Designing the Future

As the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) makes historic investments in its assets and services, its designs and innovations are guided by key principles inspired by deep customer and client insights.

By Luciana Burdi | Director of Capital Programs & Environmental Affairs, Massport

This is a very exciting period for Massport. In 2022, we saw passenger activity at our largest facility, Boston Logan International Airport, rise to about 95% of pre-pandemic levels. All of us at Massport are confident about the future because we have ambitious plans, strong partners and more robust funding and resources to move our vision into reality. For example, the Massport Board of Directors just approved the largest Capital Investment Plan in the agency’s history – $2.7 billion for fiscal years 2023 to 2027 – to help us improve Boston Logan and our other facilities, Conley Container Terminal, Flynn Cruiseport Boston, Worcester Regional Airport and Hanscom Field.

At Boston Logan, we soon will be having a grand opening for our newly renovated and enhanced Terminal E. It will offer major upgrades for passenger comfort and convenience, and will have four additional gates that will improve capacity and serve international travelers. More broadly, we are upgrading baggage handling systems, renovating ticket counters, upgrading HVAC systems and jet-bridges and making other terminal improvements. We have also improved the connections between terminals and transportation hubs, with the opening of our new Terminal B to C connector last year, and expanded mass transit options to ease roadway traffic and improve sustainability.

The support from our federal partners has been crucial. For example, we received $50 million from the Biden Administration and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) grant to fund existing Terminal E improvements. Additionally, more BIL funds and other federal grants will contribute greatly to our momentum in the coming years.

Delivering in the Right Ways

Our Capital Programs team moves forward deliberately, works diligently to understand client needs and ensures that we deliver exceptional value and experience to our customers, the passengers.

A few guiding principles or practices that are helping us deliver our projects include:

#1 Collaboration: Get Clear on What Clients Need                

Before we launch an initiative, we collaborate closely with the leaders of the operating units to get at the heart of their needs. The more time we spend planning and understanding the challenge of the client’s situation, the faster things will go when we start to design and move through the rest of the project. The formal name for this approach is architecture “programming,” but it’s fundamentally a way to make more informed planning decisions based on in-depth discussions and data. The right decisions help to prevent rework, which will cost time and money.

#2 Observation: Learn from Customers’ Behaviors                

The work we do is grounded in understanding the customer, and in our case the passenger. What do they need? Where are they trying to go? I enjoy watching passengers because I see how they experience a particular space. If they pause and they look around, I think they might be puzzled. Why?

Signage is everywhere, but it can only do so much. The building should naturally lead the passenger to where they’re supposed to go. So our team is always trying to make the customer experience better and more intuitive.

Observation leads to insights. We observed passenger behavior as part of our work on the future parking garage for our Terminal E transportation center. We tracked when and where the passengers were coming out and where they were looking and turning. We asked questions. Where are they trying to go? Why were they looking over there? We incorporated these findings in our new design.

#3 Investigation: Don’t Let Assumptions Kill Creativity                        

When we are planning changes to facilities, we must think about a complex network of rules, regulations and requirements. Federal partners such as the Transportation Safety Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and Customs & Border Protection all have certain rules, and it is our job to follow them carefully.

Such rules often are baked into infrastructure plans as “fundamental requirements,” which means that the planning team assumes these rules cannot be questioned. But, like all things, federal regulations and rules are always changing.

The lesson is that rules evolve. It is best to start with what is possible, then do the research to see if there is a conflict between the agency’s plan and the rules in effect. This approach helps to ensure that we are generating the best ideas to build for the future.

#4 Empowerment: Make Tech and Data More Accessible

Decision-making is driven by knowledge-sharing across the organization and providing dashboards and visualization tools that everyone can use in their work. This is a huge interest of mine because I believe that even though people have different data visualization skills, most people appreciate the output of dashboards. This is why our department is developing multiple powerful dashboards – so that project management and other senior leadership are able to have on their fingertips answers to the most common and the most urgent questions.

We also are undertaking a larger effort to collect data on buildings and utilities to understand the condition of these assets and present that information so that people can digest the information and make better decisions. The name of this larger-scale project is the Massport Infrastructure Condition Assessment (MICA), which is our first integrated technology and data assessment of our infrastructure. We completed our proof-of-concept phase for MICA in February.

#5 Innovation: Draw on Diverse Talent and Viewpoints

It’s our practice to involve a range of different consultants in our projects, so that we have diverse ideas, thoughts and perspectives from the beginning. Relatively small projects, in particular, give us the flexibility to bring in a new consultant that might have different experiences, especially from other airports. We keep an open perspective, always looking forward to starting a dialogue.

Diversity is a definite priority. We are proud that our team is 40% women, who are involved in everything from planning and design to construction and maintenance. This percentage is much higher than the 27% representation of women in architectural, engineering and related services, as reported by the federal government in 2021.

#6 Sharing: Contribute to Collective Learning and Industry Advancement  

Our MICA system, for example, is a very new concept for the industry, so I have received many requests from sister agencies and other organizations to give presentations about this work. Massport’s learnings primarily aim to improve how our agency serves airplane passengers, cruise passengers or other customers. But, these learnings can be adapted by other agencies to create better infrastructure and services for their customers. They can continue from where we left off, rather than from scratch, which can result in better allocations of funds and more value for their investments.

Sharing innovation and people’s perspective can create better outcomes for people, agencies and the industry as a whole.

Taking the Time to Think

At Massport we remain focused on a deliberate process of collaborating fully at the beginning so that we can deliver the best results later. Our clients are used to us saying, What is the question you’re trying to answer? Or, What is the problem you’re trying to solve? And our customers are used to us asking, Where are you trying to get to? And What would be easier for you?

These collaborations give us insights and inspiration to ensure that we are building the best possible facilities and services for the future.



Luciana Burdi is Director of Capital Programs and Environmental Affairs for the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), the first woman and first architect to hold this position. Dr. Burdi oversees the management of the Massport’s capital investment program, safety program, utilities management, in-house project design and environmental permitting and management.

Before being appointed to this position in January 2021, she served as Deputy Director for the same department. Earlier, Dr. Burdi spent eight years at the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, serving in several positions.

In 2019, she was recognized by the Boston Society for Architecture with the Women in Design Award for her contribution to the “world of design and to the community at large.” In 2015, she received the (Construction Management Association of America) CMAA National Award in New Technologies techniques in CM for advancing the use of valuable new technologies in construction management. Dr. Burdi was a member of the CMAA National Board of Directors, and chaired the organization’s Emerging Technologies Committee. She is currently a Board Member for the Lean Construction Institute (LCI)

She was born and raised in Italy, where she earned a master’s degree from the Instituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia in Venice. In the U.S., she was a SPURS Fellow (Special Program in Urban and Regional Studies) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and subsequently earned her DDes (Doctor of Design) from Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Dr. Burdi lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three children.