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Managing passengers, airlines and construction

Heathrow western campus: Terminal 5 has set the scene at Heathrow West and now Terminals 3 and 4 and a new pier T5c have to live up to the mark.

Arguably one of the toughest challenges BAA faces over the next five years is building new facilities around an operational airport.

Heathrow West includes Terminals 3, 4 and 5. Chiefly, the construction of Terminal 5 (T5) has set the benchmark for quality and style for the whole airport, but also provides room for airlines to vacate Terminals 3 and 4 (T3 and T4) in phases to allow much needed refurbishment work to happen.

T3 was built in 1961 and has been upgraded twice since then, while T4 opened more recently in 1986 and is about to undergo its first makeover. Both suffer from being a little worn out and struggle to cope with much higher passenger flows than originally anticipated. The biggest challenge is coordinating the needs of the airlines as some move out and others move in.

Rising fuel costs are also forcing some to reduce the number of flights per day. Other are running into financial difficulties. “Every two weeks we get the project leaders together to discuss what is happening to remind ourselves we’re not working in a bubble,” says Heathrow Western Campus, development manager Martin Johnson.

Changes which take place during the course of a project have to be considered with safety and the needs of other projects and stakeholders in mind, he adds. Johnson says that 100% of this work is on the critical path where 80% of the projects are fixed and 20% are variable due to changing requirements and airline mix. In this 20%, piers have to to accommodate different aircraft configurations and departure lounges built to a higher, more spacious specification to be more flexible.

Up to 2012, around £120M each will be spent on T3 and T4 and £300M on T5c. These big numbers are made up from much smaller projects and it is Johnson’s job to keep a tight rein on them, keeping each small project focused on programme and budget and at the same time meeting passenger and airline needs. Driving that tight programme is the airlines’ desire to move into the new facilities on time to enable the next phase of refurbishment and the redevelopment of the Eastern campus to take place.

Work is well underway on the T3 refurbishment project with a £90M forecourt completed early this year. It is the first indicator of what delights lie ahead. This steel and glass canopied piazza creates a more welcoming space for passengers to enter the building.

A £34M airside bus terminal is now also under construction and will be finished at the end of this year. “The flavour of work at T3 is very much about sprucing it up and improving security,” says BAA programme delivery manager for T3 and T4, Ian Williams. T3 will also be the only terminal to be refurbished to accept an increase in traffic flow – up by 17,000 passengers a day.

To accommodate these extra people, the entire baggage sorting operation for T3 will be plucked out of the main terminal building and housed in a new building on some airside land. This integrated baggage facility will reduce the baggage movement as it will be sorted and distributed to the appropriate airlines from here.

Check-in desks will also have to be reorganised and updated to accommodate the increase in traffic flow. “We’re going to make much better use of the space we’ve got,” Williams adds. This work has to take place around the strict programme of airlines moving out to other parts of Heathrow, and also generally take place at night to minimise disruption to passengers and airlines.

Updating facilities at T3 involves creating new areas to standardise security searches. This is a big step change, allowing more room and making the areas identical across all BAA airports so passengers are familiar with the system. In addition to this, airlines flying business class passengers will be treated to new executive lounges.

The challenge at T4 is to accomodate more airlines and passengers. Streamlining check-in, increasing the number of desks and building new executive lounges will take the brunt of the work. The T4 work can only take place because its main airline, British Airways and its partners are now moving into T5. It is a complicated game of chess where, upon completion of the T4 work, T2 airlines will move in, allowing the T2 building to be demolished and rebuilt. “There are three main elements to the modifications at T4, explains Williams: “Changing it from a 12 airline facility to accommodating 45 airlines, improving the passenger experience so that it doesn’t look like a 1980s building and bringing it into the 21st century.”

The clean, modern lines of a steel and glass canopy over a 25m deep piazza in front of T4 are part of the terminal’s modernisation. Taylor Woodrow is the complex build integrator heading up the construction of this element. “Outside, you used to walk in from the top level of the car park. Now this area will just be for drop off,” says Williams. Areas of car park are now being demolished ahead of the new drop off area and piazza being built.

Terminal 5c

The Terminal 5c satellite pier is being constructed in the second phase of the T5 works and includes 51,000m2 of floor area over three levels above ground and three below ground. The basement structure was built as part of the main T5 work and incorporates a passenger transit system.

T5c already has six remote stands in operational use. T5c senior project manager Tim Coffey explains that T5c is very similar to T5b, the existing T5 satellite already in operation, but is more efficient in its use of space. “From an early stage we have looked at how much of the design is appropriate to carry forward and where efficiencies can be made.

We are repeating tried and tested solutions and systems as far as possible.” Work at T5c involves fitting out the basement area and baggage tunnels, the new concourse building, the rest of the airfield, remaining stands and baggage systems tunnel at a cost of around £300M.

Construction of T5b started at one end and worked on one front. At T5c, construction will begin at the middle and work outwards on two fronts. To enable this delivery strategy, the building has been centred over the TTS station and designed to be symmetrical around key elements like the services cores.

The idea for doing this came from Carillion, the complex build integrator and was a benefit of early involvement. “T5c has a steel frame and composite slab, compared to a concrete frame and post-tensioned slab on T5b. This will contribute to the savings on the delivery timescales,” says Coffey.

The roof of T5c uses a “kalzip” standing seam system, which comes in the form of cassette units. “At T5b, we used about 22 different sizes of cassettes, on T5c this has been reduced to five variations,” adds Coffey.

Overall T5c will be 15% to 20% quicker than T5b. “A simpler structure has given us a more predictable programme,” he says.

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