Motor racing technology and 3-D analysis is improving airport baggage handling Computer modelling techniques, more familiar in the world of Formula One motor racing, and enhanced three-dimensional computer aided design have been deployed to help deliver an entirely new approach to environmental conditioning in BAA's behind the scenes workspaces.
The idea is simple - to supply conditioned air to localised work areas, so saving energy and reducing pollution at the same time as improving workplace quality, in this case on Heathrow's Terminal 1 Future Concept new baggage hall.
Ultimately passengers will benefit from a better service.
The new approach 'turns the normal design and construction procedure on its head, ' says Simon Steed, principal engineer with BAA framework partner Amec Group, which is leading the baggage hall project team. 'Major cost and energy savings made as a result can be applied to all forthcoming major projects, ' he adds.
Traditionally, air conditioning plant, ducts and pipes are crammed into whatever awkward spaces are left after 'important' equipment is fitted. On this project, however, the team worked with baggage equipment supplier Alstech on a modular design in which conditioning units are integrated with baggage handling plant. Because clashes between the two systems have been ironed out, installation time is greatly reduced, equipment quality improved, and efficiency dramatically increased.
Success of the modular system is due to a rethink of where air conditioning is really needed.
Instead of conditioning all the air in the baggage hall, it treats only air circulating in spaces where workers operate. Areas which are not constantly occupied, such as equipment racks at a mezzanine level, are cooled by naturally occurring 'secondary' currents, and are allowed to operate at higher temperature thresholds.
Since baggage handling equipment generates a lot of heat, the energy savings are considerable.
Complete certainty over the movement of treated air was required to ensure the system would work. 'We developed a computational fluid dynamics model based on software used to model slipstreams on Formula One cars, ' says Steed. 'We can play with all the parameters and run the design over and over.'
Careful modelling enabled the design team to dictate where and how much air should be output.
Translating this into physical reality is the task of the installation team, led by project design manager Keith Lang. To check for potential clashes and conflicts between the air conditioning system and other parts of the baggage hall a three dimensional model has been developed, allowing the construction team to scrutinise all aspects of installation in virtual space.
This model has been used to develop a modular frame which incorporates the conveyors and chutes with the air-conditioning units themselves, pre-fitted with conditioning plant. Units come in just two sizes, made in controlled factory conditions off-site and the whole is delivered in flat-pack form, needing only a night's work to assemble and fit together in the hall.
'We can reduce on-site man hours from 7,000 to 500 and lorry delivery movements from 120 to 20, ' he says. There is less complication all round, with construction savings complemented by reductions in vehicle pollution, noise and waste from messy site activity.
Conditioning units themselves are manufactured to higher and more consistent standards.
Overall the project is calculated to reduce energy costs from £47,000 to £41,000 annually, and produce a 27% reduction in energy consumed. In environmental terms it reduces carbon dioxide emissions from 1,360t/year to 993t/year.
'This system can now be used as a standard method or facility product, ' says Steed. 'Applied to the Terminal 5 baggage halls it could save much more, a minimum of £50,000 and 3,300t of CO 2.'He hopes he gets the chance to prove his case.
Project team BAA T1 Future Concepts Amec