Albert J. Ellis Airport in North Carolina

Meet a busy airport in North Carolina - Albert J. Ellis Airport which has transformed into a 67,000 square feet, modern, fully serviced facilities terminal for commercial and leisure travel with the help of world-class BIM software. Now, see how the project was completed in a shorter period of time with better collaboration and efficiency.

Having been in full operation since February 15, 1971, the Albert J. Ellis Airport in Richland, Onslow County, North Carolina, USA was in great need for a major renovation. Not only because of the need for better, modern facilities, but also the urge to provide better service for the growing aviation business of the surrounding areas. Being the only major civilian airport in Onslow County, the Ellis Airport has had about 40,000 aircraft operations in 12 months, an average of 107 per day. Aside from servicing the growing private-plane traffic, this airport has also served regular flights by the major United States airlines. Covering the area of 675 acres (273 ha), the Ellis Airport has one asphalt runway measuring 7,100 by 150 feet (2,164 x 46 m), and a onestorey terminal building for civilian and military passengers. 

In anticipation to the growing business in both leisure and commercial travel, the Onslow County officials commissioned the creation of a new terminal measuring 67,000 square feet of serviced area to replace the old one. The new two-storey building was designed to provide more space for restaurants, shops, passenger waiting rooms and parking squares. Opened since August 19, 2015, the new terminal features four gates and three passenger boarding bridges, well-planned security checkpoints, and passenger amenities such as modern seating that allows recharging of personal devices and Wi-Fi services.

The Albert J. Ellis airport expansion project was awarded in 2013 to the general contractor Balfour Beatty Construction. SteelFab of South Carolina won The Steel Fabrication while the steel detailing portion of the project was won by the P.T. Seacad Services based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Founded and led by Mr. Phillip Martin, the company has won many prestigious design and detailing projects, such as The Kingdom Trade Center in Saudi Arabia, Khalifa Olympic Stadium in Qatar, and the Menara Telkom in Malaysia to name just a few.


For the Albert J. Ellis airport project, P.T. Seacad Services created a 3D model, along with the shop and erection drawings for the new terminal building. Seacad engineers detailed the drawings and digital model in the form of Architecturally Exposed Steel Structure (AESS), where the exposed structures style was suitable for the windy climate of North Carolina. Despite of the minimalist appearance, the airport was designed with the consideration for the comfort of the visitors and the airlines passengers. Seacad considered the structural design of the Ellis Airport project not difficult to accomplish, however they admitted there were many roof members with double curvature that were quite challenging. Based on the aerodynamics principles of aero foil, the double curves were created to reduce air pressure on the roof members, while providing a clear way for the wind to pass by.



To create the shop and erection drawings from the Building Information Models, Seacad have spent around 2.5 man hours / ton on the Ellis Airport project. The experts at Seacad estimated that if the job was detailed using the manual system of 2D software, it would probably double the time needed to achieve satisfactory results.  On this Ellis Airport project, Seacad has depended upon the capabilities of Tekla Structures and Tekla BIMsight to solve the software platform differences among the general contractor of Balfour Beatty Construction; the architectural design team from the RS&H architects-engineers-planners; Seacad steel detailers and the fabricator Steelfab, Inc. During the project, Seacad and Steelfab have both implemented Tekla Structures and Tekla BIMsight, marking the communication and coordination lines between the two parties run smoothly.


In the past, contractors using different software platforms usually ended up creating project sequences at the cost of additional budget and time. There were many different digital models being developed with various application software by the teams of architects, detailers, fabricators and erectors at the same steel construction project. Out of these obstructions could cause problems, such need for creating drawings again in construction sequencing, data re-entry, unexpected clashes and plenty of troublesome sudden changes of orders.

The cross-sectoral collaboration and data-sharing capabilities could only be efficient when using a software solution with adequate interoperability capacities with different applications. These software packages must also be able to project a 3D model, which could be monitored in real time by all the construction parties. Thanks to the unique capabilities in Tekla Structures and BIMsight, formats such as PDF and DWG can be used in communication between different models. The interoperability of the Tekla software has been proven to cut working time and project cost effectively.

Based on their own experience, P.T. Seacad Service considers the both software packages easy-to-learn and user-friendly to the steel detailers who had previously been more familiar with plain CAD software. Another good reason was the fact that the majority of construction companies in the America and Europe, and parts of Asia, have been using Tekla software as the standard tool in their projects for some time now. Seacad could trade snapshots of the potential conflicts to the team of the architect, fabricators and other professionals during the production of the Building Information Models. The software also gave full access to the 3D relational database of all the components, in order to facilitate the all-inclusive lines of communications. Seacad also praised the connection checking function, which was equipped with the capability to correct the orientation of each steel beam. This function was essential to avoid mistakes and to increase the speed of the steel structure erection. All these detection and correction functions could be applied directly to the Building Information Model, long before the physical construction scheduled at the project locations.




The Tekla Structures and BIMsight software have also shown their compatibility to interact with other trades, such as the CAD and Excel Design, in the complex drawings of the detailed structures. Tekla BIMsight can take BIM to a new level of coordination with other trades and can incorporate scheduling and cost analysis as part of the model data. This compatibility is very important these days since detailers have plenty of the world-class BIM software to choose from for the steel construction. Since the industry has not decided any technical standards in the world, the steel industry needs the BIM software which has the capability to interact with various other similar software packages.

No matter where the clients’ projects were located, Seacad is able to keep the communication lines open and share the 3D digital model effortlessly, keeping track of the sequencing of the model, while also making some important design changes, can be done effectively due to the various unique features of Tekla Structures.  In general, the Albert J. Ellis Airport has been the living proof of the adage “Unity through Diversity”. Tekla Structures and Tekla BIMsight have become the unifying tools to solve the many differences in the structural steel industry.



Albert J. Ellis Airport covers the area of 675 acres (273 ha) with the following facilities:

  • One runway designated 5/23 
  • Characteristics - 7,100 x150 feet Grooved Asphalt
  • 24 aircraft are currently based there
  • Approximately 39,000 annual flight operations
  • 7 Gates and 3 Passenger Boarding Bridge

Phil Martin, Owner & Managing Director of P.T. Seacad Services

"Tekla Structures has integrated seamlessly with other building professional’s software packages. Seacad could not have progressed as a modern day steel detailing company without a 3D software - and no other software vendor could offer 3D modelling better than Tekla.”
Phil Martin
Owner & Managing Director
P.T. Seacad Services

Sutrisno, Technical Manager of P.T. Seacad Services

“Tekla Structures creates accurate and constructible 3D models. It can even handle the largest and most complex steel structures while 2D software could not produce the same result. Efficiency, completeness, excellent design, easily accessible database of all components and ability to interact with other trades using BIM are the benefits we get with Tekla Structures”. “We really appreciated the clash detection function of Tekla Structures. It allowed us to find and effectively check the various clashes in 3D models. The specific data could even be compartmentalized for easy detection by using the conflict browser function.”
Technical Manager
P.T. Seacad Services