multi-modal facility

Going Multi-Modal: Your Checklist for Success

By Drew Miller

Any multi-modal facility (MMF) would be considered a vital transportation hub, whether it was meant for transferring cargo or linking existing transportation services and infrastructure.  At a major airport, a multi-modal facility can also set the stage for the public’s travel experience. Ensuring a high-quality multi-modal facility is operational, accessible, secure, and welcoming is a key step in the customer experience for aviation authorities.

Here are some important considerations when constructing a multi-modal facility:


Stakeholders – Although their charters or business models may differ, the Airport Authority, Landlord, Tenants, and other vested interests will all benefit from a multi-modal facility if they have been included early enough in the planning and design phases to validate that the programming is adequate and the budget is appropriate. A well-managed partnership through design development further ensures that these prerequisites not only meet the stakeholders’ expectations but also consider the environmental impact, operations & maintenance, as well as the life-cycle of the materials and equipment specified. Maintaining stakeholder engagement during construction is also vital to communicate changes and prepare for the tenants’ eventual occupation.

Coordinated Design – Other airport systems may tie in with your facility, such as an automated train system. Understanding those systems’ construction needs in the earliest stages of design and coordinating the work in advance of procurement can mitigate clashes and prevent delays. Decisions can be made regarding issues such as embedded work and which entity is best suited for providing penetrations, raceways, etc., in advance of their work. If the project delivery method is CM-At-Risk (CMAR), the design can progress further, and portions delegated before procurement is complete – with additional insight regarding constructability and value engineering.

Utilities – Most design managers already know to inform the top six utility companies of their plans and include them in the coordinated design effort as far in advance as possible, especially if utility relocates are required for the work. Electric, Gas, Water, Sewer, Phone & Cable immediately come to mind, but other utilities can surprise even the most exhaustive investigations and there may still be unforeseen issues with the utilities already on-board  Not only is the initial design contact with utilities required, but ongoing communication between utilities and the CMAR of the design development and work schedules can also avert problems that become more expensive during construction.


Tenant Improvements – The tenants occupying the facility first are critical end-users, but their forces also require coordination of fieldwork to the same codes, schedule, and safety & quality standards as the base building contractors.  In some extreme examples, base building manufacturer warranties can be voided by tenant improvements if equipment relocations or other modifications aren’t performed by qualified installers. The CMAR can become the referee of utilities, spare capacity, staging, circulation, or other space-use issues on a daily basis, but an effective project manager will coordinate schedules, correct issues, and monitor the installation to ensure all tenants are adhering to the project requirements, while also minimizing disruption for them. A teaming approach, while not contractual, can help all parties successfully achieve the desired end result for the facility and its stakeholders.

Life Safety – Your Life-Safety systems must be properly installed, tested, and approved prior to occupancy – this includes occupation by tenant contractors. Fire protection tie-ins, fire alarm sign-offs, rated penetration sealants, and fire-resistant coatings are all non-negotiable items that an experienced construction manager will ensure are completed well in advance. Since some finished components of base building Life-Safety systems are located in unfinished spaces, a higher degree of coordination and cooperation is required from all tenant contractors during their buildouts since these should not be shut down or modified without advance notification. Planning for the base building installers to remove and replace sensitive alarm components around the tenant contractors’ work will make for a much more pleasant cohabitation.

Special Systems – There are numerous other special systems in a multi-modal facility besides Life-Safety and typical MEP Systems or vertical circulation: carwash, fuel, oil, washer fluid, compressed air, snow-melt, and parking & revenue controls are not an all-inclusive list. While Vertical Circulation and fire alarm codes require coordination during construction and testing for occupancy, other certifications such as UL are equally important, and any listing issues must be resolved well in advance of the facility’s commissioning. Check to ensure that any proprietary systems have the certifications from a recognized listing agency required by local code or you may need to seek independent third-party certifications to meet with inspector approvals.

TAB, Cx & LEED – Test & Balance (TAB) of Mechanical systems may have to wait until air & water systems are completed, but don’t wait to start your Commissioning (Cx) Plan. Pre-functional checklists can be completed concurrently with construction to expedite the Cx process and influence other decisions to improve the efficiency or sustainability of the facility. Coordinating Cx work to occur before, during, or after Tenant Improvement (TI) work loops in key tenant stakeholders to help correct any issues as early as possible. Be sure to schedule enough time for any LEED-required flush-out of the facility after tenant contractors have completed all VOC-generating work, but before Public Occupation.

Activation Plan – Going live for the first time on Opening Day is not an ideal plan for any system, so managing the potential for a negative tenant or customer experience is essential. Build a testing plan and a system activation plan with enough cushion to work through any unforeseen issues that may require contacting the manufacturer, a start-up technician, or implementing other problem-solving measures. Carwash systems are notoriously difficult to synchronize, especially with reverse osmosis & reclaim components, but base building electrical, plumbing, and doors must also be in alignment for a smooth operation.


Circulation & Signage – Some facilities are designed with floors that don’t offer programmatic changes. In a multi-modal facility, each floor may have a different use or business model. Understanding how users move through each floor can affect finishes, signage, and even advertising. Perhaps your multi-modal facility has opened while some tenant or concessions buildout continues.  Modify your signage plan and procure temporary signage early to ensure customer wayfinding is seamless and safety is paramount. Fully understanding user needs will help the project team make decisions to support the customer experience.

Common-Use Areas– Selecting durable, timeless furniture, fixtures, and equipment in customer-facing and common use areas will improve the life of the facility and improve the user experience. Understanding the facility’s daily traffic will help the designers to recommend the optimal selections and the CM to employ installation methods that will ensure long-lasting quality and usefulness.

Technology – At a multi-modal facility, there is a need for a sophisticated parking garage and effective guidance to help customers navigate the facilities’ processes. Cellular infrastructure is important to maintain smartphone communication and navigation around and within the structure. Park-Assist technology can guide drivers to the nearest available parking stalls while cameras, emergency call stations, and automated emergency defibrillators provide reassurance that there is help if needed.

These are all advanced technological systems that require experienced construction acumen. Vetting your construction staff for experience in this area will be a valuable addition to the success of your multi-modal facility.

Concessionaires – Travelers may spend a fair amount of time in a multi-modal facility. Amenities like concessionaires shouldn’t be a procurement afterthought. Engaging these business partnerships in the initial phases can improve the project’s design and construction coordination and will ultimately improve the customer experience.

Artwork – A state-of-the-art facility wouldn’t be complete without artistic and aesthetic additions to elevate the customer experience. Advertise, scope, and select your artwork early in the design process. This will help you identify any structural, electrical, or other base-building needs that may require additional time to address. When adding artwork to your building, work closely with the designers and CM to ensure the Trades involved can support the artist’s installation. This will help you to anticipate any contractual issues that might delay construction or the facility’s opening.

A sophisticated project like a multi-modal facility requires a project management team with equally advanced management skills for project execution. These tips should help any project manager working on a multi-modal facility to ensure the facility opens on time and with all systems working as required.

Questions on multi-modal facilities? Get in touch with Drew Miller, Group Manager, Aviation, at