to shop for food and beverages, which is a major strength for PDX.”

Port of Portland spokesperson Kama Simonds pushed back a bit on the new construction’s impact on the airport, though they noted that it would continue to have an effect on what the airport was usually known for.

“Our concessionaires have many open positions to fill, and as we slowly emerge from the pandemic, they are working hard to have business operations mirror flight schedules,” Simonds said. “This leads to truncated hours, which surprises those who haven’t flown in a while.”

Portland’s airport officials are aware of this, too: The roof that will be one of the main selling points of the new renovations isn’t even being constructed onsite, as the massive size would have caused significant delays if it was.