Inspectors Get SLC Airport Ready For Takeoff

By Jennifer Lynn Dobner

Salt Lake City’s glittering new airport opened its gates to the world in September to fanfare, praise and a good amount of awe.

It’s a dramatically-designed $4 billion space, with walls of windows, two linear concourses connected by a tunnel, breathtaking art installations (even in the restrooms) and dozens of new amenities for passengers, including restaurants and shopping. And in keeping with the City’s ongoing effort to be environmentally conscious, it’s also LEED Gold certified. 

Behind all the shine and dazzle: A team of six building inspectors from Salt Lake City’s Building Services Division, who spent countless hours making sure that construction crews got all of the un-sexy, but important, details right so that the airport could open safely to travelers and workers.

“We’ve done 15,000 inspections to date,” said Les Koch, the inspections manager who led the team. “But we are not done yet.”

With the airport’s north terminal set  to open October 27, Koch said,  there’s an intensive race on to finish a new tunnel and airline gates not to mention demolition work on the old parking garage, the international terminal and older concourses yet to be removed.

Not to worry. Combined Koch and the city’s inspection team — Charles Dauwalder, Byron Copeland, Scott Sanderson, Talley Lake  and Craig Peterson — has more than 200 years of experience in construction and inspection work. 

Together, the team provided exceptional service and top-level building life-safety compliance on what it is the largest construction project in state history, Orion Goff, the building services manager for Salt Lake City’s division of Building Services and Code Enforcement said.

“The project grew from $2.7 to $4.0 billion, with extensive cost growth and design changes,” Goff said. “That would have delayed a project with lesser staff. The highest professionalism and perseverance were required to keep this project on schedule.”

The airport project’s size also provided inspectors with a good workout.

“Many days they logged seven miles or more walking to inspections on that sprawling job site,” Goff said. 

 In addition to inspectors. Goff said, Salt Lake City provided three full time plan reviewers and another 12 city staffers who worked with more than 40 additional special inspectors to manage the daily demands.

Among the team’s challenges were scheduling, coordinating with construction teams and the timely inspections of multi-layered complicated systems, such as the six miles of baggage claim tracks that will replace the old carousels.

To increase efficiency, Dauwalder, Copeland and Sanderson moved into an on-site office, so they were at the ready.

“Being onsite was extremely helpful,” Koch said .“No project this size is easy by any measure but being on site increased our ability to be responsive.”

No project is without its challenges, hiccups or errors that don’t pass inspections  the first time around, and the massive airport was no different.  The careful work of Salt Lake City’s team ensured the right fixes were made. The airport, Koch said, is now one of the safest buildings in terms of earthquake resistance and is very energy efficient.”

“But in the end, all life safety requirements were met or exceeded,” Koch said. “For us as a team, it feels great to open a terminal that will be a showcase travel gateway for all Utahns and visitors.”


  • 102 Miles of Steel Pile
  • 190,538 Cubic Yards of Concrete
  • 20,428 Tons of Structural Steel
  • 96 Stairways
  • 49 Elevators 
  • 19 Escalators
  • 18 Moving Walks
  • 25 Passenger Boarding Bridges
  • 6 Miles of Baggage Conveyors
  • 1,600 Miles of Fiber Strands
  • 552 Miles of Copper Cabling
  • 1,600 Miles of Fiber Strands
  • 5,000 Square Feet of Terrazzo Tile
  • 41 acres of Apron Paving
  • 90,000 Cubic Yards of Apron Concrete
  • 158 Miles of Mechanical/Plumbing and Fire Protection Piping