Kelowna International Airport Runway and Taxiway Rehabilitation

December 19, 2016 North America , Canada , British Columbia

By applying a proven technique in a whole new context, we delivered a greener runway resurfacing solution that saved the client nearly 50% in costs. 

Kelowna International Airport is the busiest single-runway airport in Canada. It’s a vital component of the economy in British Columbia, Canada. When it came time to resurface the runway and taxiways, the City of Kelowna sought a cost-effective solution that would not significantly interfere with the everyday operations of this important hub. 

In 2011, an initial public tender based on a design developed by another consultant resulted in bids that were significantly over budget and the project was cancelled. But the airport’s needs only became more urgent as time passed. It was clear that an out-of-the-box approach was needed to make the project possible.

A creative approach to managing costs

Knowing that costs were a major concern for the client, we reviewed the existing design and sought ways to reduce overall project costs. Our revised design and tender approach involved modifying the runway resurfacing technique to include a less operationally disruptive resurfacing method. It also eliminated the onerous daily and project completion penalty/bonus provisions, and removed certain non-contiguous elements of the original work.

When preparing the tender, we also divided the original project into two separate projects: 1) the runway resurfacing project, and 2) the three taxiway rehabilitation and reconstruction projects. Separating the scopes significantly reduced contractor risks originally associated with the runway resurfacing project and the potential for high financial penalties, which in turn helped lower the overall cost of the projects. 

Ultimately, our design and tendering solution approach came in at nearly half the cost of the lowest bid received in 2011, and we were selected for the 2012 re-design and re-tendering of the project, and construction administration and oversight. 

A cost-effective and environmentally friendly technique

We decided to use the Hot In-place Recycling (HIR) technique for the resurfacing of the entire runway.  Since this process reuses the old, existing asphalt while adding a much smaller proportion of new asphalt mix, along with an asphalt rejuvenator, the need for new, non-renewable materials is decreased by about 75%. This not only drives down costs for materials and related transportation, it’s also a much more sustainable option.

HIR had never been used to produce the entire, final surface of a runway before, but our experience on previous airfield projects provided us with the confidence that the end product would be suitable. Ultimately, a very smooth longitudinal profile and good transverse cross-section were achieved, quality control test results met the project-specific materials specifications and post-construction runway friction tests showed the finished surface to be well above the Transport Canada maintenance planning level. 

Meeting and exceeding all operational targets

To resurface the airport’s only runway, all work had to be done during a short window at night to ensure airport operations would not be disrupted. Although this was a major constraint, it was known in advance and we planned and managed the work accordingly. In fact, thanks to excellent scheduling and communications, no flights were delayed during the entire project. And on two occasions, our team responded quickly to allow emergency landings at the airport during the night—one to support an organ-transplant operation and one to accommodate an aircraft that had been struck by lightning.

In the end, the runway and taxiway projects were completed without disruption, ahead of schedule and well under budget. 

Sustainability achievements:

  • By making use of the existing asphalt, the Hot In-Place Recycling solution required approximately 75% less new material than conventional resurfacing projects
  • None of the existing runway asphalt pavement was removed, wasted or went un-used
  • Limiting the use of new materials meant significantly lower transporting needs and associated carbon emissions
  • Several local sub-contractors were involved in the project, supporting businesses and the economy in the central interior of British Columbia