Chicago's New Midway Airport
Midway Airport, Chicago
Representing the South Side
Chicago's Midway Airport expands to serve more passengers
by Kate Gawlik
The North vs. South rivalry isn't reserved for the states on either side of the U.S. Mason-Dixon Line. A battle is alive and well in
Chicago between the rough Southsiders and the pansy Northsiders, stereotypically speaking, of course. As Chicago has become
gentrified and expanded, the rivalry may have grown less intense (except during baseball season), but the South Side working
class and North Side yuppies still have gripes with one another.
Even air travel in Chicago is represented on the North and South sides—O'Hare International Airport reigns supreme on the
North Side, and Midway Airport is growing strong on the South Side, especially because of the Midway Terminal Development
Program, a $722 million expansion project.
Midway Airport, known as Chicago's "other airport," opened in 1927
and was the world's busiest airport from 1945-58. Unlike O'Hare, which
sits on 7,000 acres (28.3 km²) of land with 178 aircraft gates housed in
four terminal buildings, Midway Airport functions with much less and
often has been considered a second-class airport. But things are
Originally situated on a 1-square-mile (2.6-km²) lot, the airport has
expanded across Cicero Avenue—its eastern boundary line—where a
new six-story parking garage opened in 1999 and the Midway Terminal
Building opened in March 2001. The terminal building houses ticket
counters, baggage-claim areas, and a two-level terminal roadway
system separating arrivals and departures. A Federal Inspections
Services Facility opened in 2002, bringing international flights back to
Midway Airport after more than 40 years.
In addition, the airport's original terminal and concourse building has
been reconstructed and expanded to include shops, restaurants and
more concourses. Airline gate and concourse openings occurred in
October 2001, but construction and renovations in this area continue
and are expected to be finished in May. The expansion created 12 additional aircraft gates (Midway Airport now has 41 gates).
Roofs Inc., Lyons, Ill., was part of the Midway Airport expansion project. It installed fully adhered and mechanically attached
Johns Manville Roofing Systems UltraGard® PVC membrane roof systems on the parking garage from 1997-99.
involved two helixes, three elevator towers and other roof entry areas.
In 1999, Roofs Inc. was awarded a contract to install PVC membrane roof systems on the Midway Terminal Building;
concourses; and pedestrian bridge, which expands over Cicero Avenue to connect the Midway Terminal Building to the original
terminal and concourse building. This 470,000-square-foot (43663-m²) roofing project is expected to be completed in March.
During the next few months, Roofs Inc. will finish setting roof perimeter curbs on the remaining portions of Concourse A, the final
With so much work to complete, roofing workers had to adapt to design changes. Tom Elander, Roofs Inc.'s sales engineer, says
roof system designs changed from one roof section to the next because of different requirements for each section.
"Although this project will total almost 5,000 squares (46450 m²) when completed, it is more like running 20 small jobs because
of the changes in the style of construction from one phase to the next," Elander explains.
Most roof areas have metal decks that required the PVC membrane to be mechanically attached. On the few concrete deck
areas, the membrane had to be fully adhered. In addition, the roof systems feature a Metal-Era coping system. Because the
architectural firm A. Epstein & Sons International Inc., Chicago, specified a full system warranty, Metal-Era indemnified its coping
system to be covered under Johns Manville's warranty.
During the project, six crew members to eight crew members installed the insulation and other roofing materials. Two workers to
four workers continue to perform sheet-metal work.
Each building—and often each roof section—had different roofing needs. For example, acoustic roof areas required a minimum
3-inch (76-mm) polyisocyanurate tapered insulation to be installed over the metal deck before the UltraGard PVC membrane was
In the concourse areas, the metal deck is fluted and exposed so it can be viewed from inside the building. Wire screening and
strips of fiberglass insulation were applied between the flutes on the exterior roof deck to provide appropriate acoustic properties.
This area then was covered with rigid insulation board before the membrane was installed.
As part of the warranty, fascia and coping systems were installed. Expand-O-Flash™ expansion joints also were used. On the
concourses, expansion joints were spaced about 300 feet (91 m) on center. The roof perimeters required an overlay of 1/2-inch
(13-mm) plywood over the insulation. But because there was little or no parapet on the roof perimeter, there was not much height
clearance to accommodate the depth of insulation. Therefore, insulation had to be further tapered.
Other considerations had to be made to meet airport requirements. Because the building is in a wide-open plain, which is typical
of airports, mechanically attached membranes had to meet an FM Global 1-60 wind-uplift rating. And because of jet engine
blasts, the roof systems needed to be flexible to move and vibrate.
In addition, it was important Midway Airport remain open during construction with few passenger inconveniences. To
accommodate passenger needs—and keep the project on schedule—buildings were constructed while others were torn down.
"As a new section of the airport opened, an old section could be demolished to make more room for new construction," Elander
explains. "Therefore, sustained roofing operations were not possible and remobilization was required."
Despite moving equipment and materials from location to location, on-site storage was not difficult—materials were stored on the
roofs. But because airplanes were near work areas, all debris had to be contained. Debris was bagged during the day and placed
in a Dumpster at night. No loose items could remain on a roof—if they were carried away by wind, they could damage an
In addition to meeting airport requirements, membrane color also had to be considered. On the pedestrian bridge, the owner, the
city of Chicago, wanted a gray membrane (instead of a white membrane) to be used. Changes to Chicago's energy code also
were a factor when deciding membrane color.
"We needed a light-colored membrane to reduce the heat island factor and comply with the Chicago energy code," says Stuart
Berger, senior project architect with A. Epstein & Sons International.
While those involved with the project were trying to meet different codes and standards and stay on schedule, the Sept. 11
attacks happened. Construction was halted for one month after Sept. 11 while airport and U.S. government officials considered
safety and security. After Sept. 11, the security screening process changed to include fingerprints and more background
information of workers. Safety films, which Midway Airport required constructions workers to watch, were updated to encourage
workers to be more aware of their surroundings and report unusual activities and unauthorized people. Workers also were told
armed guards were watching them.
In addition, job-site restrictions increased. Workers could only enter the airport premises through one gate, and they had to park
in an off-site parking lot and take a shuttle bus to the job site. No one was allowed on-site before 6 a.m. or after 5 p.m.; those
breaking this rule could be arrested.
Aspects of the roofing work process changed because all material deliveries made to the site, as well as workers entering the
site with tools and equipment, were searched. Personnel delivering paperwork from Roofs Inc.'s office had to bring insurance
papers and proper bills of lading and show proper identification. Vehicles used for deliveries that did not have a Midway Airport
parking permit sticker were escorted to the site.
Elander notes the security measures still are enforced but they never have affected workers' performances.
The South Side rises
Despite the work delay caused by Sept. 11, work change orders, new safety regulations and the challenging logistics of working
on a project for several years, Roofs Inc. has helped update Midway Airport to bring more air travelers to the South Side. In 1999,
13 million passengers came through Midway Airport. The expansion project is expected to increase the number of passengers
Midway Airport serves to 17 million.
Although the airport has to address long, time-consuming security lines and other unexpected construction-related kinks, the
modern airport is poised for success. And those involved with the Midway Airport expansion project seem somewhat amazed
such a large job was completed so successfully.
"The challenges of the difficult site logistics and varied roof systems have been met, and we have provided the highest quality work in a difficult environment from start to finish," Elander says. "No material- or workmanship-related roof leaks have been
reported on this project."
Dave Trolian, general superintendent for Chicago-based Clark-McHugh-Rausch, adds: "I've been on some of the largest projects
in Chicago during the past 10 years. But I've never been on a project of this size with so few problems."
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