Thoughtfully designed handcrafted trusses to support the stunning canopy entrance of the new Mickey Leland International Terminal at IAH

The new and expanded international departures curb will feature eight trusses, or large-span steel structures, which will each weigh 80 tons and stretch 209 feet from edge to edge. 

September 26, 2023

This fall, change is coming to Houston. Temperatures are beginning to drop; the sun is starting to set earlier in the day, and construction of the new international terminal at George Bush Intercontinental Airport is moving into its next season. 

Eight trusses, which are large-span steel structures, will help to support a 50,000 square-foot canopy over the new Departures Curb at the International Central Processor, or ICP. The trusses are designed to look like leaves and are considered to be one of the signature features of the ICP exterior design, explained Khalid Radwan, Executive Program Manager for the IAH International Redevelopment Program.

“We hope airport guests will notice a simple yet intricate look to the entrance of the new International Central Processor,” said Radwan. “The canopy will wow guests with its vastness and open space feel and will create an inspirational atmosphere while providing a durable and resilient solution for Bush Airport.” 

Because of the sheer size of each truss, fabrication is happening in several stages. Each truss is first welded by hand at a location off-site from Bush Airport. The process is arduous. It takes two weeks of welding to create the erection template that supports each truss as it’s being fabricated. Each truss is then disassembled and shipped to a special painting facility where the steel is sandblasted, primed and painted with three layers of paint. 

Once the paint is dry, it will take 14 semi-truck loads to deliver one truss to Bush Airport.

The truss is then reassembled in two halves. Using two halves allows multiple crews to work on the assembly of the truss with efficiency and safety in mind. It will take 2,500 bolts to join the halves and complete one truss. The eight trusses will then be lifted by a crane and permanently positioned on top of steel columns shaped like the letter Y. This is the critical step when the leaf trusses and Y columns are tensioned together to create the rigid infrastructure, or skeleton, for the canopy. 

The final stage includes finishing touches like welding, paint touch-ups and glass installation. Each fully assembled truss will weigh about 80 tons and measure 209 feet, edge to edge, spanning more than half the length of a football field. All leaf trusses are scheduled to be placed by the first quarter of 2024. 

Milestone | One-million-man hours 

Safety remains paramount as significant progress is made on the new terminal. 

The Austin Gilbane Construction Group reached one million safe hours worked in September. More than 1,400 people have gone through orientation for the construction project, and on average, 265 workers are assigned to each shift. The program has an excellent safety record, well below industry metrics. Hensel Phelps also reached one million man-hours in September.

Artists tour their blank canvas 

The 15 artists commissioned to create 12 site-specific artworks for the new international terminal toured the new Terminal D-West Pier in September. In February, Houston Airports shared details about the $4 million art investment happening in conjunction with the City of Houston and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. All of the artworks selected for the new Terminal D-West Pier and the new International Central Processor reflect the welcoming nature of Houston as a city with a distinct culture; celebrating and evoking the rich and diverse local fabric that makes Houston inspiring for residents and visitors alike. The commissions, which range from large-scale sculptures to tile work, are expected to be installed and on view by spring 2024.