Missing link: Denver International Airport and Transit Center

Gold Award: A new mixed-use transit center fulfills Denver’s 28-year plan to improve access to the nation’s fifth-busiest airport.

June 08, 2017 |

Courtesy Scott Frances

This swooping, bird-in-flight, steel-and-glass building is the realization of Denver International Airport’s 1989 master plan to build a public transit center connecting the city’s RTD commuter rail line to the airport. 

The 15-story project is an expansion to the airport’s Jeppesen Terminal and includes three components: a 519-key Westin hotel and conference center, a 82,000-sf plaza with restaurants and retail, and the transit center, which serves more than 18,000 riders daily. 

The Building Team had to overcome a number of hurdles to deliver this project on time and within budget. It had to meet the requirements of three high-profile stakeholders: Starwood (hotel operator), Regional Transportation District (rail line), and the airport. To streamline coordination and speed up decision making, the team enlisted key personnel from each stakeholder to form a small, nimble group. 

The team colocated the critical members and established a real-time data stream of cost and constructability information. This was accomplished with an integrated BIM model that displayed cost-trending information in step with design evolution.


The building’s catenary roof and two massive canopies (the one pictured cantilevers 135 feet) required close collaboration among the Building Team members. This canopy is supported solely by two banana-shaped concrete abutments that are 150 feet long and consist of multiple layers of reinforcing cages. Courtesy Scott Frances.


The core team was able to quickly problem solve several thorny issues, including: 

  • Coordination with contractors working on adjacent projects, including a new parking structure and a utilities relocation package to within five feet of the hotel.
  • Constructing the 80-foot-clear-span steel catenary roof, which required bucket drops of concrete to avoid concrete avalanching on the undulating surface.
  • Meticulous installation of the facility’s five-story escalator (the tallest in Colorado), which required a complex engineered rigging system to set the escalator just inches over a sloped membrane roofing system. 


Building Team – Submitting firm, joint venture contractor MHS Triventure (Mortenson Construction, Hunt Construction, Saunders Construction) Owner Denver International Airport Architect Gensler Architect of record Anderson Mason Dale Associate architect Iron Horse Architects Structural engineers S.A. Miro, Arup Civil engineer Hartwig & Associates MEP engineer ME Engineers

General Information – Size 730,000 sf Cost withheld at owner’s request Construction time November 2012 to April 2016 Delivery method CM/GC


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