Nick Hutchinson is Global Leader of Integrated Airport Solutions at Arcadis and has been with the company since March 2018. He was with Parsons Corporation for 20 years, rising to Executive Vice President. During his career, Nick has been directly involved in major airport programs around the world, operating as Project General Manager at New Doha International Airport in Qatar and Abu Dhabi Mid-field Terminal in the United Arab Emirates; Project Manager at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta; and Construction Manager at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. Nick holds a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Ulster University in Northern Ireland, an MBA in economics from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and continues to study digital transformation.
1 Can you tell us about your role with Arcadis in the completion of the Terminal 8 expansion as JFK undergoes its multi-terminal redevelopment?
Nick Hutchinson: I am the Global Airport Solutions Director at Arcadis, responsible for technical and management consultancy services provided to our airport developer and operator clients. I have 42 years of industry experience, including executive leadership on some of the world’s most important airport capital development programs, such as Atlanta and Doha. My job involves recruiting, airport planning, design, and building expertise to support the PA’s management team. I work with the team to assess project designs for functional operation, technology adaptation, regulatory compliance, environmental and social impact, compatibility with PA requirements, constructability, and cost/schedule/risk optimization. In addition, I provide advice on best practices for the oversight, administration, and permitting of multi-billion-dollar design/build programs, as is the case with the JFK multi-terminal redevelopment.
2 How is Arcadis providing oversight to the redevelopment and refurbishment at JFK and leading the charge in positioning JFK as a multi-modal hub?
Nick Hutchinson: Arcadis provides multi-modal and airport planning, design, construction, and program management expertise (people/process/technology). We support the PANYNJ with project oversight and, more specifically, environmentally aware construction delivery.
The PA, for some time, has recognized that airports are evolving to become multi-modal hubs with an emphasis on the human experience. Future airports like JFK will be the nexus to interconnect urban populations throughout our world, reaching beyond the traditional airport drop-off by providing an integrated multi-modal transportation system, including a curated door-to-door experience. The PA and its ecosystem of aviation partners are pioneering this human-centric approach with the paying traveler at its core, but importantly they are also supporting the well-being of their dedicated and skilled workforce, which enables the whole system to operate.
Arcadis supports PA by implementing the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) controls required to ensure a sustainable program outcome. The ESG approach mitigates traditionally negative impacts like carbon footprint, pollution, and material waste and conserves scarce resources like water and energy. These considerations ensure the surrounding community, NYC businesses, and our global society are rewarded for their investment.
3 What solutions will interconnect the world from city to city and from airport to downtown while prioritizing airports as an anchor point of all transportation?
Nick Hutchinson: Happily and with optimism, the human experience is continuously improving, which drives increasing demand for travel, especially intercity and international, which is projected to double over the next 20 years. Transport planners with a global perspective, like Arcadis, are innovating and prototyping new ways to improve the travelers’ experience while simultaneously optimizing the resources needed to enable the journey. A new realistic vision of future travel is that of magnificent humanistic urban centers interconnected by high-speed rail and air transport. Roadways, metro systems, and aerial drone networks will facilitate shorter sub-urban and inner-city distances. Of course, fossil fuels will be obsolete and replaced by carbon-zero alternatives such as clean electrical energy or hydrogen fuel cells. Even large future aircraft will be fueled by hydrogen, with tests for new engines now underway. Major cities and their airports, such as JFK, will evolve to facilitate the new multi-modal paradigm with clean electricity and hydrogen as the natural energy choice. Smaller towns and regional airports will transform to facilitate smaller autonomous aircraft, including vertical takeoff and landing drones. The interconnected transportation system will be seamless, leveraging mobility as a service (MaaS) software platforms to arrange and curate travel and delivery of goods.
Historically, our traditional transport systems of road, rail, and air evolved independently of one another; therefore, completing a journey was painfully disjointed. In our new world, these systems will be intelligently interconnected to enable the seamless transfer of travelers and goods. It will be a natural consequence of the airport’s monopoly on air traffic to and from a given urban center and its lack of flexibility regarding site location, which will compel it to be the center (or hub) for a city’s multi-modal system.
4 How do you envision the impact of technology and sustainability on future airport design?
Nick Hutchinson: Technology and sustainability are interlinked, and their continual evolution depends on one another. For example, sustainability means that our transportation system is self-maintaining with, at minimum, no harm caused to our environment or society. But much more is expected; a sustainable system should add exponentially growing value to our world with benefits such as zero carbon, zero waste, and energy conservation. Technology is an exponential enabler and is required to facilitate a sustainable system. It empowers individualism placing the consumer at the center of decision-making and action; it automates and, in so doing, eliminates labor-intensive bureaucracy, dependency, cost, and delay.
Software and technology platforms are at the heart of airports and the mobility system at large. Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is software that enables consumers to take charge of their own multi-modal journey, door-to-door. The physical technologies now deployed in airports are seamlessly integrated with beautiful architecture and allow passengers and consumers to expediently self-process through the myriad of points such as ticketing, check-in, bag-drop, security screening, border control, shopping, service providers, and finally, boarding at the aircraft. Journeys can be preplanned on a personal device, including uploading secure identification, passport, necessary health checks, means of payment, and other membership credentials. In addition, a single system ID option will soon be available to consumers that will combine all forms of identity, including credit for on-route purchases.
For airport owners, operators, regulators, and concessionaries, the advancement of multi-dimensional computer models, monitoring devices, and aviation-specific simulation software has enabled a virtual metaverse for the airport, otherwise known as its Digital Twin. Sophisticated analytics tools provide the airport operations control center with incredible visualization of risk/scenario simulations relayed on massive video walls. With incredible real-time accuracy, airport operations can anticipate interruptions to service and take steps to mitigate airfield, roadway, terminal, and, ultimately, passenger disruption.
5 What can small businesses do to prepare for opportunities in airport development and construction in the next few years?
Nick Hutchinson: Small, local, and disadvantaged businesses can and will play a vital and value-added role in JFK’s future. They are the eyes and ears of the local community. They understand the value to the New York economy, how the regional supply chain works, how to motivate political will, and ultimately what it takes to uplift the well-being of the millions of ordinary people who live with the sight and sound of the airport. They must take the initiative, prepare business fundamentals such as registration, banking, and insurance, be entrepreneurial, attend JFK outreach events, and research what, how and by whom the major projects will be delivered. Ultimately, the major design and construction firms (usually national firms with major project experience, who can underwrite the associated risk) depend on the small business with local knowledge and resources to build the projects. Seek out these major firms and ask them what you can do to support them. In return, they will guide you, tell you what they want, partner with you, provide financial support, and transfer their “big-player” knowledge to your local organization. It is a quid pro quo where each partner learns and benefits from the other. Above all, respect, patience, and hard work are the principal ingredients to ensure mutual success.