The past few years have brought many changes for those of us in the AEC industry. This is perhaps most true of the aviation industry, which was impacted significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic. In these times of change, the need for resiliency becomes more important than ever. The ability to adapt and overcome challenges is what has allowed us to survive and thrive—and continue to provide successful solutions to aviation clients.
Mead & Hunt demonstrated our own ability to adapt to change on a recent project at the Eastern Iowa Airport. The airport needed a new cargo facility to accommodate complex cargo sorting equipment necessary for end users, and we provided the architectural design for the project. The design coordination process was one of the most intensive I have ever seen—over 20 stakeholders were involved, including the end users of the cargo facility, which is relatively rare.
The coordination process comprised two very large and time-intensive meetings with all stakeholders, and multiple smaller check-ins throughout the process as well. The coordination process needed to be very involved due to the nature of the infrastructure required. The end users of the facility have a lot of complex cargo sorting equipment, so we had to work to provide a building design capable of accommodating it. As the project started prior to the pandemic, the first of the two larger meetings was held in-person. The first meeting lasted over 10 hours, with multiple breakout sessions and conversations occurring simultaneously.
The second meeting was held virtually, in the midst of the pandemic. While the new virtual environment required some adaptations to get used to, the second meeting was just as successful as the first. It was definitely a learning experience for all involved, and we gained valuable insights and key takeaways on what benefits and challenges working virtually versus in-person can bring. For instance, at our in-person meeting, it was much easier for people to join different conversations during the breakout sessions. If you wanted to speak to somebody from a different discipline, you could just walk over and join them. This is not possible in a virtual environment. On the other hand, the virtual environment had some benefits as well—we saved time and money on travel, so it was much more efficient overall.
Ultimately, we learned there were benefits and challenges to both the in-person and virtual coordination processes. The one constant was the coordination effort itself; through this intense collaboration process, we were able to gain valuable information on the specific needs of the facility from the stakeholders who would be using it, and we incorporated that input into our design. Working together as a team allowed us to come to a cohesive solution that will serve the Eastern Iowa Airport for years to come. Whether in-person or virtually, the ability to transcend challenges to come together proved invaluable. This lesson is not one we will soon forget and will certainly serve us well in the future.