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This Century's Top Ten Construction Projects


This Century's Top Ten Construction Projects
December 9, 1999

Boeing 747 Plant soars into 2000

From rustic Red Barn' to state-of-the-art plant, Boeing flies first-class

Dates: 1966-1993, in three phases
Costs: $500 million
Contractor: The Austin Co.
Amazing Fact: Preparing the site required moving 8.5 million cubic yards of earth, more than twice the volume moved for Grand Coulee Dam

In July of 1966, when Boeing announced that it would build the 747 airliner, it had no suitable site or building in which to construct the mammoth jets. So, first things first: Boeing had to build the world's most voluminous building.

The Austin Co., of Seattle, developed a master plan for the project and participated in the site search, starting in 1965.

Boeing 747 plant
Each year, some 140,000 visitors flock to Boeing's 747 plant on Everett's Paine Field to take the factory tour; to date more than 2 million have done so.
The final site, on Everett's Paine Field, was not ideal. Grading and leveling moved 8.5 million cubic yards of earth, more than two-and-a-half times the volume moved for construction of Grand Coulee Dam.

What's more, the site was significantly higher than the closest rail line, three miles away in Mukilteo. This necessitated construction of the second-steepest rail spur in the U.S., with a 5.6 percent grade.

Construction of the first assembly building, at 2.4 million square feet, occupied 1966 and 1967. It was expanded by 50 percent in 1978-1979 for assembly of the 767 aircraft, and by an additional 1.9 million square feet in 1991-1993 for the 777. Today the three factory buildings cover 98.3 acres (4.3 million square feet) and enclose a phenomenal 472,370,319 cubic feet of factory air.

When all the floor space in the buildings is added up, it tops 12 million square feet.

The facilities are no less impressive as working factories. The main assembly building, for example, has clear spans of 300 and 350 feet, supported by 50-foot-wide towers 110 feet tall. The entire production area can be reached by the overhead crane system. And each hangar door, at 87 feet high by 300 feet wide, is nearly as large as a football field.

The list goes on -- from food service for the workers (17,000 meals per day) to the 100 electrical substations.

These jaw-dropping statistics have attracted a lot of visitors. Each year, some 140,000 take the factory tour; to date more than 2 million have done so.

Austin pretty much made it all happen. The firm designed the facilities, handled civil, structural, mechanical and electrical engineering, did the planning and built the buildings.

The cost of the first phase of the project was around $200 million. The 777 expansion, 17 years later, cost about $300 million.

Bill Fetterley, chief architect for Austin, said the company has had an ongoing relationship with Boeing since 1924, for which it did planning of Site 1 in the 1920s and 1930s, and planning for the Boeing Space Center in Kent. The firm also built most of Boeing's Renton plant prior to World War II.


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