Albuquerque , New Mexico – WHPacific, Inc. was the lead firm for the A/E team designing the new Snow Barn Complex. WHPacific provided a broad range of professional services including programming, architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, fire protection engineering, structural engineering, project management, environmental services, and construction administration.
Project Uniqueness: The City of Albuquerque’s new Snow Barn Complex incorporated an array of engineering design solutions as well as distinct logistical construction requirements to make it unique within the category of Building/Technology Systems. Through the complexity of its functionality and the additional difficulty of its project site, the Snow Barn Complex required a well-coordinated design to integrate several building systems and satisfy the programmed needs of its end-users.
Of the four main functions bulleted in the executive summary, two unique features of this project are:
1) The Triturator: The critical function of the triturator is to provide reliable disposal of “blue water”, or lavatory waste from aircraft during layovers at the Sunport. The equipment grinds the waste prior to discharge into the city’s sewer system. The engineered design offers universal access to the triturator despite irregularities among the variety of service carts used by different airlines. Key card access offers Sunport officials the ability to monitor and meter usage, and the below grade installation provides containment with ease of access for cleaning. Functionality is supervised through closed circuit security surveillance and the airport’s building automation system while alarms are monitored at the head end communications center.
2) The Autoclave: The autoclave, on the other hand, sanitizes general waste (trash, etc.) from aircraft during layovers for international flights. The autoclave is an essential component to maintaining the health and welfare of the general public by eliminating the opportunity for biological contaminants from entering our environment or atmosphere. Once again, technology is a key component to this design providing key card access and closed circuit security surveillance to monitor usage and supervision through the airport’s building automation system. As there are less than roughly 150 international airports throughout the United States, the construction of a new facility like the Snow Barn Complex remains uncommon within the aviation industry.
Value to the Public: The importance of this facility rests in its durability, reliability, and high performance. The engineering systems specified serve just that purpose. In fact, the threat of system failure at the Snow Barn Complex is the driving force behind this project’s engineering. Consider the impact of no lavatory service or even a reduced lavatory service during flight without a triturator. Or, consider delays associated with inadequate snow removal service or an inaccessible or inoperable de-icing facility. Even worse, consider the much greater threat of a contaminated watershed, a biological outbreak or viral epidemic without an autoclave. Undeniably, without the safety net of sound engineering, these consequences are quite real; and the Snow Barn Complex is engineered to provide consistent performance to mitigate these threats year round. Engineered systems within the Snow Barn itself include radiant heaters to provide a conditioned environment for the airport’s staff as well as adequate trench drains to accommodate melting snow inclusive of an oil-sand separator to filter pollutants prior to discharging water into the sanitary waste system.
Social and Economic Considerations: A serious threat during soil excavation and final occupancy resulted from this structure’s proximity to the old Yale Landfill. Methane gas is a byproduct of the decaying landfill material, and it can be deadly. In fact, lives have unfortunately been lost during construction projects similar to the Snow Barn Complex. As a result, specialized systems for venting of methane gas at the building’s perimeter foundation have been engineered to address life safety concerns, and constant monitoring for methane gas was provided during building excavation. Additional venting has also been provided at strategic locations along main utility lines as this is where methane gas can travel more easily through the disturbed soils and backfill voids associated with these utility lines. Where these utilities enter the building, the methane gas is blocked from penetrating the building envelope and vented to the atmosphere.
Project Complexity is No Problem: All work associated with an airport has a high level of security especially when access to the airfield is unimpeded. Employee badging, access control, material delivery, staging, vehicular circulation, haul routes, foreign objects and debris, and security inspections are daily concerns during construction. Even the contractor’s construction crane height and location relative to distance from and placement near an active runway requires approval by the Federal Aviation Administration prior to commencing work. These requirements, of course, impact the overall construction schedule and cost.
Fulfillment of Client Needs: WHPacific and the City of Albuquerque Aviation Department have worked together on many successful projects through the years. During early design, WHPacific often initiates a Collaborative Design Process (CDP) engaging clients and project stakeholders in the integration of the necessary components and building systems essential for project success. The goal is to involve all key decision makers and have them actively participate in a collaborative and well-informed decision making process. With the City of Albuquerque Aviation Department, the CDP resulted in an agreeable project schedule and a more thoroughly coordinated set of contract documents. Through the CDP, WHPacific was able to design an efficient, cost effective and functional facility for the Aviation Department that integrated the technical, regulatory, and programmatic needs of the project.