New Iqaluit Airport on Schedule, Budget

Nunavut has now completed the largest capital infrastructure project in the territory’s history with the opening of the improved Iqaluit International Airport and it was done over a period of just three years.

Constructed through a Public-Private Partnership (P3) between the Government of Nunavut and winning bidder Arctic Infrastructure Partners – consisting of Bouygues Building Canada Inc. of Vancouver (a subsidiary of French multi-national construction firm Bouygues Construction), Sintra Inc. (a subsidiary of road construction firm ColasCanada), England’s investment banking firm InfraRed Capital Partners, and the Winnipeg Airport Authority – the revamped airport was delivered on time and budget in an age of cost-overruns and project delays.

“The project came in on budget at $298 million,” said John Hawkins, director of the Iqaluit International Airport. “Inuit-owned contractors undertook over $42 million of the work.”

Local subcontractors, including firms like Kudlik Construction Ltd. and Tower Arctic Ltd., were able to secure many of the design-build activities on the project which helped ensure Inuit benefited from the work.

“We do track the overall wages paid in Nunavut, which was just under $29 million,” said Hawkins. “Of that, over $5 million was paid out to Nunavut Inuit workers.”

The massive undertaking included a new 10,000-square-metre terminal building – eight times larger than its predecessor – as well as an enlarged apron area for aircraft parking, a modernized lighting system, an upgraded runway, and a new 4,500-square-metre combined services building housing firefighting vehicles and apron maintenance equipment, such as snow removal gear.

With the work now complete, Nunavut Airport Services Ltd. – a firm under the umbrella of the Winnipeg Airports Authority – has taken over the operations, maintenance, and future planning of the facility as part of the P3 deal which lasts through 2047.

From the outset, some had questioned the P3 structure of the project but the benefit for the territory now seems clear.

“The cost/benefit business case completed before entering into the procurement indicated there would be $99 million (net present cost) value for money over undertaking the project as a series of Design-Bid-Build projects,” explained Hawkins.

The value of the project for travellers goes well beyond the final price tag and realized savings; they now have a dramatically improved terminal building with far more amenities. And in a city where almost everything comes or goes by aircraft, it’s impossible to overestimate the difference the improved facility will make in the lives of Nunavummiut.

“Washrooms were always an issue in the old air terminal building, with none available beyond the screening point,” said Hawkins. “The new air terminal building also has Wi-Fi for passengers. The food services in the building are getting good reviews. The overall look of the building is getting quite a bit of attention.”

From an operational standpoint, the improved airport is also lightyears ahead of the old facility.

“The building is working out very well,” he said. “Increased aircraft parking and operational space contribute to a large improvement in safety. The public areas of the building are entirely on-grade, which removes many of the obstacles to mobility that we had in the old building.”

With ample inclusion of Inuit artwork, no detail has been overlooked, according to Hawkins.