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All Jazzed Up

All Jazzed Up

Cutter Finds Rhythm at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

Using a custom-fabricated concrete sawing machine, a Houston-based CSDA contractor was able to safely and quickly cut 4,500 14-inch-square concrete piles as part of a wider $807 million construction project at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).

A new 30-gate terminal with two concourses is being built on the north side of the existing runways and is to be finished in time for the city’s tricentennial celebrations in 2018. The addition will result in faster security screening, more parking and restaurants, and more tourism.

It was specified that piles in three work areas around the airport—main terminal, east concourse and west concourse—be brought to a set elevation for the installation of a new footer, so the project’s general contractor, joint venture Hunt-Gibbs-Boh-Metro, began the search for suitable methods and qualified subcontractors to do the work.

CSDA member Aggregate Technologies, Inc. (ATI) was chosen for the pile cutting work. Greg Major, the contractor’s project manager for the job, explains why.

“Our method was chosen due to its increased safety, quality of finish and high production rate when compared with others,” he said. “Hydraulic shears would have damaged the tops of the piles and led to spalling of the concrete, so saw cutting was the best option. However, setting up a wall saw to cut each pile would have been too slow and hand sawing was just too dangerous on the muddy, uneven surfaces around the piles. Thankfully, we had just the tool for the job.”

The contractor's custom pile cutting machine was employed on the project.

The contractor’s custom pile cutting machine was employed on the project.

ATI employed its patented Pile Cutting Machine (PCM), a modified excavation machine with a custom saw cutting arm attachment, for the job. Designed and built by the contractor, Major states the machine can cut over 100 piles per day. The operator is able to safely cut and remove piles without ever leaving the cab.

The area around each pile was excavated and specific elevations were marked on the concrete by the general contractor in spray paint. The PCM operator then positioned the machine close to each excavated area and extended the boom down to the pile. The machine’s hydraulic-powered clamps attached securely to the pile, eliminating the need for any mounting tracks, before the saw motor and pivot arm were activated and cutting commenced.

The use of diamond blades on the saw cutting attachment left a smooth, clean finish at the required elevation, creating a good surface to attach the new footer. A 36-inch-diameter blade supplied by Husqvarna Construction Products was used to make the cuts. On average, the PCM was able to cut through a 14-inch-square concrete pile in five minutes. Cut pieces measuring from 1 inch to 20 feet in height were removed from the tops of the piles by the PCM operator and placed to the side for removal by the general contractor. These pieces weighed anywhere from 30 pounds to 2 tons.

The saw cutting arm of the machine clamped onto the piles while the blade cut.

The saw cutting arm of the machine clamped onto the piles while the blade cut.

Even with a specialized machine to cut the piles with increased operator safety, the job was not without its challenges. The contractor experienced delays due to inclement weather, the worst being in August 2016 when heavy rain and winds flooded many parts of Louisiana—five weather reporting stations recorded more than 20 inches of rain in 72 hours. However, ATI’s machine was still able to continue making some progress with the cuts, which would not have been possible had it been necessary for operators to be in the excavation pits with wall or hand saws.

“Our PCM operator can cut a large number of piles per day in rain or 100-degree heat, as he sits in an air-conditioned cab!” explains Major. “This method eliminates operator exposure to potential safety hazards, particularly those associated with working in or around excavation pits.” It also drastically reduces the chances of the operator suffering from heat exhaustion, illness and dehydration while performing cutting tasks.

ATI began cutting the 14-inch-square piles in August and the contractor completed all 4,500 to their specified elevations approximately four months from commencement. It was fitting that the contractors’ sawing and drilling team founds such a smooth rhythm while working on an airport named after a legend of jazz.

New Orleans International Airport New Terminal Construction of the new $807 million terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport began in January 2016 and is scheduled for completion October 2018. The project has been hailed as the most important construction for the city since the Superdome in 1975. The total scope for the 760,500-square-foot terminal includes 30 gates, a 2,000-car parking garage, a central utility plant, a ground transportation staging area, a new airport access road and a storm water pump station. The idea is to replace the aging terminal, which dates to 1959, with an airport more in line with modern travel and passenger expectations. Two new concourses will be behind a single consolidated checkpoint, rather than the existing disconnected concourses with separate checkpoints. For more information on the project, visit

Company Profile
Aggregate Technologies, Inc. has been a CSDA member for three years and is based in Houston, Texas. The company has been in business for 19 years, has 30 employees and 20 trucks. Aggregate Technologies, Inc. services the entire U.S. and offers the services of core drilling, wall sawing, wire sawing, flat sawing, selective demolition, pile cutting, breaking and hauling and ground penetrating radar. The company employs CSDA Certified Operators.

General Contractor:
Sawing and Drilling Contractor:
Aggregate Technologies, Inc.
Houston, Texas
Phone: 281-579-7229
Methods Used: Selective Demolition

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