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Arup’s New Central Utilities Plant Design Saves Los Angeles International Airport $20 Million in Capital Costs

Arup, a multidisciplinary design and consulting firm with a reputation for delivering innovative and sustainable designs, announced today the official opening and ribbon cutting event for the new Central Utilities Plant (CUP) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). As the engineer-of-record and lead consultant to the Clark/McCarthy Joint Venture, Arup delivered full architecture, engineering and commissioning services for the new 75,000 SF, $438 million LAX CUP.

View of the Northwest Facade of the Central Plant Building | Credit: Teena Videriksen/Arup

The first major design/build project undertaken by the City of Los Angeles, the new LAX CUP replaces the 50-year-old existing CUP with a more modern and efficient facility. Arup's innovative design has saved the airport $20 million in capital costs and is expected to save $7 million each year in operating costs. Considered the first sustainable utility plant at any US Airport, the LAX CUP is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification and will be approximately 25 percent more energy efficient than the former facility.

"We knew from the start we selected the right project team for this project. We were able to keep the airport operating with minimal interruption to our traffic flow and will save money on both capital and operating costs. It doesn't get any better than that as an owner/operator," said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of LAWA. "Arup and the rest of the design/build team were able to deliver an innovative and cost-effective solution under budget. We were very impressed with how they approached and collaborated on problems and found solutions in order to keep the work moving forward so as not to impact our project schedule."

The new LAX CUP consists of three main architectural elements: a four-story building that contains the plant and staff offices, an above-ground cylindrical 1.5 million gallon thermal energy storage tank that rises nearly four stories, and a maintenance facility with workshops on the ground floor and cooling towers above. The central utility plant serves the recently renovated and expanded Tom Bradley International Terminal, the remaining eight terminals, the iconic Theme Building, and the East Administration Building.

Behind the metal and glass facade of the new CUP is 20,000 tons of cooling capacity to supply all nine LAX terminals. The cooling capacity is delivered by a plant that includes electric-driven centrifugal chillers, heat recovery boilers, primary and secondary chilled water pumps, cooling towers and thermal energy storage. An 8.4 Megawatt cogeneration plant consists of gas-turbine-driven generators to provide electricity and the "waste" heat will be reused for heating and to power additional steam-driven chillers. The CUP has been designed to support future phases of the LAX multi-billion dollar Capital Improvement Program (CIP).

"We congratulate LAWA for achieving an important milestone as part of their visionary and ambitious master plan for LAX," said Andy Howard, chief operating officer for Arup. "For engineers, this is the equivalent of successful open heart surgery on a conscious and functioning patient."

Arup provided a wide range of multi-disciplinary architecture, engineering and commissioning services to the LAX CUP:

  • Architecture in partnership with Gruen Associates
  • Structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering
  • Civil engineering
  • Facade engineering
  • Acoustic consulting
  • Commissioning
  • Fire/life safety consulting
  • IT and communications consulting
  • Lighting design
  • Security consulting

Project team members include:

  • Client/Contractor: Clark/McCarthy A Joint Venture
  • Owner/End User: Los Angeles World Airport (LAWA)
  • Architect: Gruen Associates, Los Angeles
  • Commissioning Authority: Capital Engineering Consultants, Rancho Cordova
  • Sustainability Consultant: Greenform, Los Angeles
  • Cogeneration Consultant: PID Engineering, San Diego
  • Permitting Consultant: Kimberlina Whettam and Associates, Beverly Hills
  • Power Quality Consultant: KSG Consulting Engineers, Glendale
  • Traffic Engineering Consultant: Crain & Associates, Culver City


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