Honolulu International Airport Terminal Upgrade

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The Honolulu International Airport, known for its critical role in connecting the Hawaiian Islands to the rest of the world, embarked on a significant terminal upgrade and improvements project.

The presence of a large military shared area and the dubious quality of existing utility records posed unique challenges. M-K International enlisted a Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) subcontractor to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the underground utilities, enhancing the project's planning and execution.

Project Scope and Overview

The project's scope was extensive, focusing on collecting and accurately depicting all utility information within the affected areas. Given the airport's importance and the complexity due to the shared military presence, the accuracy and reliability of utility data were paramount.

Over 250,000 feet of existing utilities of various types needed to be accurately mapped to facilitate the terminal upgrade without disrupting essential services.

Methodologies Employed

Evaluation of Existing Records
The SUE consultant began by evaluating the existing utility records to assess their accuracy and origin. This initial step was crucial in identifying gaps and inaccuracies in the utility data, setting the stage for detailed field investigations.

Advanced Utility Detection Techniques
A combination of state-of-the-art detection methods was employed to locate and trace the utilities:

Pipe and Cable Locators: For identifying the precise location of underground utilities.
Magnetic Tools and Magnetometers: Utilized to detect metallic utilities without direct contact.
Elastic Wave Techniques: Employed for locating non-metallic utilities and assessing subsurface conditions.
Coupling Techniques: Enhanced the detection capabilities for specific utility types.

Confined Space Entry and Vault Dewatering
Given the extensive network of utility vaults within the project area, confined space entry and dewatering operations were significant. These efforts were necessary to access, inspect, and accurately map the utilities housed within these vaults.

Challenges and Solutions

Dubious Quality of Existing Records
The questionable accuracy of the existing utility records necessitated a comprehensive field verification process. The SUE team's expertise in surface geophysical imaging and targeted excavation allowed for the refinement and upgrading of utility data to Quality Level B (QL-B).

Military Shared Presence
The shared military presence within the airport added layers of complexity, requiring careful coordination and adherence to security protocols. The SUE team navigated these challenges through effective communication and meticulous planning, ensuring that all utility mapping activities were conducted with minimal disruption to military operations.

Extensive Utility Mapping
Mapping over 250,000 feet of utilities in a bustling airport environment required precise coordination and the use of advanced detection technologies. The SUE team's ability to adapt and employ a wide range of techniques ensured thorough coverage and accurate utility depiction.

Impact and Outcomes

The utility mapping efforts provided M-K International with a detailed and reliable depiction of the underground utilities, integral to the successful planning and execution of the Honolulu International Airport's terminal upgrade.

The project significantly benefited from the enhanced utility records, which were incorporated into the planning and design phases, minimizing the risk of disruptions and enabling a smoother project flow.


The Honolulu International Airport terminal upgrade project underscores the importance of accurate utility mapping in complex environments.

The SUE subcontractor's comprehensive approach, leveraging advanced detection techniques and overcoming significant challenges, set a benchmark for future infrastructure projects in sensitive and strategic locations. 

The successful integration of utility data into the airport's improvement plans exemplifies the critical role of SUE in modern construction and development projects.

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