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Portland International Airport’s ten-year renovation of the terminal core included one of our creative legacy firms, Code Unlimited, and continues today with added fire protection expertise from our global team of experts.

ZGF’s biophilic mass timber concept for this terminal core renovation called for an analysis unlike any other done before. The design team not only needed to prove structural resiliency, but also assurances in the event of a fire to protect one of the largest timber roofs in history.

In order to keep the one-of-a-kind design concept from going up in flames, our team took a deep look at structural performance through a detailed heat, smoke, and finite element analysis of the columns for the exposed wood canopy. We examined each part of the assembly system, all the way down to the grout, to determine the appropriate protocols for this unique and progressive project and prove bringing extensive natural wood into the building could be done safely and without additional risk to the occupants.

We also looked at the comprehensive building layout in tandem to account for the effects of fire scenarios and combustible loading in surrounding areas with full sprinklers. This multi-layered analysis provided recommended actions to meet the fire and life safety requirements for the jurisdiction and get our client’s environmentally driven concept cleared for takeoff.

This project, scheduled for completion in 2025, is a special opportunity to exhibit the Pacific Northwest region’s progressive culture and fervent appreciation for the environment by pushing design boundaries and bringing the outdoors in with dramatic, natural wood design features that still meet what the code intends and encompasses. Our team of experts also provided accessibility design support to accommodate the needs of staff and travelers.

In addition to our support on the mass timber canopy design, our team has also provided the following services during the duration of this project:

  • A series of appeals, alternate pathways for compliance, and supporting engineering judgments on several aspects of the site, including provisions to allow showcasing of combustible local art pieces.
  • Determinations and recommendations per NFPA 415, with fireproofing coordination and future slated fire alarm coordination.
  • Emergency operations guide development and coordination, including TSA and FAA operations guidelines.

Explore our work on this project through our interactive video.

To see progress and get travel tips on navigating the airport during construction, visit

Project Details

Project Owner

Port of Portland

Project Location

Portland, Oregon, United States

Project Team

Skanska, KPFF, Swinerton, Timberlab (TCore)


2018 - 2025 (estimated)

Estimated Project Cost

1.2 Billion USD

Project Size

400,000 sf


Featured Experts

BS, Mechanical Engineering, AA, General Studies, PE: WA, OR

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Tom Jaleski

Director + Managing Principal

Master of Architecture, Bachelor of Architecture, Certified Accessibility Inspector/Plan Reviewer, Certified Building Plans Examiner, Licensed Architect: OR, AK, WA, NY

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Samir Mokashi

Global Service Line Leader, Building Codes + Performance Based Design

Master of Architecture, Bachelor of Architecture

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Walker Donuji

Market Leader, Fire + Building Safety

BS, Fire Protection & Safety Engineering Technology, PE: CA, Member, Design Build Institute of America (DBIA)

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