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Jun 25, 2024 By USG Ceilings
USG Ceilings Pushes Airport Terminal Expansion to New Heights
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Two unique ceiling systems enhance O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 5
By USG Ceilings Jun 25, 2024
Published in Articles

(Above: O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 5 by HOK/Muller2. Photography (c)Fungi Media)

The recent expansion and modernization of Terminal 5 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was a significant undertaking—the first major expansion since the terminal opened in 1993. The project aimed to modernize the travel experience with increased efficiency and reduced delays. The terminal, which serves both international and domestic flights, was extended to increase passenger amenity space by 75%, and the original building was expanded by 350,000 square feet. Ten new gates were added, and existing gates were enlarged and upgraded to accommodate larger aircraft.

USG Ceilings
was selected to provide ceiling systems in two phases. The first step was accommodating the complex curvature of acoustical drywall in the terminal’s center, bringing the design vision to life. The second was offering a solution to emphasize wayfinding between gate lounges and baggage claim via metal ceiling panels with custom directional perforations.

USG Ceilings’ close collaboration between designers HOK and M2 allowed the project to adhere to the original vision while simultaneously staying within budgeting and scheduling constraints.

Navigating Complexities to Meet Project Needs

Much consideration went into the project: Terminal 5 is high-traffic, one of the first sights first-time visitors encounter when visiting Chicago. The terminal needed to make a statement, particularly with two ceiling systems—one in the central marketplace of the terminal and another to guide travelers’ journey through sterile corridors, the headhouse, holding areas, and ending at baggage claim.

Navigating a high-security clearance area like an international airport terminal is no walk in the park; security considerations can add a layer of complexity to jobsite productivity. Project stakeholders needed a manufacturer to assist with a proven ceiling solution and the technical expertise required to coordinate such an install; that’s where USG Ceilings came in.

Perfecting the Central Marketplace

The first phase of the project was to address the design of the central node of the terminal, where the architect’s design for the extension transitioned from the existing to the new space. Project stakeholders were sensitive to creating a seamless, singular experience for the expansion that pays homage to the existing building. Knowing this, it was integral for USG Ceilings to work closely with stakeholders throughout the design process to arrive at the best possible, most cost-effective design to accommodate the unique requirements of an airport setting, such as durability, cleanability, and accessibility.

USG Ceilings was involved early and often during the design phase to accommodate the specification’s specialized curvature of the USG Ensemble Acoustical Drywall Ceiling, featuring integrated lighting and a range of 6-foot domes to allow natural light to fill the space. The Ensemble System provided a canvas for the monolithic aesthetic of the space along with acute acoustic control to manage the hustle and bustle of a busy airport terminal.

O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 5 by HOK/Muller2. Photography (c)Fungi Media
O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 5 by HOK/Muller2. Photography (c)Fungi Media

Improving the Off-Boarding Journey

The second phase of the project included working through the design for the corridors, headhouse, holding areas, and baggage claim of the terminal. USG Ceilings and architects HOK and M2 collaborated to achieve cohesion between these spaces, crafting a smooth flow from one location to the next.

The USG Ceilings Plus Partí parametric image-mapping solution was utilized to create non-repeating, custom perforation patterns on Illusions Metal Panel Ceiling System that was specified to punctuate the off-boarding journey. This helped maintain the original diagonal parallelogram design imperatives of directionality and movement while creating efficiencies in required materials, installation, and ease of access for maintenance crews while also reducing overall cost for a project with a hard cap on budget.

O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 5 by HOK/Muller2. Photography (c)Fungi Media
O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 5 by HOK/Muller2. Photography (c)Fungi Media

The USG Ceilings Solution

By focusing on reliability and adaptability throughout this project, the USG Ceilings team found flexibility in the original design and offered a dedicated network of technical support. The project team went above and beyond to ensure that this high-profile expansion could be completed and unveiled to the public on schedule and on budget.

Learn more about USG Ceilings’ portfolio of premium ceiling systems and how they can elevate airport environments here.

(Below: O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 5 by HOK/Muller2. Photography (c)Fungi Media)


USG Ensemble, USG Ceilings Plus Partí, and Illusions are trademarks of USG Corporation or its affiliates.

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