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Women Leading the Way at the Kansas City International Airport

Women Leading the Way at the Kansas City International Airport

By Luke Carothers 

In 2017 the mayor and city council for Kansas City, Missouri selected Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate to build the new terminal for Kansas City International Airport (KCI Airport).  In March of 2019, the Edgemoor team broke ground on the 1-million-square-ft, $1.5 billion project with the goals of supporting more efficient airport operations as well as featuring the convenience of contemporary air travel, providing an inclusive facility with updated technology and amenities, close parking, spacious gate areas, and ample food options.

The Edgemoor team partnered with design-builder Clark | Weitz | Clarkson (CWC) to construct the new terminal at the KCI Airport.  Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is the project’s architect and structural engineer.

In addition to providing updating facilities and improving access, this project is also breaking ground in terms of its impact on the industry.  When Edgemoor was selected to lead the project, they promised history and transformative diversity , which would in turn spur economic growth for minority- and women-owned businesses.  To deliver on this promise, the Edgemoor team set a goal to have 15 percent participation for women-owned businesses in both professional and construction services.

Not only was this promise delivered, it was exceeded.  The women-owned business enterprise (WBE) participation rate for professional services on the project is 15.9 percent, and for construction services the rate is 19.1%. This means that 54 WBEs are currently leading scopes of work totaling nearly $175 million.  In terms of women participating in the construction workforce, the KCI Airport project triples the industry average with 8 percent of the total construction workforce being women.

This project is also being led at the top by several women in key leadership positions.  Laura Ettelman, a managing partner at SOM, is heading up a team of a dozen designers on the terminal project.  Ettelman, an expert in managing complex construction and phasing, has extensive experience with projects such as Terminal 1 at the Toronto International Airport and Terminal 2 at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai.  Ettelman was also recently elevated to the American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows.

Alex Thewis, an associate director at SOM, is leading the way on the structural side.  She is the lead Structural Engineer for the new terminal project.  Another industry expert, Thewis has extensive experience working on large-scale projects.  Previously, she also worked on the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, the Mount Sinai Center for Science and Medicine in New York City, and 35 Hudson Yards on the Far West Side of Manhattan.

Having this much experience on the project has certainly paid off. Safety is a core value for the greater Edgemoor team, and a factor critical to the New Terminal Project’s success. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the past 13 months have been an uncertain and unprecedented time, adding a layer of complexity to this already challenging mega-project.  To ensure worker safety, design-builders Clark | Weitz | Clarkson implemented a comprehensive COVID-19 management plan to minimize the risk of jobsite transmission.  This plan included standard practices such as mandatory face coverings and eliminating all large group meetings, but it also resequenced construction practices which allowed for maximum social distancing.  

Edgemoor hopes that when the new terminal project at the KCI Airport is completed, it will set a new standard for inclusivity and accessibility.  Some of the new terminal project features include:

  • A sensory room
  • A meditation room
  • An airplane simulator room
  • Variety KC Inclusive Family Play Zone
  • Adult-Assist Changing Rooms with Changing Tables
  • All Gender Restrooms
  • Accessible Family Restrooms
  • Infant Nursing Rooms
  • Service Animal Relief Areas

Every attention to detail with the KCI airport project is considerate of the passenger experience, with the goal of making travel more accessible, convenient enjoyable — and less stressful.  In addition, while the project is being completed, it is having a positive impact on not only an economic scale, but rather in the direction it pushes the industry: forward.

Luke Carothers is the Editor for Civil + Structural Engineer Media. If you want us to cover your project or want to feature your own article, he can be reached at lcarothers@zweiggroup.com.