Work in progress: Building the wooden roof in pieces
May 03, 2021

As the carpentry adage goes, it’s better to measure twice and cut once — a lesson the crews working on the airport’s new roof have taken to heart. 

Since we shared the first look at designs for the airport’s new main terminal, locals have paid a lot of attention to the Pacific Northwest-inspired details visible in the early renderings. But what people haven’t seen are the many challenges construction workers have been solving behind the scenes. One such problem: How do you bend the wood into place to get the sleek curves just right?

You guessed it: You measure twice. For a project of this size, “measuring twice” means building a mockup of segments of the roof — that’s according to Hoffman-Skanska project manager Katrina Day. If you don’t know, thick plywood and wooden panels can often be tricky materials to work with, especially when you’re doing a lot of bending. “We decided to create a full-scale mockup just to understand the curvature of the roof.” 

“At first, the process doesn’t seem like something that has a lot of complexity to it — we bend and warp the wood to fit. But the material did not act like we expected it to,” she says. “The mockup really ended up being invaluable to our production process.”

In that way, the mock-ups are an investment for everyone on the project, Katrina says. It helps the team solve problems in advance and mitigate issues later down the line.

A member of the Hoffman-Skanska team snapped these pictures — taken in a workshop, not at the airport — to show us the fabrication of the mockup. While you’re only seeing a few elements of the much-larger project here, this sneak peek gives you a sense of how the full roof will come together as a series of “building blocks,” assembled around the region and then brought to the airport to slide into place. 

Built with wood sustainably sourced from regional forests and steel from local mills, the new roof ranks among the largest timber projects in recent memory. You can scan over this guide to PDX Next construction to learn more.