September 30, 2020

Chicago Midway International Airport was originally designed and constructed with one separate Checked Bag Inspection System (CBIS) matrix for each half of the airport. Over the past few decades, Southwest Airlines has become the largest carrier in operation at Midway. Southwest’s ticketing operations occupy space on both halves of the airport Ticketing Hall, and utilize both halves of the CBIS matrix.

During non-peak times, Midway Airport only uses one CBIS matrix. During these times, Southwest would porter checked bags to the intake belt on the functional side of the Ticketing Hall. This was an operational inefficiency that Southwest and the City of Chicago Department of Aviation wished to improve.

Epstein and Jervis B. Webb were engaged to design and coordinate a connecting baggage handling system (BHS) conveyor to connect the two halves of the intake matrix upstream of the CBIS. Given the constraints of working within the existing airport envelope, the design team developed a solution to route the 300-foot-long conveyor, dubbed the “Crossover,” below the BHS mezzanine. An interior soffit was required to conceal the new conveyor from the traveling public in the Bag Claim Hall below the mezzanine.

Epstein used advanced BIM technologies to design, communicate and coordinate the design, including virtual reality visualization and 3D laser scanning. During Concept Design, Epstein developed several design options within a 3D Revit model of the Bag Claim Hall and BHS mezzanine. To overcome the challenge of presenting the lengthy, interior soffit designs to the various stakeholders involved in the project, Epstein used virtual reality visualization. Stakeholders were able to immerse themselves in the Bag Claim Hall, and view the new soffit designs from all angles. This led to a quick, decisive selection of one design option, and meant that stakeholders were not surprised about how the soffit construction looked upon completion.

The second BIM technology used was 3D laser scanning. Knowing that the Crossover conveyor would be constructed within a fully functioning airport, avoiding critical building systems, like fire sprinkler mains and communications conduit, was imperative. The project could not risk delays due to unforeseen conditions, or worse, emergency impacts to essential building systems. The design team spent two nights scanning the project area above the BHS mezzanine and the Bag Claim Hall ceiling plenum below the BHS mezzanine. Through this exhaustive scanning, and subsequent 3D modeling, the design team was able to route precisely the Crossover conveyor to avoid building structure and essential building systems, and accurately design modifications to piping, ductwork and other local building systems. The early effort by the team to 3D laser scan the project omitted costly conflicts and avoided catastrophic emergency situations during construction.

The completed project blends seamlessly with the original Bag Claim Hall, and effectively connects the two halves of the Pre-CBIS baggage matrix, increasing the efficiency of operations for Chicago Midway International Airport.