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The Future is Looking Up. Literally – The Evolution of Portland International Airport

5 September 2023

The approximately $2 Billion Portland International Airport Terminal Core  Redevelopment Project, located in Portland, OR, is led by the Port of Portland  as owner, with a design team featuring ZGF Architects and KPFF as Structural  Engineer. It is currently being built by Hoffman-Skanska Joint Venture as CMGC. The project  is summarized in Part One, published in the June 2023 Structure, and features  many unique structural solutions. In this article, Structure Mag will delve deeper into some of the most interesting structural aspects of the project, including design for fire exposure, physical load testing of connections, and the herculean process of erecting the new roof.

Engineered Lumber and Connections

The largest glued-laminted timber (glulam) beams on the project are a prodigious 9’-3” deep occurring at clerestory locations. Wood trade partner, Swinerton Mass Timber (SMT), elected to increase the initially-planned 7’-4 ½” deep glulam beam with curb above into a single massive beam serving as both beam and curb, requiring expanded APA approval, which was successfully achieved. The glulam beams are mostly 6’-4 ½” deep at their ends, where they frame into the steel girders with moment connections for continuity, with a vertical shear and horizontal tension/compression connection at the bottom and a horizontal tension/compression connection at the top of beam designed to accommodate significant vertical shrinkage movement in the glulams. These moment connections allowed for glulam beam cantilevers, provided lateral load transfer between the upper diaphragm level and isolators located below the bottom of the girders, and allowed for optimized continuous beam design for efficiency. The design tension forces in the glulam beam top/bottom connections are significant, up to several hundred kips, requiring the development of project-specific connections, verified through extensive physical load testing in partnership with Portland State University’s structures lab. 

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