CO Airport Gets Contract Extensions, Robots


Denver City Council signed off recently on airport officials’ proposal to accelerate with the Denver International Airport project by approving an increase to the budget of $560 million.

In addition, Hensel Phelps has deployed the use of Boston Dynamics’ Spot the robot dog to perform scans of the airport’s job site.

Project Background

In November 2017, the DIA proposed the addition of 39 gates in an expansion project, up from the airport’s original proposal of 26. At the time, the project was estimated to cost $1.5 billion and would be a P3 headed by Ferrovial Airports. The overall deal was slated to include a $650 million terminal renovation, which would be overseen by Saunders Construction over the course of four years. (Cost estimates for the actual expansion at the time were not yet available, however.)

A couple months later in January 2018, two subsidiaries of Hochtief, a Germany-based construction company, were announced as the companies to oversee the expansion. The companies, Turner Construction and Flatiron Construction, would be building two new hubs for the airport, with the capacity for three more, as well as 16 new gates and installing additional pavement.

That summer, DIA would announce an official multi-year, multi-phase renovation timeline headed by Great Hall Partners with a budget of $650 million. The P3 also included 30 years of private oversight of expanded terminal concessions. A groundbreaking ceremony followed on July 12, 2018.

However, first delays struck in February 2019 when concrete on the main floor was found to be weaker than expected. According to officials, early testing of the concrete’s compressive strength was lower than what the project’s plan specified, so the area followed up with intensive testing. The DIA also noted that the testing needed to be complete prior to cranes going onto the main floor to erect steel.

At the time of the discovery, preliminary estimates stated that the project could be delayed by 209 workdays—roughly 10 months total.

In July, GHP reported that the renovation of Jeppesen Terminal wouldn’t be complete until at least 2024, three years behind its 2021 deadline. The companies (Ferrovial Airports, Saunders Construction and JLC Infrastructure) claimed the delay was due to various airport-requested design changes and structural issues found in old concrete initially used for the airport’s construction.

However, Channel 4 CBS Denver claimed that the project’s full completion could extend to 2025—with costs projected to increase by nearly 50%, or $311 million.

Contract Saga

A month later, not long after DIA announced that it would be ending its P3 relationship with GHP for terminal renovations, the contractors released documents showing that the project requires more than $1 billion to complete.

Up $650 million from the original budget, the documents also claimed that various delays have pushed the completion date back to February 2024 as well.

According to a DIA-hired independent consultant, inspections revealed that no safety issues were present in the concrete. However, additional testing was recommended for alkali-silica reaction, known to cause swells, cracks and even weaken concrete. Traces of the ASR were later found in the terminal.

In September, Day presented a revised renovation budget totaling $770 million, which included the original budget and a $120 million contingency.

According to Day, subcommittees and steering groups were working to process the closing of GHP’s contract and settling associated claims so that the contractor could successfully vacate the property by Nov. 12. Although a 34-year concession deal was included in GHP's contract, Day also confirmed that the DIA will run that component themselves after the renovation is complete.

It was also noted that although the new $770 million budget failed to include GHP's termination fees, a report from Moody’s Investors Service shows that the airport has roughly $900 million in liquidity to back up any settlement.

The following month, the DIA announced that it had selected Hensel Phelps to serve as the preferred construction manager and general contractor for Phase 1 of the project previously held by GHP. Canada-based engineering company Stantec has been chosen as the preferred lead design firm for the entire project moving forward.

In addition, the DIA also selected Gilmore Construction, Sky Blue Builders and roughly another dozen subcontractors it hopes to take over from GHP to continue to aid in design, engineering, steel placement and electrical work. Those contracts totaled about $136 million.

At the end of March, the DIA announced that it had settled all claims with Great Hall Partners and the Denver Post reported that the two reached a final settlement of $183.6 million.

Andy445 / Getty Images

In addition, Hensel Phelps has deployed the use of Boston Dynamics’ Spot the robot dog to perform scans of the airport’s job site.

The agreement, which is dated March 13, details more than $55 million in promised final payments on top of the $128.2 million previously reported.

What Now

The contract amendments were requested at the beginning of last month and include:

  • the $700 million contract to the JV of Turner and Flatiron would increase to $940 million;
  •  the $655 million contract with Holder and FCI would increase to $920 million;
  • the Jacobs’ design contract and the HNTB’s contract would increase from $65 million to $85 million; and
  • program manager WSP’s contract would increase from $45 million to $60 million.

In addition to the contracts, Hensel has deployed Boston Dynamics’ Spot the robot dog to complete scans at the airport’s Great Hall site.

The use of robot reportedly began three months ago and is expected to last six months, although progress at the site in general has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hensel is using Trimble X7 laser scanners to communicate, according to reports.

About the Robot

Boston Dynamics (Waltham, Massachusetts) showcased the technology earlier this year. According to reports, the robot dog is intended to be used as a vehicle for carrying image capturing or laser scanning equipment where humans might not be able to.

In the middle of February, Spot displayed its capabilities at the HITT’s Co|Lab in Falls Church, Virginia. Using 3D measuring and imaging technology from Faro Technologies (Lake Mary, Florida), Spot was instructed to walk up and down stairs and through rough terrain while autonomously capturing images for HITT’s team and end users

According to Boston Dynamics, Spot can only be obtained through an early adopter program. However, lease prices claim to run less than that of a car, depending on the time period and amount of units.

Prior to the showcase at Co|Lab, Hensel had used the technology on its $1.2 billion San Francisco International Airport terminal project. Onsite, Hensel tested HoloBuilder Inc.’s SpotWalk app, which enables Spot to take 360-degree photos and videos once a path where it can walk is determined.

In all of the robot dog’s testing, Spot has been confirmed to be able to carry up to 25 pounds of payload and is able to use up to three different types of scanning or data capturing equipment through both autonomous and remote-controlled methods.

Despite its success, Michael Perry, Vice President of Business Development for Boston Dynamics reports that the company is still focusing on Spot’s data capture, sensors and mobility, as the technology is still considered to be in the beta stages of testing.

“We've seen requests for allowing owners to teleoperate Spot over remote jobsites, enable inspectors to regularly check for cold spots in window casings using thermal cameras, and many others,” he said.

Megan Lantz, Vice President of Corporate Business Development for HITT told reporters at the time that this demonstration is just the beginning, as the company intends to host a master series of presentations at Co|Lab where other new technologies and innovations can be demonstrated in a single presentation per quarter.


Tagged categories: Airports; Contracts; Maintenance + Renovation; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Technology

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