The National Academies

ACRP 01-19 [Completed]

Airport Capital Improvements: Developing a Cost-Estimating Model and Database

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Research Agency: MCR Federal
Principal Investigator: Joakim Karlsson
Effective Date: 7/13/2011
Completion Date: 8/31/2014


Airport capital investment needs are approaching $20 billion dollars annually, based on a 2009 ACI-NA capital needs survey. Working to meet this need, individual airports, state and local agencies, and the FAA are dependent on individual case-by-case engineering cost studies and the bid process when estimating, planning, and budgeting for airport capital improvement projects. The engineering, planning, and finance staffs at airports may not always have sufficient project development experience or sufficient information to prepare valid capital cost estimates. In fact, many smaller airports do not have staff to perform these functions and must, as a result, rely on external consulting expertise. In addition, there is insufficient consistency, standardization, and accuracy across the airport industry to compare project cost estimates that result from variations in regional costs, state and local conditions, or levels of technical expertise. Moreover, unique conditions at any given airport make simple comparison with similar projects at other airports often difficult if not problematic. Airports; state, regional, and local agencies; and FAA may not appreciate the options and choices implicit in various designs and their tradeoffs, or have an independent way to benchmark the work of their consultants. Further, airport sponsors need consultants and/or staff that are well versed in current market conditions and emerging innovations. Experience also indicates that increased availability of relevant data can facilitate the capital budgeting process and improve overall project cost estimating, project planning, and implementation, resulting in a more efficient and effective approach to developing an airport capital improvement program.

The objective of this research is to develop a user-friendly, interactive, construction cost-estimating model and associated database for airport capital projects along with an implementation guidebook. Projects encompassed by this research should include both airside and landside:
  • airfield, terminal, service and maintenance facilities;
  • runway construction, extension, and rehabilitation;
  • utilities and other infrastructure;
  • security improvements and enhancements; and
  • other airport development projects. 
The cost-estimating model should be customizable by the user to address standard as well as unique local and regional cost factors. In addition, the model should be able to respond to particular characteristics of airport projects and import readily available commercial construction information databases or services where feasible. 

Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.


Phase I

. Identify, review, and evaluate existing construction industry practices in developing and applying cost-estimating models that have potential applicability for airport capital improvements projects. Based on that evaluation, select and describe best practices of existing models used in various applications, including key sources of information and methods for dealing with associated risks and uncertainties. Prepare a technical memorandum summarizing potential applicable approaches and models. This review should build on previously completed ACRP and other studies where applicable. (2). Identify airside and landside project types that will be included in the model, addressing requirements and needs such as a variety of airport types, size, location, National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) classification, ownership, and other relevant requirements. Define the associated cost-estimating parameters that should be incorporated in the model, including type of project, level of detail, and data requirements. Summarize the type and potential sources of data required to complete a cost analysis. (3). Define and develop a framework of the model, including a flow chart illustrating what parameters will be used and how these parameters will be incorporated into the various project types. Based on this framework, evaluate and recommend alternative platforms for model development and implementation. The model should be user friendly and developed on a non-proprietary platform that would enable that model to be widely available and accessible. Present the alternatives in the form of a technical memorandum for distribution to and review by the panel. The technical memorandum should include a description and mock-up of the user interface, opportunities for user customization, and summary of expected model outputs. (4). Using the previously identified data requirements and sources of data, establish a standardized input/output format for the database to be used by the model. Ultimately, the objective is to provide a baseline database that can be updated and augmented by the user as input to the cost-estimating model. Develop strategies for populating and maintaining the database, including methods for identifying and incorporating unique regional and local characteristics. As with the model, the database should also be built on sources that are widely available and accessible. Possible sources of data include federal, state, individual airports, publications, and proprietary subscription resources. Provide an estimate of the number and type of data points that will be incorporated in the proposed database to ensure a relevant product. (5). Create a prototype model and database, building on the previous tasks; and develop a procedure for validation. Simultaneous, multi-user access is desirable. In addition, identify a potential strategy that would allow state or regional agencies to maintain a unified database for multiple airports within their jurisdiction. The model should be able to save and retrieve user-defined alternative scenarios. In addition, it should be agile enough to allow the end user to add new project types and associated user-defined parameters; and it should be structured to allow the user to select parameters or modules of the database applicable to individual projects under consideration. The model should have data upload capability; and it should be able to generate reports in Excel, PDF, or other suitable formats. (6). With assistance from the ACRP project panel, who will supply preliminary data, select three case studies representing a variety of application scenarios for initial model testing. Populate the database with information associated with the selected case studies, and validate the prototype. Model outputs should include a means for documenting assumptions regarding inputs. (7). Prepare an interim report that documents the results of Tasks 1 through 6. The interim report will also include an updated detailed work plan for Phase II and a proposed approach for validating the model and the database.

Phase II

. Based on the interim report review and meeting, refine the cost-estimating model as necessary, and populate the database. (9). Unless modified as a result of the interim review process, validate the refined model by selecting and testing three additional case study capital improvement projects. These projects will be selected in concert with the panel, who will work with the research team to provide the necessary data. The three additional projects should represent a variety of application scenarios based on project, airport, and locational characteristics. Apply the cost-estimating model to the selected projects and prepare a technical memorandum reporting the results for review by the panel. Identify strengths and weakness of the model as evident from the testing and validation results, and make additional changes and improvements to the model and the database as appropriate. In addition to the technical memorandum, prepare a PowerPoint presentation for use in a web conference with the panel. (10). Prepare a guidebook for using the cost-estimating model and database along with a CD/DVD containing the final version of the cost-estimating model and associated database. The guidebook will describe application of the model, its intended use, and procedures for updating and maintaining the database. This model and database may also be made available using an alternative web-based, accessible platform for downloading by prospective users. In addition to the guidebook, prepare a final report that documents all findings and components of the research.
STATUS: Published as Report 120.

To create a link to this page, use this URL: http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=3026